Extra power boosts

fun factor

 Mazda MX-5, front static
 Mazda MX-5, two cars
 Mazda MX-5, front static 2
 Mazda MX-5, front action 2
 Mazda MX-5, front action
 Mazda MX-5, side action
 Mazda MX-5, rear action
 Mazda MX-5, boot
 Mazda MX-5, cockpit
 Mazda MX-5, dashboard
 Mazda MX-5, rear static
 Mazda MX-5, engine

FOR the first million or so MX-5 two-seaters off the production line you could always find an enthusiast somewhere who thought the world's most popular sports car needed a bit more power.

Well now it's got it, with the larger of the two engines offered - 1.5 or 2.0 litres - finding an extra 24 horsepower, enough to give this featherweight machine a properly sporty punch.

There will still be a keen driver or two who reckon the smaller engine gives the purer driving experience, with a car that harks back to the best of the long extinct British breed of affordable sports cars, where poise and delicacy were more important than pure performance.

For them the 1.5 litre continues, and all power to their elbows, and costs from £18,995 which represents a bit of a sporting bargain.

For everyone else the added vim will be a delight, starting at £22,295 and available in cars with either an elegantly simple manually folded soft top or push a button electrically controlled hard top.

You'll pay a £1,800 premium for the latter and drive a car that looks distinctively different from its trad-topped sibling. Your choice, of course, but the canvas adds no extra noise, folds manually in seconds, saves a bit of weight and complication and is just so⦠MX-5-ish.

You will not tell this latest version apart from the old one unless you have a fetish for alloy road wheels, which are subtly different this time. But the rest of the MX-5 remains unaltered, which is a good thing. Here is a modern classic, surely.

Inside, things look unchanged too. Except that the engineers in Hiroshima are obviously detail obsessives, so there is now telescopic adjustment to the steering wheel, helping larger drivers find a more comfortable position at the wheel.

Which emphatically does not mean the MX-5 is anything but compact - part of its enduring appeal - and the really long of leg among us simply won't fit. Their luggage might, though, with a boot big enough for a couple of largish soft travel bags and room for odds and ends around the edges.

Standard safety equipment has increased for this refresh, with Sport Nav+ cars and above now featuring front smart city brake support, lane departure warning system, rear smart city brake support, traffic sign recognition and driver attention alert, while blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive LED headlights and a reversing camera are standard on GT Sport Nav+ and optional as a safety pack on the Sport Nav+.

Bald figures don't properly show off the difference shaving 0.8 second from the new 2.0 litre's zero to 62mph time (now 6.5 seconds) has made to the feel of the car, with a small improvement in pulling power too. Add all this to an engine now happy to rev to a rorty 7,500rpm (up 800rpm) and here is a car that feels genuinely brisk.

This newfound performance does not come at the expense of emissions and economy, with 156g/km and 40.9mpg as official figures. A brisk run across 160 miles of the best roads Ireland can offer (where have all the other cars gone, you wonder) showed economy actually better than the new mandated and newly more realistic figure; 41.3mpg bringing a glow to the cheek.

Buy the Sport version of the newcomer and along with extra goodies like Bose sound, reversing camera and leather trim you will find firmer suspension that works a treat on properly smooth surfaces but turns the car a bit edgily uncomfortable on rougher surfaces.

Lesser spec'd cars with the same power flow more smoothly on roads typical of what most UK owners will face on a daily basis and the car felt no less responsive in corners and was most definitely no less fun.

Proving once more that with the MX-5 less is often more, although happily not always as this new power upgrade shows nicely.

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