By Maggie Barry on 2018-11-04 - Experienced car journalist.
Mazda MX-5 2.0
THE wind was lifting my hair as we sped along the back roads and twisting byways of Ireland in Mazda's MX-5 with the roof down.
Canopies of trees bowed to us as we took the straights and curves in our stride powering past fields and hills cloaked in green.
This was the new 2.0-litre engine which has been given an extra boost by Mazda increasing its power from 160ps to 184ps and in the automatic version which we were driving it was magnificent.
Power apart, it slid up and down the gears effortlessly and when we pulled out to overtake on a particularly narrow road I put my foot down and it just burst from the blocks.
Mazda's MX-5 is a gem of a car and one of the best selling little roadsters worldwide. Indeed in April 2016 it passed the one million sales mark. Impressive.
It comes to us now upgraded and with more safety features but neither of these things take away from what the MX-5 does best - delivering a spectacularly good drive. It is the car of choice for many who just want to embrace the open road.
With the roof down on the MX-5 we motored happily along enjoying the exhilaration of open top driving.
But it was not always thus. On our arrival at Belfast City Airport the day before we had been greeted by what the Irish affectionately call, ‘a soft day' - that's a euphemism for continual smirry rain, a bit like being caught inside a cloud, all day.
We opted for the manual fastback in the hope that the day would turn into one of those glorious evenings and by that time we would be in the soft top with - hopefully - the hood down.
Sadly it was not to be. As we sped ever westwards towards Lough Erne where back in 2018 Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin attended the G8 summit the clouds hung as low as ever.
It did not affect the marvellous performance of the MX-5 and my co-driver's ongoing lament about missing his own MX-5. Indeed some purists would say that manual mode is the way a car like the Mx-5 should bee driven not just for the sheer joy of it but for the gurgle and burble as you change up and down.
After Lough Erne it was into the soft top for the last hours of swooping through Ireland's wonderful countryside as we headed towards our destination of Finn Lough with its back-to-nature bubble bedrooms.
The 2.0-litre 184ps is available for the moment only on the top trim - the new GT Sport Nav+ with the SE-L Nav+ and the Sport Nav+ getting it later this year.
The MX-5 also gets a whole new array of safety systems from Sport Nav+ upwards and they include front smart city brake, lane departure warning, blind spot alert, traffic sign recognition and many more.
Mazda UK managing director Jeremy Thomson said: "The MX-5 is Mazda's brand icon and it embodies all that is great about our products.
Mazda MX-5 2.0
Mechanical: 184ps, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 137mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Combined MPG: 40.9
Insurance Group: 29
C02 emissions: 156g/km
Bik rating: 32%
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