It took Japanese brilliance to truly get it right in the production of a reliable and affordable roadster in the shape of the Mazda MX-5.

An MGB roadster was top of the car shopping fantasy list of many youthful drivers back in early 1970s Britain.

Count this correspondent as one of them. I used the word youthful here advisedly because back then the price tag put it out of reach of true youth. Only successful ‘youthful’ guys in their 40s had the dough to hand. For goodness sake, my spry 70-year-old journalism school British Constitution tutor rolled up every day in a mustard coloured example and we strolled around it enviously.

Of course, the reason I dismissed putting a down payment on the topless beauty with my first paycheque was nothing to do with affordability, it was the ‘electrics’. Yep, they were notoriously unreliable.

Fast forward to September 2016 and you find me driving a red roadster along the Sea to Sky Highway, with a broad grin pasted to my face and the air rushing through where hair once sprouted. Not an MGB though.

It took Japanese brilliance to truly get it right in the production of a reliable and affordable roadster in the shape of the Mazda MX-5, formerly known as the Miata.

When it was first introduced 26 years ago, ‘male chauvinist pigs’ as ‘mouth-breathing, Neanderthal sexist men’ were known back then, dismissed it as a ‘girly car’. Their disparaging remarks had little impact. Since then, almost one million have sold globally and it’s in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s top seller in its class.

By the way, the top flips back easily even when seated though this old guy got out to make sure it was firmly locked! Definitely not an MGB.

Not all versions of the soft top have impressed me in looks but the all new fourth-generation MX-5 is a pleasingly sporty car with – dare I say – a more aggressive, masculinity in its looks.

Or maybe more accurately, it has sleek and harder, bulbous shape that we have come to associate with males. (Maybe today’s designers did listen to the typically bulbous MCPs of yesteryear!)

Mazda boasts the 2016 version is “lightweight, nimble, and fun to drive” and you won’t find me arguing with that. The fast Highway 99 to Whistler has been straightened out and therefore one has to seek ‘twisties’ beyond BC’s ski capital to get the buzz associated with zipping along a curvy road. Earlier versions did not inspire confidence at speed but this baby gripped the road and there was minimal sway – just enough to enjoy the sensation!

More importantly for some, Led Zep sounded good through the optional headrest speakers. Come on, that’s important for maximum cruising satisfaction.

The MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system with seven-inch full-color touchscreen display and voice command is not standard on the entry level GX but is on the GS / GT versions. It’s well placed and big enough, thank you very much. I swear some of the luxury manufacturers won’t be satisfied until their screens rival the windshield in width!

Mazda’s so-called ‘Gram Strategy’ – redesign designed to reduce weight one-gram at a time – has resulted in a 68 kg decrease from the last generation. Do you care? – Probably not on the face of it, but the resulting fuel savings might increase your interest in weight loss.

The peculiarly named SKYACTIV technology abounds in this edition. The SKYACTIVG 2.0-litre engine and standard SKACTIV-MT six-speed manual transmission, enables the MX-5 to achieve an impressive 25-percent greater fuel-efficiency than six-speed manual-equipped previous-generation models.

At an estimated 8.8 litres per 100 kilometres in city driving, MX-5’s estimated city fuel economy is nearly the same as the previous generation’s highway figure. Six-speed automatic models are rated at 8.9 L/100km city/6.5 L/100km highway.

This is not a car that will duplicate track car take off but it is no longer a slouch in those stakes and passes comfortably on the highway.

Mazda has also addressed pedal positioning, which are often at odds with natural driver positioning and movement in the typically more cramped confines of a roadster. Vision is optimized by a lower hood and the push back of the windshield A-pillars.

The base GX starts at $31,900, the GS test cars starts at $35,300 but added safety options (mainly) hoisted it to $40,000 plus freight. The loaded GT’s base sticker price is $39,200.

keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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