Whilst no man may be an island, there are plenty of men and women who live on an island. Mark and I, your local (or perhaps not so local) friendly Car Nerds, are two such people.
We reside on the sunny island of Malta which is located in the Mediterranean Sea, not too far from Sicily. Given its location, you won’t be surprised to learn that Malta is famed for its sunshine, specifically its 300 days of sunshine a year.
The capital city, Valletta, gets more hours of sunshine, 2957 to be precise, per year, than any other city in Europe. Added to the sunshine is the 200 km of shoreline around the island which provides plenty of opportunities for seaside driving.
So, we’ve got sunshine. We’ve got coastline. What car do we want do we want to take advantage of that? Let’s return to John Donne.
I’m sure we can all agree that were he alive today, Donne wouldn’t be busying himself with making philosophical statements and being the pre-eminent representative of metaphysical poetry, he would instead be a Car Nerd with his attention turned to more important matters. It doesn’t take a massive leap of faith (does it?) to imagine him writing, “A roadster is the best car for island life”.
Once again, the profoundness of Donne’s words is indisputable, because a roadster is undoubtedly the best car for island life.
But which roadster?
The Answer Is Miata
For all round roadster fun, we can’t look any further than the Mazda MX 5. You can read on for more info, or check out our accompanying video here.
What makes the MX5 so highly rated in our eyes, is that first and foremost it’s one of the most fun cars around to drive. It’s rear wheel drive and wonderfully balanced, having been stiffened up from the previous generation. It’s also the closest you can get in a modern car, to the traditional British roadster of yesteryear.
What are the options?
All cars were rear wheel drive and there were two engine options to choose from: a 1.8 litre unit producing 124bhp that gets you from 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds, and the 2.0 litre unit that we’ve reviewed, that produced 158bhp and dashed from 0-62mph in a spritely 7.9 seconds.
From 2011 onwards, Mazda introduced an automatic gearbox version of the 2.0 litre that manages the 0-62mph sprint in 8.9 seconds.
When the 3rd generation was launched you could pick one up from between £15k – £23k depending on spec. Today, £4,000 will get you a 2008 model with the 1.8 litre engine and around 60,000 miles on the clock, whilst the 2.0 litre will cost around £500 more. If you’re looking to buy a car already in Malta, you’ll be looking at paying upwards of €8,000. Here’s a few MX5s available for sale in Malta right now.
Good things come in small packages
The Mazda MX5 is a small, light, nimble car, that gives you a sensation of being low to the ground. All of which means that taking 7.9 seconds to reach 62mph feels a lot quicker than it is.
It’s beautifully weighted and balanced, with the engine located behind the front axle. The steering is precise and responsive, and with the roof down you can see every corner of the car, making the task of hitting an apex a doddle.
Sure, it’s not going to win a sprint at the lights, but get it in the twisty bits and you’ll be rewarded thanks to the speed it’s able to carry through those corners.
The MX5 won’t hurt you either. It allows you push a little further than you’d initially think was possible thanks to the consistent handling and grip. It offers real, genuine, driving pleasure.
Which is all you can ask for, because ultimately, you’re not buying a roadster for outright speed, you’re buying one because it’s fun to drive and you can get the wind in your hair.
Drop top driving
Putting the roof down is incredibly easy, pull a latch, hold a button for a few seconds and that’s it. The roof will whir down electronically by itself.
If you thought the MX5 was fun to drive with the roof up, you’ll soon discover it’s even better with the roof down. Because it’s not a convertible. It’s not a car that converts. It is a roadster. It is designed to have two seats and an open top.
Which is nice, because on the whole, ‘convertibles’ aren’t usually fun to drive. They are designed to be best utilised in their original form as saloons and hatchbacks. Lopping the roof off and adding the extra weight of a folding electric roof does nothing for the rigidity of the chassis nor the handling of a saloon or hatchback. Sure, you get to feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, but they often feel sloppy and offer none of the driving pleasure of a dedicated roadster.
Popping the roof down has no bearing on the performance of this car. It drives exactly the same, but with the added benefit of the open sky and superb visibility.
Your daily driver
The cabin is well laid out and comfortable, offering surprising storage space and overall roominess. It’s a nice place to be and the dials, in particular, are very nice to look at.
When you’re sat in the leather seats that hug you into place, you certainly don’t feel cramped, although at 6”1’ I’m at the very top end of the scale for people who can comfortably fit in this car.
At 150 litres, the boot isn’t big, but there’s more than enough room to store your weekly shop or a couple of overnight bags for a weekend away.
The Niseko model that we tested comes with heated seats. Which means that as long it’s dry, you can pop the roof down and drive in comfort, no matter the temperature.
If you’re single or childless, you can definitely get away with having the MX5 as your only car.
Rivals to the MX5 Miata
I’d place it alongside a BMW Z4 or Mercedes Benz SLK and even go so far as to say that I prefer both the styling and driving experience of the MX5 over both of those cars.
Whilst the styling of the MX5 is at best described as divisive, I personally find it quite appealing. The flared wheel arches, bonnet bulge and double exhaust give it just enough macho (if that’s your kind of thing) to step beyond the dreaded “hair dresser” car label it’s often been tagged with.
The MX5 In A Nutshell
Pound for pound, there are very few cars that can match up to the MX5. With its unique blend of driving fun, daily usability, reliability and affordability, it’s almost in a class of its own.
For those reasons, we think it’s the perfect car for island life. So the answer, once again, is Miata.