Three roadsters with a XNUMX% guaranteed road pleasure

Small, light and windy, the MX-5 embodies the ideal of a roadster - reason enough to invite a Japanese two-seater on a ride with two well-established models of the genre.

According to some, this model should hold out for several more years until it takes its rightful place in the world of automotive classics along with its historical models. However, we believe the Mazda MX-5 needs to be taken seriously - even today. At the same time, one cannot but recognize the merits of its designers. Because the development of a car in the 80s, a breed that is considered almost extinct in this decade, is a testament to great courage.

The Mazda MX-5 competes with designs from the 60s.

On the other hand, the small two-seater, which after a decade of development was introduced in 1989 in the United States under the name Miata, and a year later appeared in Europe as the MX-5, should not have feared serious competition. A large team of English roadsters have been in the third round for a long time. Only Alfa Romeo и Fiat they still offer small, open-air two-seaters called Spiders, but they mostly date back to the 60s. Those with a lot of money can afford it. Mercedes SL (R 107), but it's not in its prime for a long time. And his imposing demeanor is as far from the main idea of ​​the Spartan roadster as the British Kingdom of the Indian subcontinent.

Clearly, the time has come for a modern, cheap and reliable roadster, and Mazda is doing the right thing. In other words, with the MX-5, they have given up everything that makes driving unnecessarily difficult. For example, a lot of weight. Added to this are the classic sports car shape, just two seats and the robust equipment of the production models.

The giant success surprises even Mazda

In the US, interest in the roadster is exploding like a bomb. The same thing is repeated in the German market - the annual supply is sold out within three days. It will take years before competitors realize what a profitable business they have run. From the first generation with the internal designation NA until 1998, 431 units were sold. The revival of the classic roadster is undoubtedly a Japanese achievement.

But does the first MX-5 - despite its commercial success - really have the qualities of a worthy member of the roadster family? To clarify this issue, we invited three cars for a trip in the Swabian Jura Mountains. Of course, at least one of them had to be British. The MGB, a 1974 model, is a classic, purist roadster with much of its engineering dating back to the 50s. Next to it is a black 2000 Alfa Spider 1975 Fastback as a sort of chic Italian response to the harsh British roadster fashion.

MG This is a macho hero in a threesome

The first kilometers to warm up the engines. While Mazda and Alfa, whose engines have twin camshafts, are quick to report alertness, the MG's low-iron cast iron powerplant takes minutes to finally transition to smooth operation. The noisy undercamshaft four-cylinder engine has a reputation for being unpretentious, but shouldn't be underestimated. Confident 95 horsepower and an almost inexhaustible mountain of torque that starts just above idle. Compared to Alfa and Mazda cars, the English unit is undoubtedly macho - the boy from the island sounds rougher, crooked and intrusive.

Thus, the engine is perfectly matched to the visual impression of the vehicle. The Model B doesn't seem to care much about aerodynamics or other modern considerations. With a form devoid of unnecessary decorations, this guy prefers to defiantly expose the radiator grille against the air flow, which, combined with the round headlights and two horns on the bumper, gives his face a slightly angry expression.

The face of the pilot flying the MG is completely different. He rejoices like a child in front of a table with gifts, which, thanks to the low hip line and small windshield, allow him to sit in the wind. It doesn't matter to him that in the sudden pouring rain he gets wet to the bone, because the guru stretches out as much as a tent for a dozen Boy Scouts. Or that, in the past, no one thought about the meaning and purpose of things like heating or ventilation. As a roadster fan, he can certainly get through a lot.

In turn, the person behind the wheel looks at the wonderfully beautiful lacquered dashboard, while, despite the leaf springs on the rear axle, his car takes turns with a firm grip, as if it is somehow attached to the asphalt. His right hand rests on the ultra-short gear lever - and he knows he owns one of the best gearboxes ever installed in a car. Want to switch with an even shorter and sharper stroke? This is possible again years later with the MX-5, but we'll talk about that later.

Alpha power? Surely her charm

Unlike the MG with its rounded front and sleek plexiglass lids, the Alfa Spider greets you with a smile and mesmerizes your heart with its southern charm rather than a direct attack. Introduced in 1970, the second generation Spider, named in Italy the Coda tronca (short tail), was much more liked than its rounded-butt predecessor. In an Alfa Romeo roadster, you feel more like a testament than in an MG, your eyes are turned to one-of-a-kind ice cream-like controls and three beautiful additional dials on the center console - and the guru can, if necessary, be closed. for one phase of the traffic light. The rough roughness of an English roadster seems relatively foreign to the Spider, but part of that could be attributed to the age difference between the two models.

Many believe that with a 2000 cc engine. See under the hood for this Alfa, arguably the most inspiring powertrain available during the four-generation Spider production period between 1966 and 1993. Power ratings vary by manufacturer and country; in Germany according to DIN it was 132 hp, and since 1975 only 125 hp.

Even the first hesitant gas supply causes a raucous roar from the DOHC unit. This friend is not only mesmerizing, but also holds on tight. At the same time, at idle speed up to about 5000 rpm. The power characteristic of the XNUMX-liter engine is ideal for the entire machine - with dynamic driving capability, but without the need for frequent shifting. And that's a good thing, because the paths of the lever from one gear to the next can seem endless, and not just from the perspective of an MGB driver. In a Swabian Jurassic twist, however, the English roadster remains firmly attached to the rear of the Spider, despite its much lower horsepower. Only on the descent "Alpha" can take advantage of a small advantage: four instead of two disc brakes.

Roadster feel in the MX-5

When it comes to real racing, the MX-5 can easily overtake the rest on full laps. And this despite the fact that its 1,6-liter engine is only 90 hp. the weakest in the top three. However, at 955kg, this car is the lightest of the three, and it also has a steering system that is a little nervous but in turn works super-directional. With its help, a small two-seater car can always be delivered exactly where the driver wants to be before he enters the next turn. So the MX-5 literally sticks to the road when driving.

In its typical roadster interior, the MX-5 is limited to the essentials: a speedometer, tachometer and three small circular gauges, as well as three levers on the right and two controls for ventilation and heating. The roof is, of course, manually closed, but only for 20 seconds, and in addition, it has a reputation for being completely waterproof in the rain. The driver sits slightly above the road and is probably enjoying the fact that the MX-5 gearbox has an even shorter shift speed than the MGB gearbox.

It would seem that it is impossible not to recognize the MX-5 as a successful continuation of the original roadster idea and welcome it to the circle of classic models. He fully deserves it.


Editor Michael Schroeder: You can drive the MX-5 with the same pleasure as the MGB (light weight, great chassis, wind in your hair) without sacrificing the comfort and convenience of Alfa Romeo's daily life (fast lifting guru, good ventilation and heating). Thus, Mazda designers were able to reinterpret all the virtues of the classic roadster and create a car that undoubtedly possesses the necessary qualities to become a classic model.

technical details

Alfa Romeo Spider 2000 Fastback

EngineWater-cooled four-cylinder in-line four-stroke engine, alloy head and block, five main bearing crankshaft, two duplex chain-driven overhead camshafts, two outboard valves per cylinder, two Weber twin-chamber carburettors

Working volume: 1962 cm³

Bore x Stroke: 84 x 88,5mm

Power: 125 hp at 5300 rpm

Maximum. torque: 178 Nm @ 4400 rpm

Compression ratio: 9,0: 1

Engine oil 5,7 l

Power transmissionRear-wheel drive, single-plate dry clutch, five-speed gearbox.

Body and chassis

Self-supporting all-steel body, worm-wheel or ball screw steering, front and rear disc brakes

Front: independent suspension with cross members, coil springs and stabilizer, telescopic shock absorbers.

Rear: rigid axle, longitudinal beams, T-beam, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers.

Wheels: 5½ J14

Tires: 165 HR 14.

Dimensions and weight

Length x width x height: 4120 x 1630 x 1290 mm

Wheelbase: 2250 mm

Weight: 1040 kg

Dynamic performance and costMaximum speed: 193,5 km / h

Acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h: 9,8 sec.

Consumption: 10,8 liters 95 gasoline per 100 km.

Period for production and circulation

Here are 1966 to 1993, Duetto to 1970, about 15 copies; Fastback in 000, about 1983 copies; Aerodinamica before 31, about 000 copies; Series 1989 about 37 specimens.

Mazda MX-5 1.6 / 1.8, model NA


Water-cooled four-cylinder in-line four-stroke engine, gray cast iron block, light alloy cylinder head, crankshaft with five main bearings, two timing belt-driven overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder powered by hydraulic jacks, electronically gasoline, catalyst

Displacement: 1597/1839 cm³

Bore x Stroke: 78 x 83,6 / 83 x 85mm

Power: 90/115/130 hp at 6000/6500 rpm

Max. torque: 130/135/155 Nm at 4000/5500/4500 rpm

Compression ratio: 9 / 9,4 / 9,1: 1.

Power transmission

Rear-wheel drive, single-plate dry clutch, five-speed gearbox.

Body and chassisSelf-supporting all-metal body, four-wheel disc brakes. Rack and Power Steering System

Front and rear: independent suspension with two transverse triangular wheel bearings, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and stabilizers.

Wheels: aluminum, 5½ J 14

Tires: 185/60 R 14.

Dimensions and weight Length x width x height: 3975 x 1675 x 1230 mm

Wheelbase: 2265 mm

Weight: 955 kg, tank 45 l.

Dynamic performance and cost

Maximum speed: 175/195/197 km / h

Acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h: 10,5 / 8,8 / 8,5 s

Gasoline consumption 8/9 liters 91/95 per 100 km.

Period for production and circulationFrom 1989 to 1998 Mazda MX-5 NA models, 433 in total.


EngineWater-cooled four-cylinder in-line four-stroke engine, gray cast iron cylinder head and block, pre-1964 crankshaft with three, then five main bearings, one lower camshaft driven by a timing chain, two valves per cylinder driven by a hoist , lifting rods and rocker arms, two semi-vertical carburetors SU XC 4

Working volume: 1798 cm³

Bore x Stroke: 80,3 x 88,9mm

Power: 95 hp at 5400 rpm

Maximum. torque: 144 Nm @ 3000 rpm

Compression ratio: 8,8: 1

Engine oil: 3,4 / 4,8 liters.

Power transmission

Rear-wheel drive, single-plate dry clutch, four-speed gearbox, optionally with overdrive.

Body and chassisSelf-supporting all-metal body, front disc, rear drum brakes, rack and pinion steering

Front: independent suspension with two wishbones, coil springs and stabilizer

Rear: rigid axle with leaf springs, wishbones on all four wheels Wheels: 4½ J 14

Tires: 5,60 x 14.

Dimensions and weight Length x width x height: 3890 x 1520 x 1250 mm

Wheelbase: 2310 mm

Weight: 961 kg

Tank: 55 l.

Dynamic performance and costMaximum speed: 172 km / h

Acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h: 12,6 sec.

Consumption: 10 liters 95 gasoline per 100 km.

Period for production and circulationFrom 1962 to 1980, 512 were produced, of which 243 were roadsters.

Text: Michael Schroeder

Photo: Arturo Rivas



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