Mazda MX-5 RF: PH Fleet

The miles and smiles continue to pile on in the little Mazda, the fizzy MX-5 proving the perfect antidote to the annual post Christmas torpor and despair. Oh sure, automatic and turbocharged cars make things easier, but there's still little that rewards like a revvy, atmospheric engine and a manual gearbox. I was going to award the new Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre my thing of the year for 2018 even before acquiring the long-termer; the weeks leading up to Christmas only did further convincing.

Therefore while I could waffle on about how good the Mazda has been in the real world - intuitive ergonomics, great headlights, surprisingly economical - it seemed a whole lot more appropriate to dedicate this update to what the MX-5 is like when thrashed on circuit.

For that it was given to What Car's latest road test recruit Becky Wells, who took the MX-5 to Bedford Autodrome at the end of last year. Here's what she thought...

You know those big yellow stickers with the black cross? The ones that you put on the back of your car when you go to a racetrack? The ones that show the world what a complete, hopeless track day novice you are? Yep... that's me.Β 

Actually this was the first time I'd ever participated in a proper, just-go-for-it track day, with my own car. Or, well, with the PH Mazda MX-5. No pressure then.Β 

Thankfully there was an expert in the driving seat - much-loved racing star Mark Hales - to help protect me from the Clio and C2 hooligans taking me on. And, perhaps most importantly, help me get the most from the Mazda.Β 

First thing to note is, as you'll know, this Mazda is a completely stock car, the same as you'd drive away from any Mazda dealership. There are no track-special mods to it whatsoever. In fact, I had the heated seats on for most of the day's fun. The average fast car's track suitability (and durability) for circuit work does sometimes go unnoticed nowadays, and really it shouldn't.Β 

It'll also come as no surprise, given the car's evergreen popularity, that it wasn't the only MX-5 out there, although it was the only Mk4 - no doubt that will change in time.

So how did it get on? Thankfully, even for a rookie like me, there was immediately real confidence from the little Mazda thanks to its predictable handling, so it can really be pushed for all it's got from the off. Throwing it into corners, the steering was tight and completely responsive, meaning apexes could be hit every time... well, most of the time if you're me. The tyres help with that, for me offering up sufficient grip and progression to know when the limit is approaching, and a less gung-ho approach was required. It stayed on the tarmac the whole day, put it that way.

And naturally, the 184hp engine and reasonably slender kerbweight meant most things were given a run for their money along the straights.Β 

Even at lunchtime when it started raining torrentially and the track cleared out as lesser men bailed for the warmth of the canteen, the Mazda had no issues taking on the wet tarmac, maintaining its composure easily and remaining a testament to the decent traction and faithful handling that's there in the dry.

Give me a couple more days taking on the romantic roads of the Bedford Autodrome with my trusty Mazda and watch me become the next - well, track day hooligan probably. What a great little car!

2018 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Skyactiv-G RF GT Sport Nav+
On fleet since: November 2018
Run by: Matt
Mileage: 4,230 (delivered on 1,721)
List price new: Β£27,795 (as standard; price as tested Β£28,815 comprised of Β£350 for Apple CarPlay and Β£670 for Machine Grey Metallic paint)
Last month at a glance: Track day tearaway

Previous reports:
Does more power mean a more fun MX-5?

Photos: Lee Marshall

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (4) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Lordbenny 11 Jan 2019

    That’s £30,000 with insurance!

    I’ve got a mint MX5 mk3, a Passat Estate AND a very nice track/road spec Westfield and would have money left over for a very nice holiday for that price!

  • Master Bean 11 Jan 2019

    Lordbenny said:
    That’s £30,000 with insurance!

    I’ve got a mint MX5 mk3, a Passat Estate AND a very nice track/road spec Westfield and would have money left over for a very nice holiday for that price!
    Used vs new car shocker. You heard it here first.

  • Andy JB 11 Jan 2019

    It looks to me from the images it could do with some suspension mods for trackwork!

    Many years ago on my first track day in my mk1 1.8 it looked & felt like this, after a spring & damper upgrade it radically improved handling esp on track with minimal body roll, still miss it now.....

    The trade off here seems to be between road & track use although simple & cheap to improve - they should do an official kit these days or as an option when new. Genuine realworld fun, i'd have another but hard top styling not quite to my taste on mk4.

  • BFleming 11 Jan 2019

    Becky Wells PH said:
    Even at lunchtime when it started raining torrentially and the track cleared out as lesser men bailed for the warmth of the canteen...
    Nicely written piece.
    My mate & I did a trackday at Bedford on 10th November; the day started with a low sun & a wet track, a dry line quickly appeared and we were on track solidly from just after 9:00 until 12:30. The black clouds were rolling in & the rain wasn't far away; we were both shattered, so we called it a day. To have gone from early skittish laps, to confident dry ones (& plenty of them) then back to wet trepidation would have been too much.
    It's a hell of a track to learn on though, very forgiving, and the chicane is probably the hardest thing to master (in too slow & you remind yourself to do it faster next time, in too fast & you're exiting on the grass, backwards).
    I guess with the Mazda being a press car, you're not allowed do any mods (except tyre pressures).
    Try it with the roof open next time; so much more adrenaline & atmosphere.

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