Ian Botham, or Stuart Metcalfe? You will know one of them but the two are forever linked by a cricketing bond – they were both brilliant all-rounders.
The only reason you haven’t hear of Metcalfe is that he once played for my team at Sale Boys’ Grammar School in Manchester. And although he probably works in IT now, Metcalfe once took all ten wickets in a match and scored 50 runs.
The Mazda is a great all-rounder too. It’s not especially brilliant at anything but it does everything you ask of it very well. It looks good, drives well and is very comfortable.
The trouble with all-rounders is that it’s hard to offer up a unique selling point. The VW Golf is the best all-rounder I can think off – the Botham of the hatchback world. The Mazda3 is better than a Metcalfe, probably more likely to be found surfing the edge of international cricket than playing in the first team…
The more I drive the Mazda3 the more I like it. It’s a ‘sleeper hit’ – a car that looks ordinary but slowly grows on you, with every bend it encourages you to enjoy it more.
As well as undercutting most rivals on price, the 3 is one of the best to drive. It sits well on the road and encourages the driver to press on. It’s comfortable, roomy and eager to please.
And I’m enjoying the styling more too. I may have been a little harsh with the ‘clown’s shoe’ remark – it looks purposeful whichever way you look at it.
The 3 is also packed with equipment. Yes, our test car is top spec but the list of kit includes ‘bendy’ headlights that self dip, heated leather seats, a stonking stereo and keyless ignition. Not sure I like all the beeping when you walk away from the car but hey-ho…
I can only imagine the carnage at St Andrews this morning following last night’s Scottish Car of the Year Awards (ahem, that’s SCOTY for short). The illustrious gentlemen of the press who live north of the border are famous in motoring circles for not leaving so much as a drop in their glasses.
At least they could rub the sleep out of their eyes knowing they had done a good job by picking the Mazda3 as the car of the year in the Family Car category. It beat the Citroen Cactus (reviewed elsewhere on Car Couture) and the Peugeot 308.
A good choice and a brave one, considering what’s on offer from Ford and Vauxhall. Personally, I’d have called it a tie with the Cactus – a car that dares to be different.
The Mazda’s brilliant Skyactiv engines were highly commended but I would disagree with judges who said the 3’s interior was ‘Mazda’s best yet’. For me, the plain dashboard does nothing to excite the senses and is the one weak point of the car….
Here’s a fact – the Mazda3 costs considerably less than a VW Golf. It’s arguable much prettier, holds its value well and keeping it on the road won’t cost a packet either.
This week’s test car is a top spec Sport Nav model costing in excess of £21,000 but opt for one of the cheaper versions and the 3 starts to look like a very good deal indeed.
I also happen to like the styling of the ‘big-mouth’ Mazda’s front-end. Unlike the ‘sad-faced’ MINI it’s a car that seems to welcome you to the driveway every morning. Sweet.
True, inside the 3 is less than dazzling, with a plain uncluttered dashboard that does little to set the pulses racing. However, on Day One of Mazda ownership, I’m more enthused than I thought I might have been…
Sorry if we have been conspicuously absent over the last few days – what with Dolly Parton at Glastonbury, Costa Rica at the World Cup and Murray at Wimbledon it’s been something of a magical summer weekend. I’ve been skipping around the Cotswolds in the MX-5 reminding myself why it’s great to live in this country.
I spent nine years living in Ireland and France – quite long enough to make you truly appreciate the good bits. I can even overlook the bad bits these days, like fat cyclists in Lycra, Tesco strawberries – they turn grey before you even get home – and the ITV Brazil commentary team.
Even my dog seems happy to sit it out in the passenger seat of the MX-5. He sits with his head above the windscreen when the top is down, ears blowing in the wind and dead flies stuck in his teeth. Quite glorious.
Next up on these pages is a couple of days in a Volvo XC60 before I head off to Spain for a tour of Andalucia on a Harley-Davidson. I was considering not scribbling for a week but provided there is some wifi, the plan is to upload from various locations en route. Shame Spain is out of the World Cup – would have loved to have been in a Tapas bar for a match. I may have to make do with Nadal Vs Murray instead…
A friend of mine is currently cycling to five capitals in five countries in five days. Easy? Well, it would be on mainland Europe but he and his team are going a slightly harder route – Cardiff, London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin. Oh, and then home again!
I mention this because the thought of 180 miles a day in the MX-5 for a week would be enough to give me a sore arse. Five days in the saddle is quite beyond comprehension.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The Mazda has good seats but they’re not exactly suited to long distance travelling. And if you have long legs, the driving position isn’t that clever, even with adjustable steering column (up/down but no reach).
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I think the team would prefer the seat of the Mazda right now whatever…
There’s more than a hint of irony in the fact that the referee from the Uruguay – Italy match has the nickname Dracula. It’s more for the cut of his slicked-back hair than his ability to sink his nashers into unruly players.
I once interviewed a girl who thought she was a vampire, sleeping in a coffin and trying to buy blood from her supermarket – until they found out she was drinking it! Maybe Tesco should sponsor Suarez and cut out the need for him to nibble anyone?
I listened to the Uruguay match in the MX-5 last night. Top down, hurtling around corners and enjoying the Mazda’s sublime handling to the full. There’s something about the low-slung driving position and brilliant chassis that encourages you to push on at every opportunity.
If only the 1.8 engine had a little more power to match the, erm, bite of the handling, this would be the perfect, all-round sports car…
The MX-5 has been around for about 27 years and it’s still one of the best two-seater sports cars on the market. Not the fastest, not the best equipped but as a package, it ticks plenty of boxes.
Why does it work? Because Mazda keep it simple. Like a modern day MGB, the MX-5 stays faithful to the front engine, rear-wheel drive approach that has suited several generations of sports cars.
What the MX-5 needs now is an updated engine. Both the 1.8 we have on test this week, and the 2.0 tested last year, are barely adequate power units, both in terms of performance and fuel economy.
The engines serve up just enough bhp to make both models entertaining but I can’t help thinking that Mazda must have something better in development that will give the MX-5 an injection of youthfulness that it is starting to need…
The interior in the picture above is what you really want your MX-5 to look like. It’s the top spec model with sat nav and all the trimmings. Car Couture’s 1.8 SE, on the other hand, is basically basic.
Of course, £18,495 isn’t going to buy you an awful lot of two-seater roadster these days but you can at least look forward to fantastic handling and drivability in the entry-level version.
Perhaps we have come to expect too many features in our cars these days. The SE has been stripped back to the bare minimum and that takes some getting used to!
Perhaps most disappointing of all is the operation of the manual folding roof. Lowering the canvass is easy enough but raising the roof is hard work. It demands a certain amount of precision to to get the securing hook in the right slot. Perhaps most frustrating of all is that you can’t really do it without getting out of the car…
A chap in a white MX-5 might raise eyebrows for all the wrong reasons. Comments about hairdressers aside, I always look forward to driving the best Mazda in the range.
Motoring journalists are usually spoilt with top of the range models but the SE is very much at the bottom – at least this test car has air con, phew.
So it was a bit of shock to open the doo and find the SE – which I assume means ‘special edition’ – has very little apart from two seats and a steering wheel.
OK, that’s a bit unfair but this is a car that has been stripped down to the bare minimum to keep the cost low. No leather, plasticy trim and very little to excite the senses.
I’ve just driven the car to a press night at Weston Park in Shropshire – more tomorrow after I have eaten cake…