Mazda MX-5 2.0-litre

Upsized engine; no downsizing of driving purity

NATHAN PONCHARD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

THEREíS something about the new MX-5 that inspires genuine emotion, and weíre not talking the adrenal kind. Itís deeper and warmer than that, almost as if youíre discussing which of your own kids you like most. Thatís the level of passion surrounding the MX-5 1.5 versus MX-5 2.0 debate.

Of course, itís ultimately semantics. At its core, the ND MX-5 is a masterful achievement.

Its lithe form is underpinned by a balanced, supple and deliciously communicative chassis that celebrates the joys of bodyroll and makes motoring fun at any speed.

But how much speed do you need?

The 2.0-litre MX-5 is rumoured to be a result of the Yanks kicking up a stink about the concept of having only 1.5 litres. Itís a meatier engine than the 1.5, thanks to a 23 percent power increase and a 33 percent jump in torque, though with almost 34 percent more cubic capacity, we expected more.

Maybe itís the abbreviated rev limit Ė the 2.0-litre hits cut-out at 6800rpm, whereas the 1.5 will sing to 7700rpm Ė because we all know revs equal power. Either way, thereís a slight feeling of disappointment that the 2.0 wonít extend just that little bit more.

In other driving situations, the 2.0-litre enforces its numerical superiority. The Ďbig-blockí MX-5 is noticeably perkier at lower revs, with a throatier induction note and a more effortless mid-range to back up its spritelier performance. So how much quicker is it?

Fact is, there isnít much in it. A second from 0-100km/h (7.3sec for the 2.0 six-speed manual versus 8.3sec for the 1.5) and 10km/h more with your foot flat on a German autobahn (214km/h top speed against 204) is what $2500 extra buys you, though thatís at the extreme end of the scale. In reality, the 2.0-litre feels stronger and doesnít need to be flogged, whereas the 1.5 rewards commitment, both in terms of attaining revs and maintaining momentum.

The 2.0-litreís 205/45R17 tyres Ė wrapping gunmetal 17s on the $34,490 base model and silver 17s on the $39,550 GT Ė grip harder and squeal less than the 1.5ís 195/50R16s, and it also gets larger brakes (280mm discs all round, versus 258 front, 255 rear).

The GTís classier cabin, with body-colour door tops, additional brightwork, leather trim with contrasting stitching, and its gutsy Bose stereo, will likely attract more punters, though thereís something refreshing about the simplicity of the base 2.0ís minimalist interior, gaining Mazdaís MZD Connect infotainment system (and LED running lights) over the 1.5 starter.

But thatís like arguing over the colour of serviettes at a Michelinstar resturant. The ND MX-5ís main course is so delicious that every variant is something to savour. rter. he nmain y

PLUS & MINUS

2.0-litre gives up 900rpm sooner than the effervescent 1.5

Wonderful chassis; light-weight engineering; throaty, tractable engine Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mazda MX-5 2.0-litre 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v 118kW @ 6000rpm 200Nm @ 4600rpm 6-speed manual 1033kg 7.3sec (claimed) 6.9L/100km $34,490 Now

Colour by numbers

GIVEN that the 2.0-litre doesnít rev as hard as the 1.5, itís interesting that the smaller engine is actually more oversquare. It has a 74.5mm bore and 85.8mm stroke, compared to the 2.0-litreís 83.5mm bore and 91.2mm stroke. Both engines share a 13.0:1 compression ratio and drink 95 octane Ė identical to European MX-5s.

The 2.0-litre is thirstier than the 1.5, but the difference Ė both on paper and in the real world Ė is minimal.

The 1.5 manualís combined fuel number is 6.1L/100km against the 2.0 manualís 6.9.