Tuesday, November 15, 2016


For the last year or so, I've been toying with the idea of buying a new car. I've had my silver 2001 MX5 for six years, and while I still loved it I was aware that it was getting a bit worn and tired - threadbare seats, discoloured headlights, a hole in the side of the roof, tyres without much tread left and a range of niggling problems that my mechanic couldn't fix, like the electrical fault that drained the battery if it sat unused for more than a few days, and the quirk that shut down the engine upon start up at random moments.

But cars are a money pit, and my thrifty nature held on to the fact that the car was mostly reliable. It was fun, it looked good for its age, and it got me around in inexpensive style.

However, last summer it developed a fault that caused it to die on hot days, leaving me stranded for long periods of time in the scorching heat, before my mechanic managed to work out the fault and fix it... for more than $500. Then over the last few months it started choking, first only on long country trips, then on long city trips, then finally on brief trips to the supermarket or gym. I had a theory there was a blockage in the exhaust, but it wasn't happening regularly enough to take it to the mechanic.

Faced with another possibly enormous repair bill, plus the usual service becoming due, I couldn't help but notice that the new ND series MX5 was winning a lot of major awards. And it had features that mine lacked, like seat warmers, cruise control, a Bose sound system and GPS. And then, fatally, I saw that a local dealer had a discounted top of the line demonstrator, in a manly gunmetal colour.

And so, long story short, this happened.

It's not cute as an MX5 traditionally should be, but it's sexy, especially in this colour. The flares over the front wheels are reminiscent of classic 70s Corvettes, and the tail lights are very similar to the latest Jaguar F-type coupes. It's even smaller than all of the previous generations of MX5s, which weren't exactly road whales, and sitting in the snug cabin feels like being nestled within a very expensive toy. The cabin is luxurious, with a touchscreen, leather seats, metallic switchgear, and even stereo speakers set inside the headrests.

The engine is better too, upgraded from 1.8 to 2 litres, with a pleasing burble from the new twin exhausts. The gears are notchy and eager, and together they beg you to go faster and harder. Put your foot down and it leaps away, in a way that that my old MX5 never did. I used to wish the MX5 came with a turbo, but not any more.

The only serious problem with the car is an unexpected one: it doesn't have any storage. Or rather, it has three storage bins. There's a little compartment in the centre console just barely large enough for one pair of sunglasses. There's a cubby between and behind the seats that's currently jammed full with the car's manual, the two detatchable cupholders, and three baseball caps. And then there's the boot.

That's it. There's no glovebox. There aren't any door pockets. There are no clever little containers hidden in the dash. It's as frustrating as walking around with your keys, wallet and phone and realising that your pants don't have pockets.

So while my last MX5 encouraged minimalism, this one enforces it. And you don't realise how much you need storage in a car until you don't have it. I've been forced to sort through the pile of junk I took out of the old car and appraise everything, right down to tiny objects like pens and spare house keys, so that only the essentials go back in. There's nothing like standing next to your sexy new car with a small tin of mints wondering where on earth you can put it.

Further to the minimalist cause, it's astonishing how many switches and buttons have been excised from the cabin. There's no internal boot release and no filler cap release (they both open with external buttons, but only if the car recognises the keyfob nearby). There's no CD player (if you want more music than the radio, you either need a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or a USB flashdrive). There's no rear demister button (it's activated by pressing the vent selector in). There's no dial to adjust the dash lights (I think that's buried somewhere in the settings accessed via the touchscreen). And I still haven't worked out how to adjust the passenger-side mirror, since the only button seems set to the driver's side mirror.

And as I mentioned earlier, the cupholders are detachable. The cabin is so snug and simple that there was nowhere to put them, so there are these cupholders on little arms that lock into slots either in the centre console or on the side of the drive tunnel... where they constantly get in the way.

But it's kinda weird how much I'm loving it. I sit at work, tapping away at my computer, answering the phone, and all the while thinking, "I wish I was driving my car somewhere."