Text by Cheryl Tay
Photos by Adrian Wong
Some people enjoy driving with the roof down to feel fresh air against their faces and get a sun tan while on the move. Unfortunately, our humidity levels sometimes makes the top-down cool image totally ‘un-glam’ as they can create sweaty faces and armpits. Our unpredictable tropical climate can also get you drenched at the wheel during a sudden downpour.
I remember my first convertible experience in Singapore. I was in the Volkswagen Beetle and I was lapping up the attention at a stop light from having the roof down and feeling the breeze on my cheeks. You could say that the tiniest of smirks was forming at the end of my mouth — then the most humiliating thing happened.
A bird released its day’s worth of digested food onto my newly-washed hair. Some slimy green and white substance flowed down the right of my face after exploding on the top of my head. The driver in the lorry next to me could barely contain his laughter and I wished the earth would just swallow me up. My best friend has had many a good laugh over the incident in the years that followed.
My fondness for convertibles remained unchanged though and I went on to test drive various types of convertibles — thankfully the same thing never happened to me again. Strangely, I have never been caught in random rain when driving with the top down, so I never had to pull over to get the roof back up. I have seen people prop up umbrellas in times of wet weather conditions in their convertibles, simply because they were stuck in traffic congestions and were unable to pull to the roadside in time.
Nowadays, there are convertibles that can have the roof operating even while the car is speeding up to 25 kilometres per hour. That helps if you happen to be stuck in slow-moving traffic and it rains suddenly. Most convertibles though, still require you to bring the vehicle to a complete stop before the roof function can be activated.
For example, the Mazda MX-5 has to come to a stop first and put into Park mode before you can hold on to the roof button (one to bring the roof down, another to bring the roof up). No brakes need to be applied, but the roof has to be manually unlocked before you can bring it down and manually locked after you bring it back up.
It may sound like a bit of an inconvenience, but you will be grateful to learn that at least it only takes 12 seconds for the roof to open or close. That is almost half the time compared to the Mercedes-Benz SLK’s roof which takes about 22 seconds, which may seem like an eternity when you are caught in heavy rain and waiting for the roof to close.
The MX-5 used to have a soft canvas roof but it now only comes in hard, with only the power retractable hard-top version available in Singapore. This means less road noise and greater security so you won’t risk drunken people slashing your roof in the middle of the night.
Another positive point of the roof is how it does not affect boot space. Regardless of whether the roof is up or down, the space in the boot remains the same, so you don’t have to keep re-arranging the goods in your boot. Also, the presence of a puncture repair kit in the absence of a spare tyre means having a boot that is more than just a shoebox — typical description of a convertible’s boot.
This cute two-seater exudes such a sprightly aura and drives just as energetically as it looks, zipping in and out of city traffic willingly with its six-speed automatic gearbox and turning on the power when you want it.
The 2-litre naturally aspirated engine sends out 160bhp of power and 188Nm of torque at its maximum, and you can control the output at your finger tips with the paddle shifts. Instead of having the left thumb downshift and the right thumb upshift, the MX-5′s paddle shifts work in a way that you just need one hand (thumb and forefinger to be exact) to change gears.
I feel that the interior of the MX-5 is too subdued for its chirpy nature — the cabin is a view of black and white, simple and classic. I guess that would mean some pink feather boas and Hello Kitty accessories to liven up the whole in-car atmosphere.
Plug in your personal mix of music to the car’s stereo with the auxiliary jack cable and you pretty much can create your own DJ console.
You know how the catch to open the refuelling door is usually at the driver’s foot together with the catch to open the boot? The MX-5 does it quite differently – don’t panic if you are at the petrol station and you can’t find the catch to open the refuelling door; it is actually hidden within the storage space between the two seats.
Because of its 2-litre engine capacity, the MX-5 falls into Category B of the COE which is currently priced at slightly over $80,000. This pushes the price of the MX-5 up and sees it in a similar price range as Continentals like the MINI Cooper Coupe S, Renault Megane CC and Volvo C30. There is no direct rival to the MX-5 so it is in a class of its own, but the pricing does put it at quite a disadvantage. Road tax is S$1,212 a year.
Technical Specifications — Mazda MX-5 2.0 (A)
Engine: 1,999cc in-line 4 16v
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Max Power: 160bhp at 6,700rpm
Max Torque: 188Nm at 5,000rpm
Top Speed: 194km/h
0 — 100km/h: 9.2 secs
Price with COE: S$180,988
Dealer: Trans Eurokars
*This article was first published on Yahoo!