Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: February 13, 2017
It was late December, and one of the very few winters where we’ve actually had some snow on the ground before Christmas. On this particular night (at an undisclosed area), the remaining stragglers packed up their last minute gifts and pulled out of the (undisclosed) parking lot.
Well, almost all of them - there’s but a lone Mazda MX-5 idling on one end, with its aggressive headlamps glaring down at the falling white powder. The little four-cylinder belches out a quick rev, and another, and another. A split second later, the rear tires squeal and echo as they break traction on the snowy asphalt. Inside, the cabin is filled by the sweet baritone of Andy William’s Christmas hit “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.
You see, I was handed the keys to a 2017 Mazda MX-5 GT to determine its winter capabilities, and if sliding around in an empty parking lot were the only test we measure a car by, I’d say this little roadster is ace. On the other hand, you can read our full review of the ND MX-5 here.
All kidding aside, one of the biggest detractors to a rear-wheel drive sports car in Canada has been always the Great White North’s brutal winters. Part of the reason why sports cars are such a mess in the white stuff is due to the location of the drive wheels. In a front-wheel driven car, the weight of the engine pushes down on the front axle, effectively allowing the driven wheels to maximize their grip – an impossibility in rear-driven applications. However, with the advancement of winter tires and the small nimble weight of the MX-5, could daily driving it year-round become a possible reality?
At first glance, the MX-5’s low height may seem like an obvious limitation in the snow but upon further inspection, not quite so. Though the roadster may be shorter in height, the designers have sculpted the front bumper to allow for some of the best ground clearance in its class, meaning you won’t have to worry about your MX-5 turning into a snow plow.
The diminutive 2.0-litre SkyActive inline-4 produces 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 RPM, and peak torque comes late in the powerband. On a sunny day in hot weather, it takes a fair bit of throttle and clutch dancing to get the wheels to chirp. In the snow, the late arrival of torque is a real blessing.
Starts in first are manageable and the rear tires bite easily even without any added weight to the trunk. Mazda’s feather-light clutch pedal and pronounced grab point makes modulating throttle application a cinch. Once under way in the thick stuff, the electrically boosted steering offers plenty of feedback to your fingertips making it easy to estimate how much grip you have left at the front.
Stabbing the throttle doesn’t command a surge of power that overwhelms the rear - instead that power builds upon itself, allowing the rear wheels to keep up to demand. In the thick snow, I left traction control on and took corners slightly slower than usual. The car behaved as expected, but the one instance I felt a loss of grip, the traction control system immediately kicked in and corrected for me.
With the traction off completely, the little roadster was eager to wag its tail. Counter-steering was effortless and all you needed was a dab of throttle to get the MX-5 running sideways. The rear end takes a split second to hunker down as all the weight shifts from one side to the other but once it settles in, it feels so composed and balanced.
Mazda’s reworked the interior of the ND MX-5 from its predecessor, while I often felt cramped with the roof up in the NC, the ND’s reworked soft top and arrangement allows for a roomier feeling interior - with more headroom for the taller folks. There’s some added padding for the knees too when you’re inevitably sliding about in a parking garage shouting at the top of your lungs.
Storage limitations aside, is the MX-5 capable of handling year round driving duties? Absolutely. After experiencing RWD in the thick of the Canadian winter, the truth is that a little common sense goes a long way in keeping you safe. So the next time you’re pondering whether or not to buy a RWD roadster for 365-day duties, perhaps the answer is still, Miata?
型号 Model: 2017 Mazda MX-5 GT
顏色 Paint Type: Soul Mica Red
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $39,200
試車售價 Price as Tested: $39,500
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,309
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 3,914 / 1,918 / 1,234
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,078
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre SkyActiv inline-four, DOHC 16-valve
最大馬力 Horsepower: 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 8.8 / 6.9
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.1
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 205/45R17