Think two-seat convertible and you’ll likely envision summertime drives along beautiful roads under bright blue skies. Even rain fails to pierce the reverie. Without or without a roof, a roadster is a creature made for summer, period.
Very few people would think to use this open-air model in wintertime. Any yet, during a presentation in Colorado last winter that was designed to showcase the merits of the Mazda CX-3 and Mazda CX-5’s all-wheel traction systems, Mazda USA provided assembled journalists with a few Mazda MX-5 models to play around with. A fortuitously timed major snowfall compelled the curious scribes to take the small convertibles out for a dynamic test drive.
They proved to be so much fun that some forgot even to write about Mazda’s vaunted all-wheel drive powertrains (widely considered one of the best in the industry). But as the automaker never does anything halfway, Mazda Quebec later provided journalists with a GT version of the MX-5 for a full-on, mid-winter road test. This was greatly appreciated by us writers, particularly those grizzled enough to remember the launch of the original Miata over 25 year ago, when the automaker openly promoted its new roadster as a summer-only animal.
Be smart in choosing your boot and coats
Before getting into the performance of the 2017 Mazda MX-5 on snow and in cold weather, it’s worth pointing out the need to avoid wearing overly-hefty footwear, as the pedals are narrow and tightly placed. Snowmobile boots or fat winter galoshes are not recommended, unless you don’t mind pressing the accelerator and brakes simultaneously!
Likewise, big fluffy winter jackets are not the best idea for driving a small car fitted with sports car-type seats, not to mention the raised central console that makes the anchorage point of the seatbelt hard to reach. Slimmer outerwear will make you more comfortable and better able to fully enjoy the driving experience.
Avoiding the potholes
As the weather in Quebec since the beginning of the year has consisted in large part of sequences of extreme cold snaps followed by spectacularly high temperatures, by rain and by snow, we’re experiencing a veritable epidemic of potholes – some of them near-legendary in size. This has highlighted an unforeseen advantage of driving the Mazda MX-5 in our winter: its exceptional handling. With its short wheelbase, small size and sharp steering, it’s just about the ideal car for zipping around the craters that lurk on our roads. Fail to miss one, though, and you’ll feel it: the suspension is tight and has some difficulty absorbing shocks.
That said, with a bit of determination and alert driving, it’s possible to really appreciate the performance of this small Japanese roadster that has gained legendary status over the years. Using the manual transmission and changing gears is still as pleasurable as it always has been, and the joy of taking corners without worrying about lateral stability is immense. The Bridgestone Blizzak tires our test car came with were more than up to the task of providing road grip even on ice; evidently this is the only winter set available for the model.
Overall, despite a few limitations that are evident and understandable when you remember the primary vocation of the car, the new Mazda MX-5, so pleasurable and performance-minded in the heat of the summer, acquitted itself well in snowy and icy conditions as well. If ever you’re faced with a winter storm that has deposited several centimetres of snow on the roads near you, the MX-5 will provide you with one of the most pleasurable drives you could get on them.
Ed.: Don’t miss our contributor Vincent Aubé’s take on driving the MX-5 on snow!