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Mazda MX-5 Winter Drive

Mazda MX-5 Winter Drive

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The Mazda MX-5 and I had only done a handful of kilometres before stopping at a coffee shop for a break en route back home. It had been snowing hard all morning, but the tester wore a set of top-notch winter rubber, and I had no worries.

Still, barely a lick of the MX-5’s red paint was visible by time I came back outside with my large two-milk coffee.

As I brushed the car clean, the funny looks started. Strange glances turned to questions as I refueled the little Mazda at the nearby gas station before taking off with my coffee for the home stretch. Over the course of a week, more questions arose -- lots more. Turns out, most folks don’t think you can drive one of these in the snow.

And so, I present to you my answers to the most common questions about driving a tiny, lightweight convertible in Northern Ontario in February.

“Ain’t she light in the arse end?”
This fella was tickled pink while he watched me refuel opposite his F-250 at the gas pump. I told him the MX-5 was light in the “arse end,” as well as in the front end, because of a 50/50 weight distribution. He looked at me like I had two heads.

The MX-5 is no heavier in the front than it is in the back, and that’s not something you can say about most pickups that aren’t carrying an ATV in the box. The perfect balance means the MX-5 is predictable, and no more likely to slide its tail than its nose on a slippery corner. It regains traction quickly if you wind up in a skid, too.

“You’re nuts! Aren’t you cold?”
This guy was towing a pair of snow machines, and pulled up beside me at a light on my Sunday afternoon drive. It was sunny (-10 Celsius) and I had the roof down.

I told him about the MX-5’s powerful heater, and how the aerodynamics “trap” a warm bubble of air in the car while you drive topless. Because of this, the only time the cabin gets chilly is when you stop driving. I was wearing a light winter coat and a toque, and was just toasty. The heater wasn’t even maxed out.

I reminded Mr. Ski-Doo that he probably drove his sleds on colder days than this, and that they don’t even have heaters.

“Good point,” he said.

“Do you get stuck everywhere?”
A fellow shopper asked me this one in the grocery store parking lot, which hadn’t been plowed yet.

“Nope,” I replied. “It’s got a limited slip differential, so it always spins both tires. I’ve never had a problem yet.”

The MX-5 doesn’t get off the line in deep snow like a Subaru WRX, but it’ll get moving just fine if you’re careful where you put the rear tires.

“Isn’t that scary to drive in the snow?”
“Not a bit!” I replied to this question, posed by my neighbour while snowblowing our driveways. It’s perfectly balanced, has winter tires, stability control, and a chassis that lets you feel everything -- including a loss of traction as it happens.

It’ not a Ford Raptor when it comes to confidently driving over slippery winter conditions, but with a set of winter rubber and half a clue how to drive in the snow, it’s a total blast.

Mazda MX-5 side view
Mazda MX-5 (Photo: Justin Pritchard)