Top cars tested
It’s massively entertaining to drive, with attentive, nicely-weighted steering and an unruffled feel through bendy sections of road. This is because the fourth-generation MX-5 has rear-wheel drive, flawless 50:50 weight distribution and more tech and comfort than before.
The Mazda MX-5’s frothy petrol powered engines carry new heights of performance and efficiency. Across the range the Mazda MX-5 comes with LED headlights, alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel and a fabric hood.
Aim straight for the Sport trim, as I did, and the MX-5 features rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, smart keyless entry, heated leather seats and Premium Bose Surround-Sound. It also takes advantage of a dynamic set-up that incorporates sports suspension. Its powerfulness is highlighted even further by 17-inch alloy wheels and body coloured mirror housings.
Kitted out with the 2.0-litre 160ps engine, the MX-5 will dash from zero to 62mph in just 7.3 seconds on its way to 133mph. The Mazda will also manage up to 40mpg on average. But perhaps the most astounding aspect about today’s Mazda MX-5 is that when the earliest model was launched in 1990, it cost £14,249 (equivalent to £31,687 in today’s money), yet 25 years later, with far more factory-fitted equipment, the rudimentary Mazda MX-5 costs £18,495. This means, more than ever before, the Mazda MX-5 sets the yardstick as one of the world’s finest and most inexpensive sports cars.
SEAT Ibiza ST FR
If you feel happy driving hatchbacks but you really want a little bit more room, then the SEAT Ibiza Sports Tourer is a good middle-ground car. I got behind the wheel of the top performance oriented ‘FR’ model, costing from £15,635.
In all fairness, ‘performance’ might be overemphasizing things, as the SEAT 1.2 TSI, 110ps petrol power unit only does zero to 62mph in 9.7 seconds and has a maximum speed of 122mph. Yet, regardless of these average figures, the Ibiza Sports Tourer is quite compelling to drive, with decent handling and sharp steering. The sporty suspension in the FR gets rid of body roll, but the price to pay for this is a firm ride.
The SEAT Ibiza ST FR will return up to 54mpg, so it’s efficient – and it does look good, too – particularly if you elect a SEAT colourpack. This adds paint detail to wing mirror housings and wheels, and carries over to the cabin, with the handbrake, air vents, seats and steering wheel also being offered in an assortment of shades.
On the whole, the Ibiza Sports Tourer provides an extra dosage of practicality, giving the perennially-popular SEAT Ibiza an even broader appeal – even if the 1.2 TSI power unit can’t quite supply the crazy pulling power that the ‘FR’ badge hints at.
I drove the Fiat 500X in 2.0-litre Multijet 2 Automatic Cross Plus semblance. The £26,315 diesel-powered car is fundamentally a larger version of the Fiat 500, with five doors and space for five people. It’s good-looking – in a peculiar way, and it’s well bolted together.
On & Off-Road
This version of Fiat 500X is designed to go off-piste, too, but on the tarmac is where I had the most pleasure. 0-62mph is done in 9.8 seconds on the way to 118mph. That doesn’t sound speedy, but you can’t fault the handling on tortuous sections of tarmac; the 500X bonds to the road well and stimulates confidence with every mile driven. It’ll also return around 50mpg on average.
The Fiat 500X’s nine-speed automatic gearbox changes effortlessly if you leave ‘Sport’ mode alone. Press said mode and the Fiat 500X holds on to the gears for too long with, on the face of it, little extra propulsion. The ‘Normal’ mode is all you need for everyday driving and the ‘Off-Road’ setting is good to have if you need to head off-road for any reason. The furthest I took my press car was on to a mud-covered field just to see if the Fiat 500X could hack it. It did – rootling its way across without any problem.
There are lots of combinations for the Fiat 500X – and they’re not all as expensive as the 2.0 Multijet 2 Automatic Cross Plus, so there’s bound to be a 500X out there to meet your needs.