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Motoring: Factory tuned Mazda's really go zoom zoom

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | October 22nd, 2007

My regular readers will no doubt know that I am a huge fan of both the Mazda MX-5 and the RX-8. Both cars are great to look at and a lot of fun to drive.

So what could Mazda do to improve both cars?

Simple, make them look even better and even more fun to drive. How they have achieved that is through their own tuning department.

Enter the shop of the Mazdaspeed Accessories. This is where you get the side skirts for better looks, the suspension lowering kits for better handling, the cold-air intake for better breathing, and a sportier exhaust system for better sound.

Both the MX-5 and RX-8 had the same style of tuning, but how did it all work out?

We'll look at each of them individually.

Lets start with the MX-5, which has to be said, is one of the best convertibles on the market.

The chassis is great, the handling is even better and what makes the whole experience great is a wonderful interior that is more spacious than you would think.

Then there is the practicality of this car. Yes, it is a two-seater, but it has a very usable trunk (plus some clever storage compartments) and a simple roof that you can put up or down while still seated (a power retractable hardtop is also available).

But what makes the MX-5 certainly the best in its category is the engine and gearbox. It has a two-litre, four cylinder engine that is not only economical, but also loves to rev and lets you enjoy all of its 166 hp. Couple that with the excellent six-speed manual gearbox (an equally great six-speed auto is also available) and what you end up with is a great little roadster.

With the Mazdaspeed accessories tacked on, it becomes an even better roadster.

My test car had all the good stuff attached to it. While I am not usually a fan of body kits, this one looked awesome, right up to the handsome rear spoiler.

Usually lowering the ride height also ruins the ride quality, but not here. This MX-5 not only handled better than those I tested before, but still rode as well as it is supposed to. So you do get the best of both worlds.

The most interesting change comes from the cold-air intake and the new exhaust. This combination gives the car some extra performance, although how much exactly I cannot say. However, the biggest change you feel comes from the noise this car makes now. This thing sounds like a proper, big-dollar sports car.

I loved it and enjoyed my time with it immensely, but not as much as I enjoyed the RX-8.

The RX-8 is one of my all-time favourite cars. I love the looks, the interior is fantastic and the handling is incredible. But the best thing about it has always been its wonderful rotary engine. This 1.3-litre, twin chamber rotary unit produces 232 hp, which is incredible when you look at the size of the engine. It is also rev happy as it winds up to its 9000rpm redline with ease. However, the one drawback of this engine has always been its fuel-economy. However, thanks to the cold-air intake, even that has been resolved. In the past I'd average about 15-litres/100 km, but this time I was consistantly under 13-litres/100 km. That is a significant improvement and now puts it to the level of other sports cars in its segment.

So you no longer have to buy a different car because of your concern over fuel-economy.

So you can now buy the best handling car in its segment without any regret and if you go with the Mazdaspeed exhaust, you'll also have the loudest car in its class.

All of these Mazdaspeed accessories help make these already attractive cars even more attractive.

The prices are attractive too. The MX-5 starts at just over $28,000 and the RX-8 is just over $37,000. The price of the accessories differ, but about $4,000 will get you most of them, which is still a great deal for what you get.

So if you're looking for a great convertible or a sophisticated coupe, buy one of these Mazda's, they really do go zoom-zoom.
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