Monday, 23 March 2020

Jap crap - car review

There's not much else going on right now, so I'll review these:

They are all brilliant. Whichever one I'm driving is my favourite. I'm no expert and biased in favour of all of them. I'm well aware that none of them is perfect, but as Steve Stretton once said, you can only truly love a car if it's a bit crap.

I suppose the MX-5 is best for around town (automatic and has largest boot); the MR2 is best for bombing down the motorway (good in a straight line and reliably fast) and the Del Sol is for in-between. The MX-5 is just a little bundle of joy; the MR2 is amiably mental; the Del Sol feels surprisingly grand when you're inside it. Horses for courses.

If I could assemble the best things from all three, it would consist of...

1. Engine. The MR2. Superb low end torque and pulls in any gear at any revs (just about). Best fuel economy, which doesn't seem to vary much whether you are driving sensibly or twatting it. The other two have surprisingly awful fuel economy (despite, or perhaps because, they are 1.6 litre and the MR2 is 1.8?). The Del Sol has no pulling power below 2,500 revs and the MX-5 *does*not*like*going*uphill*, not even if you drop it into third and floor it.

2. Engine/exhaust sound. The Del Sol. I can't tell which contributes more, but they make a lovely booming sound when accelerating and are practically silent when you are rolling along. It even sounds nice when decelerating, unlike the MR2 - when you lift off, it sounds like teenagers when you ask them to do the washing up.

3a. Manual gear box and clutch. The Del Sol. Clutch pedal is light but 'linear' and nice wide gear ratios, nearly five-to-one between first and fifth. The MR2 has much heavier clutch and stupid close gear ratios (barely three-and-a-half-to-one between fifth and first). If you're out of a residential area, you can twat it up to nearly 40 mph in first gear and then shift up straight to fifth, rendering the other gears pretty superfluous.

3b. Automatic gear box. My MX-5 is automatic, and it must be said engine and gear box are in nigh perfect harmony. The 1.6 litre MX-5 had 109 bhp when new and probably a lot less than that twenty years later, but the gear changes are spot on when accelerating, far better than I could do manually. The kick down is a joy. It's like pulling back an elastic band and letting go - you have to step on it about one second before you want to actually accelerate, which takes a bit of getting used to. If you change your mind and lift off again, you've made a lot of noise but haven't changed speed at all. (The MR2 had a semi-auto version, which apparently was crap, I don't know about Del Sol automatic one way or another).

4. Steering. The MX-5. It seems to know what to exactly what to do without any conscious decision on your part. With the MR2 you have to adjust when going round a corner; you have to tell it exactly what to do; I was once 2 mph too fast round a roundabout and it did a 270 degree spin, which was most unpleasant and I've never really trusted it since. For comparison, I took the same roundabout 2 mph too fast in the MX-5 as well, and it skipped a foot sideways but continued in exactly the same forward direction. The Del Sol is front-wheel drive, so very good at lower speeds but a bit twitchy on the motorway.

5. Brakes. Any of them. Tiny cars with normal sized brakes, they'll stop on a dime from any speed.

6. Suspension. Del Sol as it corners the flattest, so you dare go a couple of mph faster round roundabouts. The MR2 rolls a bit and the MX-5 rolls *a*lot*. OTOH, the Del Sol is rubbish over speed bumps; the other two don't care, you don't even need to slow down for most of them, they just sail over the top.
Practicalities and comfort

7. Boot. The MX-5. Small but still the largest. The MR2 *does*not*have*a*boot*, and the Del Sol boot is deep but short because the front half is taken up with roof mechanism. Also it goes up and down electrically/mechanically, which wastes a bit of time, and vertically, meaning you have to bend over awkwardly and wrestle stuff in and out diagonally.

8. In-cabin storage. Funnily enough, the MX-5. There's a decent cubby in the centre console under your elbow; two cup holders (I upgraded to the facelift arm-rest), door pockets which will take more than a parking ticket; decent glove box and the original stereo was double-DIN so that's an extra space for your mobile and sun-glasses. The Del Sol is deficient on all these counts (no door pockets at all, WTF?) and the MR2 is somewhere in between.

9a. Soft top. The MX5 is the better soft top. You can flip it open or close it in a few seconds from inside the car (for example at red lights). You can only get the MR2 roof to open properly and snap into place from outside the car, but it's dead easy to close again from inside.

9b. Targa top. The Del Sol has a gloriously over-engineered electric/mechanical targa top. It is a joy use, but you have to have the parking brake on and opening or closing it takes nearly a minute, including flipping levers and pressing and letting go of the switch at specified times.

9c. Rear window that opens and closes. The Del Sol. It has a rear window that opens and closes! I put it up and down just for the fun of seeing it go up and down. When it's down, it's an open top with a chunky rollover bar.

10. Seats. The MX-5. They are the size of child seats, heck knows how they packed in that much comfort. Though it would be nice if they reclined as far as the Del Sol seats, which go nearly horizontal. MR2 cloth seats are terrible; MR2 leather seats are pretty comfy, but they are leather, so squeaky all the time and sweaty when it's hot.

11. Passenger leg room. The Del Sol is roomiest; the MR2 is OK; on the MX-5 they did something stupid on the passenger side. The passenger's foot end is nearer to the passenger seat than the pedals are to the driver's seat. Why?

12a. Door and centre arm rests. The Del Sol, they are comfiest, widest and almost the same height. In the MR2 the rests are pretty hard, narrow and different heights, if you rest your left elbow, you can barely touch the steering wheel; the MX-5 is somewhere in between.

12b. "Elbow out of the window". The MX-5. The window sills on the MR2 and Del Sol are far too high for "elbow out of the window", the MX-5 window sill is perfect for that. Handy when stuck in a jam and you want to smoke.

13. Central locking. The Del Sol, which is the only one of the three that still works. But it has daft door handles that you pull forward rather than up, which is a bit awkward, given how low they are.

14. Dryness. The Del Sol. The soft tops on the other two are superb watertight, but when it's cold or damp, they fog up like crazy, especially the MX-5. When it's cold enough, you have to scrape ice off the *inside* of the windscreen.
Having re-read this, it looks like I don't rate the MR2 very highly. It wins in only one category. Nothing of the sort, the general laddishness and bonkersness more than makes up for its objective flaws.
That's the main stuff. I'll do another post on sundries like "dashboard layout" and "sound system".


Lola said...

Top Gear needs you. Apply now!

benj said...

just need three of these to finish the look

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, nah.That's just product placement. I dislike most modern cars intensely.

B, it's a thought.

Lola said...

I don't think you've quite got the hang of a 'close ration gearbox' yet...

DCBain said...

You haven't remarked that you love one of the features they spent most
time developing - the exhaust note!

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, I don't see the point. Three would do IMHO, 1st, 3rd and 5th. For normal road use, at least.

DCB, sure, but over the years, they've all had replacement exhausts, I think. Except maybe the Del Sol, which, as mentioned, has the nicest boom sound when accelerating but is silent when rolling along in 5th gear at 40 - 50 mph.

Lola said...

MW Define 'normal road use'...:-) What about when you get to all those echoey places like tunels?

benj said...

Most important for a proper review. How do they drift? Oh, and lap times.