Here’s the thing about being a Big Guy. In fact, here’s pretty much the reason I started this column in the first place: while I like a nice, luxurious SUV as much as the next guy or gal – big or small – what I really like about a car is how it drives. And if we’re honest, there are few cars that drive as well as the MX-5.
Thing is, you won’t find many people that are going to tell you that the MX-5 is fit for a king in the passenger comfort department. It has a smaller wheelbase than a Nissan Micra, the trunk is pretty non-existent (the fact that you lose no space in here with the top folded is nice, though) and anybody taller than 6 feet (I’m 6’3”) will have a hard time getting their forehead below the top of the windshield. So as well as this baby drives – and we’ll talk about just how well in a moment – there’s no way the Big Guys would ever be able to justify owning one, simply because they couldn’t fit inside, right?
The Knee Test
I’m not going to lie to you: when it comes time to clamber down into one of these, you’ve got to be careful. The cockpit, while bigger than it was back in ’89 when this product line started, is a snug, snug place to be and you do have to thread your legs into it. It’s not as bad as it is in, say, a Lotus Exige, but there is a strategy involved if you don’t plan on shearing the skin from your shins and kneecaps.
It’s a matter of sliding that right leg in there, cocking it a little to the right to avoid the steering wheel (it’s not huge, but it’s not tiny, either) dropping your butt into the seat and letting the left leg follow behind. It’s a bit of an art, but that kind of adds to the sense of occasion, right?
Once inside, though, I was pleased to find in both this car – which has the high-bolster Recaro sport seats – and a car fitted with the more standard leather items, that I didn’t have the top of the windshield bisecting my field of vision.
That’s with the top down, though. Top up – and this should come as little surprise – it’s a bit of a different story.
For starters, don’t even think of wearing a baseball cap. In fact, I would imagine that even a flat poorboy-style lid would cause some problems. Unless I was willing to drive with my head cocked to the right or left, the bill of my hat would be jammed up against the headliner, which is never fun.
Hat off, it’s serviceable; you can see from the side profile shots that the roof isn’t completely flat, but a little rounded for a little extra headroom. Still, 950 mm really isn’t very much.
Which is why I kept the top down pretty much for my entire test, and would probably do the same during my entire ownership of one of these.
An Ode to the MX-5: Shall I compare thee…
Of course, once you get past all that, it’s easy to see the advantages of having such a cozy cockpit. The controls are all just right there, falling easily to your grasp. The steering wheel, the stubby gear lever and the pedals are all arranged so that they fall almost exactly where you’d expect them to. Sure, it would be nice if the wheel both tilted and telescoped – it only tilts – but since it’s so snug in there this didn’t bother me as much as it did in any Mustang before the current gen, or a Jeep Wrangler. The latter still doesn’t offer a telescoping wheel; I guess that’s a thing with cars as iconic and focused as the Wrangler or MX-5: sacrifices have to be made in the name of getting other aspects just right.