Fast Blasts

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW IN SNACK-SIZE BITES

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01 MAZDA MX-5 RF AUTO

Six-speed slushbox not quite the

IT FEELS WRONG to sit in the driver’ seat of an MX-5 and find yourself faced with a paddle-equipped wheel, and only two pedals. There’ nothing objectively wrong with the six-speed automatic gearbox Mazda has made available for its roadster, it works smoothly in other models. But it doesn’ suit the MX-5’ character particularly well. Using the car as a more sporting commute than a standard city car makes sense for the auto MX-5, but its lack of LSD (a manual-only feature) and involvement make it harder vibe with when the Sunday drive comes around. While you can still find the right rhythm on a lively drive, the gearbox is sometimes slow to change and can throw the car off balance if you’ not prepared for the small lurch as acceleration dips for a moment. Left to its own devices in its Sport setting, will generally sit you in the sweet spot (high in the rev range) for acceleration, but holds it there for too long when you don’ need it. Even when you’ getting stuck in, it feels slower than the manual. If Mazda’ MX-5 philosophy of jinba ittai, horse and rider as one, is to hold up with its roadster, you need the manual gearbox to create a more fluid connection between human and machine. The manual is also $2000 cheaper, which is nice.

SPECS: 2.0 I4; 135kW @ 7000rpm; 205Nm @ 4000rpm; RWD; 1112kg; $41,400

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02 TOYOTA COROLLA

Hire-car hottie? Not just

TRADITIONALLY, one of us would only review a new Toyota Corolla if we were being punished. But we’ll admit the 12th-generation car roused our curiosity, and a pinch of excitement, when we read its press kit. Its new platform extends its wheelbase by 60mm, drops its centre of gravity 10mm and stiffens torsional rigidity by 60 per cent. It also seems Toyota chose multi-link rear suspension over boot space, as the latter drops 69 litres. Its seats are well bolstered, the manual shifter is placed exactly where you want and there’s even a decent rev-match function that helps mask its high clutch bite point on downshifts. Its new 2.0-litre four revs to 6850rpm, but fails to make its 125kW/200Nm feel anything more than pragmatic. Instead, its chassis balance is the talking point. Yes, the base Ascent Sport squirms 205/50 R16-profile tyres (the ZR upgrades to 225/40 18s) at turn-but it doesn’t immediately fall into horrible understeer. Its chassis dynamic and perhaps capable of brake-activated oversteer if an undefeatable ESP didn’t squash the fun so early on. It’s a decent effort, but still a set of springs, swaybars and 25kW/50Nm away from being a true, exciting warm hatch.

SPECS: 2.0 I4; 125kW @ 6600rpm; 200Nm @ 4400rpm; FWD; 1320kg; $22,870

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03 FORD MUSTANG GT

Stock suspension setup adds painful

FORD GAVE US more reasons than ever to break the piggy bank on 2018 Mustang. A new V8 and exhaust system were certainly tempting, but if you found the previous model’ ride too taxing on your spine, then $2750 adaptive dampers would be its big draw. Inspired by our experience at PCOTY, we wondered what the new car’ passive setup drives like. New dampers, revised rear toe-links and upsized rear sway bars are still fitted, but nonMagneride cars miss out on bigger front bearings and inverted front struts. Although we could only test one in greasy and wet conditions, you can tell loses some front purchase and lateral body control as a result. Its secondary ride comfort takes a hit, too, as there’ more wheel and tyre deflection over nasty roads. Annoyingly, it’ still unclear how much the adaptive dampers improve this, as all the Magneride cars we’ driven have rode on forged alloys and our test car here is on the stock wheels. When they measure 19-inches tall and over 9.0-inches across, a lighter material could shed a lot of weight make a big difference. So, in summary, it’ slightly stiffer and worse riding low speeds, but a definitive verdict for them has to wait until we drive either suspension setup on the same wheels.

– SPECS: 5.0 V8; 339kW @ 7000rpm; 556Nm @ 3600rpm; RWD; 1668kg; $62,990

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