The joy of going topless

Though raising the roof also raises some interesting questions

GLENN BUTLER

WHATíS the protocol with leaving the roof open when parked?

When parking at a coffee shop, can I get my morning take-away and expect my work bag will still be on the passenger seat when I come back?

What about when I go to the barberís for my monthly mop lop? Okay, in this instance, Iím not naÔve. But what if thereís nothing in the cabin? Can I leave the roof down and expect to not find a cigarette butt or litter in the cabin (both of which have happened)?

These are the weighty first-world conundrums I tackled after taking over our long-term Mazda MX-5 Roadster 1.5. It was also a month of compulsory roof-down motoring. Every single trip the lid was off, unless it was raining.

Putting the roof down is a cinch: undo latch, hurl roof back, push down until it clicks. And to re-roof the roadster, a latch between the seats pops the light cloth lid up from its hideaway so itís easy to reach. No longer do you need Mel Gibsonís ability to dislocate your own shoulder.

I like driving roof-down. You feel a little exposed but it does make a journey more fun, even in peak hour. I feel incredibly small in the MX-5, though, staring into the alloys of the SUV alongside.

My dog likes travelling roofless as well.

She gets that wind-on-her-tongue feeling without having to hang out the window. Her fur, however, swirls around everywhere in the cabin, and itís a bugger to vacuum out.

I put the roof up for one particular drive, despite the clear blue sky and warm late summer sun. A weekend away with friends up the King Valley involved a 3km dirt private roadway to the property, and no amount of journalistic curiosity could convince me to drive that stretch roof-down.

I may have driven that dirt road a little faster than I should have, but the MX-5 made me do it. Itís such a sweet, chuckable little roadster that drifts with balletic precision and wondrous ease. The anaemic little 1.5 had no troubles kicking the butt out under power Ė with the ESC off, obviously.

So. Much. Fun. Every one of the five times I tackled Ďmyí special stage.

Getting the dirt out, however, is not so much fun. It didnít get into the cabin too badly, but there was a light covering over the dash and in the vents. And while it didnít get past the bootís dust sealing at all, itís pure hell getting a rag in and around the hinges.

Still, fun has a price, right?

ITíS A DOGíS LIFE

Molly loves the novelty of riding up front with the wind in her fur

MAZDA MX-5 1.5 ROADSTER

Date acquired: December 2015 Price as tested: $32,240 This month: 1752km @ 8.1L/100km Overall: 2784km @ 7.3L/100km

Real drivers do it sideways

My little dirt road jaunt was nothing compared to the insanity Mazda unleashed on willing media in 2013. Mazda closed a 6km stretch of dirt road used on Rally Canberra and invited us to race the clock. Recipe for disaster, yes? The only damage was to rims (rocks) and ruptured tyres, and a couple of bumpers, despite the treacherous forest route.

Yours truly logged the third-fastest time, behind former Wheels contributor James Stanford (1st) and present contributor Toby Hagon.

Watch the onboard video here: wheelsmag.com.au/mx5rally