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Mazda MX-5 Miata Club 2016 review

Like a chase scene from a James Bond movie, a low-slung sportscar – is there any other kind? – powers along a track, which has been cut deep into the snow. It barrels through a sweeping right-hand corner, sending a long, high shower of shimmering powder into the air as it goes, then slip-slides at speed through a left-hand turn – on the edge of losing grip – holds the line, and guns along a short, sharp straight to safety.

Well, that last bit is the stuff of fantasy. What actually happens is that the MX-5 (in US-spec Miata guise) bleeds all speed on the straight and potters over to join a small queue of its stablemates as drivers ready for another hot lap of a short, but thrilling course.

It’s -5 degrees celsius at 1pm in Crested Butte (pronounced “beaut”), Colorado – more than 2800 metres above sea level – and we’re here in the good ’ol US of A, playing super spies with fancy driving skills, at the first Mazda Ice Academy.

Driving MX-5s around a snow/ice track is part of the schedule for this debut event and it’s left me panting like I’ve just finished a Zumba class. I’m not sure whether I’m short of breath because of the altitude or because this is so much damn fun.

MX-5 back-ends swing wide through the corners over and over again as drivers punch them around the course

Mazda’s MX-5 is made for this sort of white-knuckled action. It’s light – only 1057kg with the six-speed manual transmission we’re using – and it’s responsive and very agile. On this fast, little snowy track it feels like a go-kart, but in a good way.

What’s more, its SKYACTIV-G 2.0L four-cylinder engine (118kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4600rpm) has plenty of go and a bear-like growl. (Luckily for us, there are no actual bears here. Or at least that’s what the locals tell us.)

We’re in the Club, which comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, Sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, front air dam and rear lip spoiler – a neat touch – and a Sport-tuned exhaust.

Among our many laps, we try one with traction control on and then the rest with it switched off to ramp up the fun factor. MX-5 back-ends swing wide through the corners over and over again as drivers punch them around the course.

On a few occasions, drivers misjudge one particular corner, as well as the snow and just how slippery it is, and they spin their MX-5 through a blurry, snow-spray 180 degrees and come to a jolting rest across the track or against one of the snowbanks lining parts of the track.

Some hardy souls are doing laps in an MX-5 with the top down, revelling in the open-air experience. One bloke is wearing ski goggles to maintain vision through the constant snow shower he’s being bombarded with.

Visibility on the drive to the track that morning had been the wrong side of terrible

We’re lucky to even be getting the chance to do this; Mother Nature had almost prevented the entire event. Winter Storm Kayla has much of the state in her fearsome grip and the weather up until an hour or so before had been truly atrocious: huge amounts of snow for this region (upwards of one metre in a night), more than 600 cancelled flights out of the nearest major airport (Denver) and countless warnings from newscasters about “only travel by road if you absolutely have to”.

Early mornings have been punctuated by the boom of explosive charges being set off by ski patrols high in the mountains behind the track in an effort to try to break up potential avalanche sites.

The Mazda crew has been hard at work, first preparing and then maintaining the tracks through the snow-storm weather. Clearing the snow, then compacting what remains; then clearing the snow, compacting, and repeating the process. But the result is quite a fast little course despite the weather.

Visibility on the drive to the track that morning had been the wrong side of terrible – so much so that our driver had inadvertently speared off into a snowbank.

Verdict

But Crested Butte is so thoroughly charming – all crisp air, deep-snow mountains, thick forest, quaint houses and friendly locals – that you can’t help but forgive it any snowy misgivings.

And chilly joyrides in MX­5s are the tasty icing on the below­-zero cake.

Where would you take an MX-5? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here for more 2016 Mazda MX-5 price and spec info

Pricing Guides

$26,990
Based on 60 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$21,480
Highest Price
$36,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $22,890 – 34,000 2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 (base) Pricing and Specs
GT 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $24,280 – 29,990 2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 GT Pricing and Specs
RF 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $26,180 – 32,340 2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 RF Pricing and Specs
RF GT 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $28,160 – 33,990 2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 RF GT Pricing and Specs
Marcus Craft
Editor - Adventure

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Pricing Guide

$22,890

Lowest price, based on 22 car listings in the last 6 months

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