Recent Comments

    The Best of Old and New

    By Philip Ruth–

    Where has it been, and where is it going? The ever-changing auto industry is always coming up with new answers to those questions, as what seemed fancy and special just a few decades ago sometimes can hardly be seen on today’s roads. Meanwhile climate change is a primary propellant of current trends as its looming consequences reshape what we drive.

    Two cars that came back-to-back brought those differences into focus. The $36,015 Mazda MX-5 RF Grand Touring is the best of yesterday, with more than 30 years of refinement resulting in a sports car with few compromises and many satisfactions. 

    Add $20,000 to the tested Mazda’s price, and you’d have a budget for one of tomorrow’s cars, the all-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 Limited AWD. From its innovative styling to its 265-mile range—303 miles in front-wheel drive guise—the Ioniq 5 was an impressive debut for 2022, just as the MX-5 Miata’s was back in 1989. 

    One likeness between them showed itself in city driving, as both have exterior contours that rise up into your over-the-shoulder view. The MX-5 RF is a targa coupe, with flying buttresses that are in direct view when backing out to a busy street. The Ioniq 5’s thick C-pillars are typical with other crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) in having a similar effect. 

    Another similarity is front hip room; the MX-5 RF is six inches narrower than the Ioniq 5, which translates to a five-inch advantage in shoulder room. However, the hip room stats shrink that plus to two inches. This illustrates the Ioniq 5’s thickly-rendered interior furnishings, as opposed to the MX-5 RF’s dogged emphasis on minimalist functionality. 

    The Ioniq 5 feels thick in general, with broad horizontal lines visually expanding things further. The MX-5 RF, in comparison, is a car you wear, with just enough room for a six-footer to feel comfortable. 

    Weight is another fundamental difference between these two, as the MX-5 RF’s 2,500-pound curb weight is a testament to years of the just-enough approach to sports-car design. The top-tier Ioniq 5 I drove presses the scale with 4,700 pounds, which is normal for battery-packed electric cars. There’s no question about the differing philosophies, with the nippy MX-5 RF seemingly poised to run rings around the Ioniq 5.

    That changes once you get rolling. The Ioniq 5 AWD’s 446 lb-ft of torque picks up the crossover’s ample mass and flings it like a fastball through traffic. Car magazines have measured its 0–60 mph time in the mid-four-second range, and the Ioniq 5 feels even faster than that. 

    The MX-5 RF eschews this to provide a primo gas-engine experience. Its 151 lb-ft of torque requires revving up to 4,000 rpm to fully show itself, and the slick-shifting six-speed manual in my car made it much fun to get there. 

    This Hyundai and Mazda are so appealing in their own ways that they seemed a perfect pairing for a two-car garage, where you’d have the best of old and new. 

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant with an automotive staging service.

    Published on May 19, 2022