Mazda MX-5 2.0i auto: driven

* MX-5 fun for auto drivers * Paddle-shift shenanigans * Costs £20,195...

Mazda MX-5 2.0i auto: driven

A whole world of fantastic handling and soft-top fun is now open to those who drive automatics only, because Mazda has slotted its Powershift automatic gearbox into the MX-5 roadster.

Mated to a 158bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine, the six-speed 'box offers a full auto mode or manual changes via F1-style gearshift paddles. Unfortunately, auto gearshifts aren't particularly smooth, and if you opt to take control, the changes are rather slow.

Paddle-shift shenanigans

The paddle arrangement itself also takes some getting used to. With most rival systems, the right paddle controls upshifts and the left downshifts. However, in the MX-5, two upshifting paddles sit behind the steering wheel, while downshifts are made by pressing buttons on the front of the wheel.

The car is well equipped and, if you have to have an automatic, you're still getting just about the best fun you can have in a car at this price. However, the Powershift 'box hurts fuel economy and blunts acceleration.

Imagine walking on a beach: the MX-5 automatic is like walking in comfortable shoes when what you really want is to feel the sand between the toes. Stick with the manual if you can.

Our verdict