Who’s the Daddy?
Mazda MX-5: Of affordable open-topped motoring…? Unarguably, four generations of MX-5. One SLC or His ‘n’ Hers Mazdas for the same dosh? Only someone with an embonpoint the colour and texture of a button-back Chesterfield would ponder.
Mercedes-Benz SLC 300: Also known as the SLK with a new hooter and a new name. The former has been around since Moses used one to transport the Ten Commandments back from the top of Mt Sinai, so now longer in the tooth than a walrus.
Wind in the Hair or Wig in the Willows?
Mazda MX-5: Simple throw-back manual lid, but requires glenohumeral origami to press rigid centre section into locked position. Ditto for roof retrieval. Not as blustery open as the Audi, but noisier when shut.
Mercedes-Benz SLC 300: All the elegance and advantage of the only all-metal roof here. But it is also a colossal boot space thief, and can only be operated from a standstill, even though, bizarrely, you can move off mid-fold.
Shoehorn Squeeze or Horn of Plenty?
Mazda MX-5: Pretty and petite couture may cause cramping in taller specimens. Cabin nicely finished and seats comfy, but even this somewhat hastily constructed driver yearns for a couple of extra inches seat travel. A minor ergonomic itch.
Mercedes-Benz SLC 300: Standard Mercedes fare which, whisper who dares, is starting to look a little dated now. Seats comfortable (natch), and a fine driving position, though the taller occupant may find cabin length a tad restrictive.
Kitchen Sink or Kitsch Missing Link?
Mazda MX-5: Paint the only extra on this price tag. All other toys, including multimedia with DAB radio and navigation, decent connectivity, air-conditioning and even headrest-mounted speakers, thrown in. Optional, kitten-heeled pouting passenger: POA.
Mercedes-Benz SLC 300: Over £10,000 worth of extras bolted to the list price here. The usual raft of ASSISTS – all of which must be turned off before setting out – and TRONICS including SCARFTRONIC, which is pleasingly seductive.
Time is a jet Plane; it Moves too Fast…
Mazda MX-5: This entire machine was meticulously engineered around the lesser, 1.5-litre engine; the 2.0-litre unit simply hoicked out of another model. And it shows. Latter unit promotes fractionally more pace but notably less grace.
Mercedes-Benz SLC 300: Engine not a patch on the V6. Doesn’t sound great and you need to select Sport+ to even vaguely wake the somnambulant gearbox, whereupon power delivery lacks linearity. Tries too hard to sound faster than it is.
Seat of the Pant or Pants with a Seat?
Mazda MX-5: SThe former. In spades. Old-fashioned driving in a good, Lotus Elan way, not a bad, SLC way. Lightweight, beautifully balanced, deliciously poised and pointy. Agile handling as precise as the rifle-bolt gearchange.
Mercedes-Benz SLC 300: Not much poise or body control; underlying softness with constant nuggety interruptions. Lid off, flops around like a freshly-landed halibut. Lid on, creaks like a galleon in a gale. Steering remote, and far more grip than handling.
Mazda MX-5 2.0 SE-L Nav
Engine: 1998cc turbo 4-cyl
Power: 147bhp @ 4600rpm
Torque: 280lb ft @ 1950-4500rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 133mph
On sale: Now
Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 AMG Line
Engine: 1991cc turbo 4-cyl
Power: 242bhp @ 5500rpm
Torque: 273lb ft @ 1300-4000rpm
Transmission: nine-speed automatic with manual override, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 155mph
On sale: Now