Mitsuoka Rock Star: Topless head-turner

Within an hour of zipping off in the Mitsuoka Rock Star, I receive two thumbs-ups by passing motorists and countless huge grins, and engage in conversation with three strangers.

This Mazda MX-5-based stunner turns more heads than a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Unlike rides from those two marques, which can draw the wrong attention, the Mitsuoka attracts only goodwill – everybody’s happy to see you.

This is no surprise. Mitsuoka is known for wacky cars such as the serpentine Orochi and vintage Mercedes-inspired SSK.

The small Japanese coachbuilder often wraps classic car-aping bodies around volume cars. Its creations have always been detailed enough to be recognisable, yet sufficiently playful that the world knows it does not take itself too seriously.

The Rock Star – styled after the graceful Chevrolet Corvette C2 – is the first Mitsuoka which I feel is legitimately beautiful.

Days after taking custody of the car, I am still smitten by how pretty it is. Even catching a glimpse of its shark nose poking out from behind a pillar makes me euphoric.

The detailing is, as you would expect from a fastidious coachbuilder, exquisite. Sure, the vents are fake, but they are so stunningly rendered, you forget they are not real.

Inside the car, it is pure Mazda. The infotainment system does not get a reskin, although leather inserts on the dash and door cards add a welcome pop of colour and verve.

The sense of occasion is, however, not lost. The MX-5 has always been a ride that endeavours to make you feel outside of it, especially with the roof down.


The Rock Star is a stunning Corvette C2 lookalike based on the Mazda MX-5. PHOTO: KONG YONGYAO

The top of the doors goes seamlessly from the front wings and is painted in body colour, and the haunches are always visible.

The Rock Star is a 1.5-litre automatic, a variant of the MX-5 that is not officially imported here. It is not a fast car. And at 1,140kg, it is 7.5 per cent heavier than the MX-5.

SPECS / MITSUOKA ROCK STAR

Price: $220,800 with COE

Engine: 1,496cc 16-valve inline-4

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with paddle shift

Power: 132bhp at 7,000rpm

Torque: 152Nm at 4,500rpm

0-100kmh: 9 seconds (estimated)

Top speed: 180kmh (estimated)

Fuel consumption: 6.5 litres/100km

Agent: MyCar

With a blue-labelled Toyota Prius next to me, I set off from the lights – engine and exhaust buzzing like a swarm of bees as the tachometer hits 7,500rpm.

I look to the left and the private-hire car is still there. But the Rock Star does not have to be fast to feel fast. Driven at a brisk Prius pace, every last drop of its mechanical richness can be savoured.

I can see why Mazda harps on how the weaker 1.5-litre unit is the spiritual centre of the MX-5 range. The plucky and zesty engine lives for revs and when the second gear takes you only to about 90kmh, you will feel its voracious appetite. Turns are navigated deftly.

With the sun dipping beneath the horizon, I sit at a waterside cafe sipping a cool drink – still drunk on the beauty and sheer genius of this Japanese ride.

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