Test Drives

2020 Mitsuoka Rock Star Review: Attention Grabber



 

It’s not an exact copy of the Corvette of course, but the design is almost a faithful replica of the original. Details such as the round lights front and rear, chrome bumpers and side sills help with that effect, and for the most part the Rock Star does manage to pass as a pretty credible imitation.

Under that fancy-looking body though is actually a fourth-generation Mazda MX-5, and the most obvious indication of this is the interior, which is lifted virtually unchanged from its donor, with the exception of the Mitsuoka logo on the steering wheel.

That immediately makes the car more interesting. The MX-5 is the world’s most successful roadster, and a great building block for a proper driver’s car.

Like the MX-5, the fabric folding roof is a DIY job, and the seats only adjust fore and aft, and not for height. Even the infotainment system is a full Mazda carryover, complete with the Mazda logo greeting you upon startup.

And it’s the same mechanically too, with the Rock Star using the same 1.5-litre four-cylinder powerplant as the MX-5, with 132hp and 152Nm of torque. That’s far less power than Singapore-spec MX-5’s get, since the 1.5-litre is the JDM engine for the Mazda, we only receive the more powerful 2.0-litre, which makes 160hp, and has been uprated in recent product improvement cycles too.

Thus the Rockstar is slower in a straight line than its Mazda brother, but it’s still decently quick. However, we all know the fun of the MX-5 is in the handling, and not pure speed. The Rockstar has the benefit of being light, just like the MX-5, with the Rock Star’s kerb weight measuring in at just 1,140kg.

As such, the driving experience is essentially similar to the MX-5. There is a sublimely balanced chassis, matched with very communicative steering and excellent body control. The lack of power actually plays to your advantage here, as you can push the car to the edge without too much risk of overstepping your limits.

Does it feel different to the MX-5? Yes, it’s a little more nose-heavy, and we’re guessing that’s down to the styling. Classic American cars are capital H heavy, and the bonnet of the Rockstar is certainly reminiscent of that. But again, it might translate to less intimidating handling at speed, for some, and while there’s noise (it’s a cabrio after all), the Rockstar strikes a fine balance between corner carving and daily-drive comfort.


READ MORE: What’s the more powerful 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5 like to drive in Singapore? We test the hard-top, sexy-as-heck RF model here!


Continue to Page 3: Cost, conclusion, and why the Rock Star as exclusive as a Ferrari

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Ben Chia
CarBuyer's senior staff writer went out to explore the Great Big World, including a stint working in China (despite his limited Mandarin). Now he's back, ready to foist upon you his takes on everything good and wonderful about the automotive world.