Mazda MX-5: road test

Posted on August 10th, 2015 by James Luckhurst

The MX-5 is an absolute hoot to drive, and great value, too.

Mazda MX-5: road test

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What is it?

The new Mazda MX-5 is the fourth generation of this popular roadster, a modern-day equivalent to the classic British sports cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

How safe is it?

Roof down, visibility is excellent although it’s compromised a bit with the roof up. Every model is equipped with front and side airbags and a pop-up bonnet.

Who should buy one?

If you reckon you can get by with just two seats, or are looking for a second car for those sunny weekends, you won’t be disappointed by the new MX-5.

Road test by David Motton, published 10 August 2015

 

 

DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Mazda MX-5: road test

You can buy quicker cars for similar money, but few will be anywhere near as much fun as the new MX-5. It really is that good.

That’s partly down to Mazda’s efforts in reducing the car’s weight. The new MX-5 is around 100kg lighter than its predecessor, making it the lightest MX-5 since the first. The centre of gravity has been lowered, and the new MX-5 is shorter than before, with a more compact wheelbase.

It makes for a car of remarkable agility and balance. The steering is light, but provides subtle feedback and unerring precision. Some sports cars bully their way down the road; the MX-5 just seems to flow. It’s quick to react to the wheel but doesn’t feel nervous, and bumps in the road are effectively smoothed away by the brilliantly-judged suspension.

There are two engine options: a 131PS (129bhp) 1.5-litre and a 160PS (158bhp) 2.0-litre. Don’t dismiss the less powerful engine just because this is a sports car. What the 1.5 lacks in power, it makes up for in rev-hungry eagerness. Besides, in a car that weighs just 1090kg, the 1.5 is strong enough for a claimed 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds. It needs to be revved hard to give its best, but that’s no chore when an engine is as smooth as this one.

For another £850, the 2.0-litre adds an extra kick to the MX-5’s performance, lopping a second from the 0-62mph sprint. As well as extra top-end power there’s a lot more punch in the middle of the rev range.

The 2.0-litre runs on 17-inch alloys rather than the 16-inch wheels of the 1.5, and the ride isn’t quite as supple. But this is still a comfortable car by sports car standards.

Roof up, the MX-5 is quiet enough for motorway journeys, with a noticeable reduction in wind noise compared with the previous model.

But the MX-5 is clearly not a car made for motorway journeys. It’s at its best on winding country roads.

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Mazda MX-5: road test

If practicality is a big concern then perhaps you’re looking at the wrong car. There’s space for two inside. The dashboard design has been brought up to date, with improved fit and finish and sporty looking cowled instruments. All but the most basic model have a seven-inch colour touchscreen display in the centre of the dash. It’s easy enough to use, although you’ll either love or hate the way it sits proud of the rest of the dashboard.

Drivers of most shapes and sizes should find a comfortable position, though more legroom would be welcome for the tall. The 130 litres of boot space is less than in the old car. That’s enough room for two overnight bags, and the boot opening is very small.

SAFETY
Mazda MX-5: road test

All cars have driver, passenger and side airbags which have been designed to protect occupants’ heads, even with the roof down. Other safety kit includes a pop-up bonnet, designed to reduce pedestrian injuries in a collision. The passenger seat has anchor points for an ISOFIX child seat. With the roof down, the driver has a good view all around; over-shoulder visibility isn’t quite as good with the roof up.

EQUIPMENT
Mazda MX-5: road test

Mazda tends to provide lots of standard equipment. Even the basic SE trim has manual air conditioning, remote central locking, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and more. Upgrades to SE-L models include climate control, cruise control, a DAB radio and a touchscreen. Sport models have parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, uprated stereo and other goodies. Not surprisingly, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav models have satnav.

COSTS

Mazda MX-5: road test

Compared with most roadsters, the MX-5 is very affordable, with prices starting at £18,495. For low running costs, the 1.5 is best, with official combined economy of 47.1mpg and emissions of 139g/km, putting the car in Band E for Vehicle Excise Duty. The 2.0 is thirstier, returning 40.9mpg on the combined cycle and emitting 161g/km, bumping the car up to Band G for VED. Resale values should prove strong.

WE SAY

The MX-5 is an absolute hoot to drive, and great value, too.

AT A GLANCE:
Price: £23,295
Performance: 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds
Economy: 40.9mpg combined
Insurance: Group 29E
Tax: Band G (£180 first year)

Figures for the 2.0 Skyactic-G Sport Nav