Mazda MX-5 roadster
Price £19,245 - £24,295
- Great fun to drive
- Easy to use every day
- Sharp, modern styling
- Limited practicality
- Not the plushest of interiors
- Poor visibility with the roof up
At a glance
“This latest generation of the iconic Mazda MX-5 carries on the fine traditions of its predecessors. It’s great fun to drive at sensible speeds, while still being usable every day.”
The Mazda MX-5 is the best-selling roadster of all time and the latest version looks set to continue that trend. It takes the basic recipe of the original; light weight, fantastic handling and simplicity and has modernised it with up-to-date styling and extra equipment and technology. In short, it perfectly captures the spirit of the original, but in a thoroughly modern way.
If we’re honest, there are very few direct rivals for the MX-5. The Lotus Elise comes closest in terms of being a lightweight, fun-to-drive roadster, but it's much more expensive and likely to be less dependable on a day-to-day basis. The MX-5's fiercest rival is likely to be the forthcoming Fiat 124 Spider, which goes on sale in 2016 and uses the same mechanical underpinnings as the Mazda.
Unusually for a new version of an existing car, the latest MX-5 is actually smaller and lighter than the model it replaces. In fact, it weighs in at less than 1,000kg, which helps give the car its signature agile handling. The front-engine, rear-drive balance is present and correct, while the steering is light and precise, meaning you can place the car accurately on the road.
The Mazda's small size means it's easy to trundle about town, as well as navigate the narrow country lanes where it thrives. It has a beautifully accurate gearchange, too, making every shift a joy, while the clutch is nice and light, so it's not a chore in heavy traffic.
Another advantage of the MX-5's low weight is that it allows for supple suspension, without compromising handling. This means the car is never uncomfortable and will cruise quite happily at motorway speeds without hurting your back or deafening you with engine noise.
It's pretty economical as well, with the 1.5 and 2.0-litre petrol engines returning 47.1 and 40.9mpg respectively. This equates to CO2 emissions of 139 or 161g/km and means a road tax bill of £130 or £180 each a year. That makes the MX-5 one of the very cheapest sports cars to run there is.
However, it's not all good news. Some of the interior plastics feel quite cheap and the limited storage space in the cabin can get annoying in a car with such a tiny boot – and rest assured, it is tiny. It’ll hold just 130 litres – enough for a couple of squashy weekend bags, but not much more. The roof, although manual, is exceptionally easy to operate, but when it's up, things feel a little cramped inside, while rear three-quarter visibility leaves a lot to be desired.
The MX-5 isn’t a massively quick car – its trump card is how it goes around corners – with the 1.5-litre version taking 8.3 seconds to get from 0-62mph. The 161bhp 2.0-litre is quicker – 0-62mph takes 7.3 seconds – but many hot hatchbacks are quicker in a straight line.
Performance isn’t the whole story, though. The 1.5-litre is actually the sweeter engine, making a lovely noise and revving freely. If you fancy doing trackdays then the extra power, stiffer suspension and limited-slip differential (a device that improves grip under acceleration) of the 2.0-litre Sport will make sense. Other than that, a mid-range SE-L Nav will come with all the kit you’ll need.
The MX-5 gets Bluetooth phone connectivity, satellite navigation and climate control as standard – pretty impressive for such a small, light car.
SKYACTIV engine technology ensures the new Mazda MX-5 can put a smile on your face without breaking the bank
Light weight means the new MX-5 doesn’t need loads of horsepower to offer a fun and involving driving experience
A hi-tech, high-quality interior largely borrowed from the Mazda3 hatchback makes the new Mazda MX-5 a comfortable and satisfying place to spend time
Practicality was never a Mazda MX-5 strong suit and that hasn’t changed with this latest model
Mazda has a long record of producing dependable and safe cars and the new Mazda MX-5 should be no different