Mazda MX-5 roadster
Price £18,495 - £23,695
- Super reliable
- Loads of fun
- Relatively affordable to run
- Cramped interior
- Small boot
- Inefficient automatic
At a glance
"The Mazda MX-5 isn’t just one of the most fun-to-drive cars on the road, it’s also affordable and reliable."
The Mazda MX-5 is perfect if you want an open-top two-seater that is fun to drive and reasonably cheap to run. There's a new model on the way, which means Mazda is offering some very generous discounts on the current car, too. Many see the Mazda as offering the traditional thrills of a classic British sports car, combined with the reliability of a Japanese model.
The Mazda can be had with either a folding metal roof for more security or a more traditional fabric roof that gives the car a bigger boot, but means the sports car is noisier inside at speed. Buyers can choose between 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines, which make the Mazda quick enough to be lots of fun on a twisty road.
Trim levels include basic SE, Sport Tech, and top-of-the-range Sport Tech Nav. Two limited edition models called the Venture and Sport Graphite have also been released in the past, offering extra equipment on the Sport Tech Nav trim level. The fabric-roofed MX-5 only comes in SE trim and does without equipment such as air-conditioning and a Bluetooth phone connection.
To celebrate 25 years of MX-5 production, Mazda released a 25th Anniversary Limited Edition model of the MX-5 in 2014 that comes with the 2.0-litre engine and extra kit in addition to what's included on Sport Tech Nav cars.
MPG, running costs & CO2
MX-5's 1.8-litre engine offers reasonable running costs for a sports car
The MX-5 is pretty cheap to run for a sports car. The 1.8-litre petrol engine is the most economical, and can achieve 40mpg and emissions of 167g/km CO2 for road tax of £200 annually. Go for the 2.0-litre engine and fuel economy drops to 36.2mpg, while CO2 emissions of 181g/km CO2 mean road tax is £220 annually. The 2.0-litre engine is the only one available with Mazda’s Powershift automatic gearbox, dropping fuel economy to just 35.3mpg, while CO2 emissions of 188g/km puts road tax at £265 annually.
All Mazdas come with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty, which can be extended at extra cost. The company also makes it easy to pay for the maintenance on your MX-5 by offering three years’ worth of servicing for £499. Insurance is also cheap for a sports car, with the basic model sitting in group 22, compared to group 26 in the rest of the range.
Engines, drive & performance
Driving thrills are guaranteed with the MX-5
The main reason you’re likely to buy a Mazda MX5 is for the car’s excellent driving experience – and the model’s age has done little to change that. Its steering is still brilliantly precise and there is loads of grip, while modestly-powered engines mean the Mazda never feels intimidating to drive. We would choose the brilliant manual gearbox over the sloppy automatic model, although the latter does come with paddle shifters next to the steering wheel.
The 124bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine is the slowest model in the range, but gets the car from 0-60mph in a reasonable 8.8 seconds. Going for the 2.0-litre model with 158bhp drops the 0-60mph time down to 7.6 seconds, but mating it with the automatic gearbox means 0-60mph rises to 8.9 seconds.
Interior & comfort
The MX-5 is quite comfortable for a sports car
Get inside the Mazda MX-5 and you’re met by a traditional low-slung driving position and a high gear lever that makes you feel snug in the car. Plastic quality can’t match rivals such as the BMW Z4, but its dashboard design is sporty and cool. Some drivers might find the Mazda’s seating position is slightly off-set from the controls and pedals and it is a shame that the steering wheel only adjusts for height and not reach.
The Mazda was never designed to be a comfortable cruiser, but it deals with most bumps and avoids the vibrations suffered by some open-topped cars, which suffer from a lack of rigidity without a permanent metal roof.
Sport Tech models and the 25th Anniversary Limited Edition come with stiffer suspension and larger alloy wheels, which makes the ride less comfortable so it might be worth comparing it with a basic model before you sign on the dotted line.
Practicality & boot space
MX-5 boot is pretty small
You wouldn’t expect practicality to be a Mazda MX5 strongpoint and the car’s boot only has room for 150-litres worth of luggage, although that is enough room for a small suitcase. The boot also has quite a tall load lip to lift luggage over, although not many people are going to buy the Mazda for load lugging.
Folding the fabric roof away doesn’t take up any boot space and the roof is easy to drop down by simply releasing a couple of clips and dropping it back. Go for the folding hard top and you’ll be able to drop it at the touch of a button in just under 12 seconds.
Mazda has seen fit to give the two-seater Mazda four cupholders, while the glovebox is a useful size and there is also a locking cubbyhole behind the seats.
Reliability & safety
Mazda MX-5 has no safety rating but reliability is first rate
It is clear from our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey that age is catching up with the Mazda MX-5 and it dropped 49 places from last year to finish in 96th place. Despite this, the Mazda still finished 10th out of 150 cars for reliability and fourth for road handling. However, it was marked down for practicality – where it finished 138th – and in running costs (122nd).
Euro NCAP has never crash tested the MX-5 so it’s hard to say for sure how safe the car is. It does come with features that you would expect, such as a driver and passenger airbags, roll-over hoops, and an active bonnet that pops up to protect pedestrians from the car’s hard internals.
Price, value for money & options
MX-5 is relatively inexpensive with decent resale values
With the new model on the way, the current MX-5 has never been better value and Mazda is offering the car with a £2,000 discount and interest-free credit. Despite its age the MX-5 remains a popular model and you can expect the car to hold around 48 per cent of its value after three years and 36,000 miles.
We would avoid the basic model though, which does without air-conditioning and is best reserved for committed enthusiasts. Go for the Sport Tech model and you get air conditioning and cruise control, while Sport Tech Nav trim adds sat-nav, with a 6.1-inch display. Also available for a limited time is the 25th Anniversary model, which gets unique styling features including exclusive gloss red paint with black alloy wheels, A-pillars and hard top roof. Other extra goodies include an exclusive 6.1-inch Alpine Sat Nav system. The fact this model is £300 cheaper than the Sport Tech Nav model, has extra equipment compared to that car and is more exclusive, as there are only 1,000 examples being produced, means it's even better vale for money than before.