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Mazda MX-5 roadster (2005-2015) - Engines, drive & performance

The Mazda MX-5 guarantees driving thrills wherever you take it

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive & performance Rating

5.0 out of 5

The main reason you’re likely to buy a Mazda MX-5 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’s loads of grip, while modestly powered engines mean the Mazda never feels intimidating to drive.

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The beauty of the Mazda MX-5 is that you don’t have to drive it fast to enjoy it. It’s easy to drive the car hard and enjoy its finesse when cornering quickly – but you’re never driving particularly fast. Push a Porsche Boxster in the same way, and you’ll be well over the speed limit.

For all the MX-5’s emphasis on handling, it’s comfortable enough to be driven every day and on all sorts of roads. However, on some road surfaces, you might find there’s a little too much engine and road noise. Choosing the Roadster Coupe makes things a little quieter, but it can still make conversations tricky at speed.

Choose a 2.0-litre model in Sport Nav trim or above, and your car will be fitted with a limited-slip differential, which improves stability and grip at speed. Sport Tech and Sport Nav models are fitted with Bilstein sports suspension, which is a little firmer than the standard setup and makes the car feel more connected to the road. Those seeking the last few percent of driver enjoyment will find both components very desirable, as they turn what is already an excellent driver’s car into a truly great one.

Mazda MX-5 petrol engines

There are two engines to choose from: a 1.8-litre and a 2.0-litre. The 1.8-litre engine produces 124bhp for a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds and a 121mph top speed for the Soft Top, while the Roadster Coupe adds another 2mph at the top end. Although that’s enough to have fun on a winding lane, the 1.8-litre MX-5 can still be embarrassed in a straight line by a family hatchback.

The 2.0-litre model makes 158bhp, which cuts the 0-62mph time to a more reasonable 7.9 seconds and increases top speed to 136mph top speed. But if you choose the automatic Powershift model, the 0-62mph time drops to 8.9 seconds and top speed goes back down to 121mph.

We’d recommend the brilliant six-speed manual gearbox over the automatic transmission. The automatic gearbox doesn’t provide the same engagement and enjoyment as the six-speed manual, which is still one of the best transmissions in the business.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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