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Mazda MX-5 Review

Iconic is an over-used word in the automotive industry, however, it is certainly suitable for the Mazda MX-5. The little sports car has been around since 1989, selling over 950,000 models to date – not too shabby.

By Simon McBride
Nov 24, 2015
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  • Brilliant to drive
  • Uncomplicated folding roof
  • Stylish looks
  • Not as premium as some rivals
  • 2.0-litre engine does not sounds as good as the 1.5-litre
  • Boot space has decreased when compared to previous model


Now in its fourth generation, the Mazda MX-5 is hugely important for the Japanese maker. As a wise man once said, ‘Good things come in small packages’, well it’s certainly apt for the MX-5. The new car, according to Mazda, was designed around its 1.5-litre engine even though the model is also offered with a 2.0-litre unit. Can it woo buyers, should rivals be worried? Read on to find out…

On The Road


Mazda has given the buyer two choices in terms of engines, there’s a 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-G and a much more powerful 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G engine.

Hold your horses, don’t just think big, because the 1.5-litre engine is a corker. It produces 129bhp and has 150Nm making it an engine that is full of verve. This smaller engine produces more power than the outgoing 1.8-litre unit in the previous car. Performance figures are good, this version of the MX-5 will reach 62mph from a standing start in 8.3 seconds and has a top speed of 127mph. Step on the accelerator and the exhaust note is sweet, the roar makes

If you are wanting all out power then you should choose the larger 2.0-litre unit. This engine according to Mazda has been specifically tuned for wider low and mid-range torque, and when tested this was duly proven. The 160ps 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G engine is 8kg lighter than the outgoing MX-5’s MZR 2.0-litre engine. With more power, you get a quicker benchmark sprint time and this version can get from zero to 62mph time in 7.3 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 133mph. Both cars are fitted with a slick six-speed manual gearbox making them good fun to drive. 

Ride Handling

Shed pounds, save more fuel, clean up those emissions but losing the bulge can transform the dynamics of a car. Now the MX-5 is well-known for being a fun car when it comes to the twisty stuff, however, the Mazda engineers have been hard at work and this version is even lighter than before. The savings mean that the 1.5-litre car weighs 940kg, while the 2-litre model weighs only 25kg more.

The weight loss has made the MX-5 even better to drive. It has a 50/50 weight distribution making it a true driver’s car. Although the MX-5 is not the most powerful Roadster on sale, it doesn’t have to be, the power is just right for the lightweight car. The steering is sharp and precise while it is fairly well weighted. Step on the gas through the bends and you will feel how nimble the little MX-5 is.

Both cars have plenty of mechanical grip, the communicative steering, and the agility all add to the fun factor. It may not be the most powerful car in the class but it is certainly one of the most enjoyable – who needs tons of power when you can have this much fun? Not us. 


The best decision you can make is to go for the 16-inch wheels, yes, they may look tiny but if you want a compliant ride then these are the wheels to go for. If you do choose the large 17-inch wheels, the potholes that litter UK roads will be a lot more noticeable.

Road, engine and tyre noise levels are all acceptable, yes you can Hear all of the above, but this is a roadster, not a family car and you expect it to be a bit raw. To be fair, this is what the large majority of enthusiasts want, the roar of the engine as you flick through another switchback – the MX-5 has a great soundtrack in or out so there’s no reason that the engineers would try to muffle it. 

In The Car

Behind the Wheel

Three trim levels are available on the MX-5, they start with SE, moving on to the mid-trim SE-L and then of finally comes the flagship Sport. The mid and flagship trim can also be ordered with Nav which does exactly what it says on the tin – adds Nav.

Standard kit on the entry-level SE includes, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, electric windows, leather steering wheel and gearknob, heated and electric door mirrors, aircon, and iPod or USB connectivity.

The mid-level SE-L adds LED daytime running lights, climate control, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, seven-inch colour touchscreen and multimedia controller, 17-inch alloys, Piano black door mirrors, limited slip differential (LSD) and a front strut brace.

Opt for the flagship trim on the 1.5-litre model and this adds 16-inch alloy wheels, Lane Departure Warning System, automatic lights and wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror, nine-speaker Bose stereo system, rear parking sensors and keyless entry, all of which come as standard.

Choose the higher-powered 2-litre model and you receive even more kit. This version adds Sports Suspension with Bilstein dampers and a front strut brace, 17-inch alloys, and a Limited Slip Differential.

The cabin is a fairly simple place with a flowing dashboard. The interior almost seems to wrap itself around the driver. It feels snug, this, according to Mazda is the shortest cabin in the model’s history, it’s 20mm lower than the previous car and you sit 30mm closer to your passenger.

Space & Practicality

Roadsters are not known for offering vast amounts of space. On the practical side, the fabric roof is easy to use. Unlock the roof, fold it back neatly and it will slide in to its space behind the seats. It really is child’s play.

With only two seats available, space is at a premium so it is incredibly useful that the roof does not eat in to the boot space when folded. However, the boot has shrunk by 20 litres over the previous generation and now offers 130 litres, that’s enough for a couple of weekend bags, but no more.

On the inside, again finding storage solutions is at a premium. There’s a storage locker between the backs of the seats but you are not going to fit much in here. 


Running Costs

On the costs front, the MX-5 is ultra competitive. The 1.5-litre is the most frugal and has a claimed average economy of 47.1mpg while emitting 139g/km of CO2.

The more powerful 2.0-litre unit has a claimed average economy of 40.9mpg and emits 161g/km of CO2 emissions.

Quality & Reliability

Mazda has a brilliant reputation for reliability and the MX-5 should be no different. This car is a simple roadster meaning that there is no complicated gadgetry or electronics to go wrong. Expect used models to perform well in reliability surveys in future years.

Safety & Security

Although Euro NCAP has not tested this version of the MX-5 as of yet, we expect it to perform well. Every recent addition to the Mazda range has come out really well in crash tests and we expect the little MX-5 to prove to be just as good.

Standard safety kit includes front and side airbags, which are specially designed to protect the occupant’s heads even when the hood is lowered, there’s are also ISOFIX mountings for a child seat which is a boon for those with small children.

A range of safety tech has been added under the i-Activsense umbrella. This includes a Blind Spot Monitoring system, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and a Lane Departure Warning system. 

More On This Car
Take one for a spin or order a brochure
Request a MAZDA MX-5 brochure
Request a MAZDA MX-5 test drive
By Simon McBride
Nov 24, 2015