View all Mazda MX-5 reviews
Parkers overall rating: 5 out of 5 5.0
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PROS

  • Driver involvement
  • 1.5-litre engine
  • Gearbox
  • Looks
  • Handling

CONS

  • Lack of storage
  • Slightly cramped cabin
  • Not very efficient

Verdict

No matter the company, no matter the model, it’s all too easy to lazily label whatever new car that comes along as an important one for the manufacturer in question; but for the arrival of the new Mazda MX-5 it’s entirely fitting. As far as mainstream milestones go, the MX-5 is it, the Japanese firm having sold around 950,000 since its launch in 1989.

On first exposure to this, the fourth generation, it seems it won’t be long until it steals sales from the Ford Fiesta ST, Toyota GT86 or Peugeot RCZ Coupe and surpasses the million mark. It’s already the best-selling roadster in history.

Two engines

And it’s easy to see why, the MX-5 conjuring up a whole that seems far greater than sum of its parts – especially when fitted with the 1.5-litre engine. Mazda engineers actually designed the whole car around this unit (demand from America being a primary reason for the inclusion of a 2-litre engine also) and within 30 seconds of driving it you can see why.

This (relatively) tiny engine spins incredibly freely, surpassing 7,000rpm before nudging its limiter, and sounds fantastically enthusiastic. It adds up to an experience that is entirely in-keeping with the intended sensations of this lightweight fun car. Mazda calls it ‘Joy of the moment, joy of life’.

There is a two-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine as well, which has an extra 29bhp and 50Nm over the 1.5-litre, improving the former’s 8.3 second 0-62mph time by one second. Truth be told, the increase in torque is particularly noticeable, and often welcome, but it lacks the purity of the smaller unit and feels coarse in comparison. We can totally understand why you’d plump for the 2-litre, but it’s the best engine fitted to this two-seat roadster.

Fabric roof, operated by hand

This is a sophisticated car, but one without added complexity. Which is why you need to manually operate the folding fabric roof, the only electrical intervention present comes from the windows which lower slightly as you unlatch the roof from the top of the windscreen rail.

It’ll fold back neatly into its dedicated spot behind the seats in one movement, requiring little more than a swing of your arm, and doesn’t eat into any available boot space either. Often closing said roofs, twisting round and backwards with your arm to reach before lifting awkwardly, can wrench your shoulder but this effort is so light there’s little chance of such injury.

Mazda’s gram strategy, which sees the 1.5-litre car weigh just 940kg without a driver, is fanatical. Even the 2-litre tips the scales at just 25kg more.

There’s extra aluminium to make the whole thing lighter, and components that won’t have their integrity or strength affected wear weight-saving holes with pride. Even the welded and riveted parts are formed in a ‘wave’ shape to fractionally reduce materials used and lower the weight.

Familiar but progressive design

People buy roadsters with their hearts, and so the attention to detail spent on how the MX-5 looks is almost as great as the time spent ensuring it drove properly. It follows the firm’s familiar Kodo Soul of Motion design ethos, and it works best here on this stubby tailed roadster rather than the 5 people-carrier.

The surfacing is expressive, the body-colour wrapping over the tops of the doors and into the cabin, and even standing still the MX-5 looks lithe, alert and ready to go.

It has a shorter wheelbase than ever before, but the placement of the cabin means there’s more room between the pedals and the front wheels so there’s no compromise in the driving position. Same goes for the bonnet, which hooks low over the front wheels, necessitating slim LED lights to maintain the correct proportions and front face graphic.

The cabin is the shortest in MX-5 history and though it can feel slightly snug at times, it’s also the best so far. There’s no soft-touch plastic, but the simple detailing and layout reinforce this car’s fun focus, and it feels entirely robust.

Roof down, sun reflecting in your shades and with the wind in your hair the Mazda MX-5 is like no other at this price point. Read the rest of the Parkers Mazda MX-5 review to find out why we think it deserves the full five stars.

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