This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Mazda MX-5 review.

4 out of 5 4.0
Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Third-generation MX-5 trades classic charm for real-world usability

Mazda MX-5 (2005 - 2015) Review Video
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At a glance

New price £15,250 - £23,210
Used price £1,555 - £11,090
Fuel economy
Not tested to latest standards
View pre-2017 economy specs
Road tax cost £265 - £330
Insurance group 21 - 28 How much is it to insure?

PROS

  • Great fun to drive
  • Stylish looks
  • Folding hard top versions
  • Superb value for money

CONS

  • Not very practical
  • Can hide rust very well
  • Not particularly economical
  • Soft-top is noisy

Mazda MX-5 rivals

Written by Richard Kilpatrick on

The third-generation of the Mazda MX-5 adds layers of sophistication over the previous two. It’s roomier, more refined and easier to live with. Yet it doesn’t sacrifice the purposeful nature of Mazda’s roadster.

By far the main appeal of the MX-5 is how fun it is to drive. When new it was in a class of one when it comes to delivering open-top thrills at a low price, something that continues with the latest generation. However, the third generation NC faced numerous rivals, a poor economic situation and less favourable tax regimes than before; it’s little wonder that the Mk3 isn’t the first car to spring to mind when you think ‘MX-5’.

Thanks to excellent steering and a nimble rear-wheel drive chassis, you can have fun in any ‘5 no matter how fast you’re going. Retaining the spirit of a modern British sportscar (which is what made the first one so popular, just eight years after the last MG Bs and TR7s left showrooms) has been done so well, it’s easy to forget that the little Mazda is built in Japan.

Is the Mazda MX-5 Mk3 any good?

Oh, definitely. One of the most popular sports cars ever built, the classic formula of the original was updated in 2005 to create a very different car in some respects; easier to live with everyday thanks to a comfortable ride, modern and functional interior and less wind noise with the roof up.

It remains exceptionally good value as a used buy, though it shares the earlier generations’ propensity to rust meaning highly-priced examples need careful inspection – and the cheapest, open eyes to make sure you know what you’re buying.

The availability of a folding hardtop version, badged RC, makes it an even more sensible buy. The lightweight roof retracts in just 12 seconds, plus it comes with the otherwise optional air conditioning. These are readily available used, and set the template for the current RF model.

More suited to British weather than the thin fabric roof, it loses none of the fun factor and is still hugely enjoyable on open roads with great body control and pin-sharp steering, though there’s slightly less space in the car because of the upright back window. It’s also a cheaper option than getting a hard top for a regular MX-5.

In April 2009 the MX-5 was facelifted with slight styling tweaks, the introduction of the paddle shift automatic and improved fuel economy, plus a stronger engine.

What engines are available?

Your engine options are limited to a pair of petrol powerplants – one 1.8-litre and one 2.0-litre. The former has 125hp, is coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox and covers 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds; the latter is more powerful at 160hp, has a six-speed manual gearbox and can get from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds. The 2.0 Sport also features a limited-slip differential and upgraded suspension.

There’s the six-speed automatic gearbox available on later models too, which can be mated to the 2.0-litre engine to do 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds.

Later soft-tops are 1.8-litre only, with the folding hard top getting the 2.0-litre and automatic options.

There have been several special edition MX-5s available over the years it’s been available, including varying levels of kit for better value.

When new, this brilliant little sports car competed with the likes of the Mini Convertible and the Peugeot 207CC. As a used buy, it’s up against the bottom end of the Porsche Boxster market, the BMW Z4, and the Mercedes-Benz SLK as well as earlier MX-5s.

Read on to find out how to buy a good one now, and how it compared with rivals when new.

Mazda MX-5 rivals