Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4

Should you buy a Mazda MX-5?

As a daily driver, the Mazda MX-5 doesn’t make a lot of sense for most users – it’s just too small and impractical thanks to a tiny boot and limited interior storage, but for a weekend away you’ll find the space on offer just about sufficient. It’s obviously never going to be a family car, either, but there is Isofix in the front passenger seat for a semblance of usability.

However, if neither of those things bother you, you should buy an MX-5. It’s without a doubt the best way to get drop-top roadster fun on a small budget.

Nothing at this price point can touch the Mazda for sheer fun factor. It doesn’t have the performance of a similarly priced hot hatchback (nor the practicality), but there’s little to match the appeal of the MX-5’s simple folding roof, perky engines and fantastically driver-focused experience.

Rivals such as the Audi TT and BMW Z4 are both larger and more powerful, but also more expensive. Those simply after a fun car and view the folding roof as a low priority can look towards the Toyota GT86 or Subaru BRZ for similar levels of performance and simplicity

There are two engines available and which one to choose is a tough decision to make. The 2.0-litre is the one to go as it's faster and just as flexible and fun as the 1.5-litre. But if the extra £5,000 or so (depending on spec) seems like too much, the 1.5-litre is a strong second choice.

We couldn’t recommend this top-spec car unless you’re an extremely keen driver who will make good use of the differential and trick suspension that comes with this model. Top-spec models do offer plenty of kit, but the only absolute must-have that we’d recommend is heated seats. They allow the MX-5 – with the addition of some warm gloves – to be a real all-weather convertible.

Either way, though, you won’t be disappointed. The MX-5 is a bona fide five-star sports car no matter which spec you choose

Take a long, hard look at the spec list and running costs before making your decision, too, as there are some noticeable differences in price.

While there’s an optional automatic gearbox, we wouldn’t recommend specifying it unless you really have to. Part of the MX-5’s charm is its incredible manual gearbox, which is snickety, precise and truly one of the best on the market.

Click here to read our verdicts on the special editions

Further reading

>> The best sports cars

>> How good is the Mazda MX5's sister car, the Fiat 124?

>> Find out how much your car's worth with a Parkers valuation 

>> The BEST new car deals

Should I get one of the special editions?

Since the Mazda MX-5 was launched in 2015, the range has never been shy of a special edition.

Mazda MX-5 Icon

For us, the well-equipped Icon trim and lively nature of the smaller 1.5-litre engine suit the MX-5’s personality perfectly, though some might bemoan the lack of torque and more comfort-focused road manners.

The 2.0-litre model should address any such issues but at the expense of the smaller motor's ability to entertain so much at lower speeds, so we think the Icon is one of the best MX-5s to go for if you can find a used one out there, as they sold in limited numbers. 

Sport Recaro 2.0-litre

The Sport Recaro was the first of many special edition MX-5s, and is the ultimate in terms of kit and luxury.

We think the smaller 1.5-litre engine on 16-inch alloys is more enjoyable for keen drivers, though, which is where the Icon above comes into play.

The Sport Recaro is worth seeking out though, as the 2.0-litre engine is a really flexible unit that’s good for every day driving and if you use your MX-5 on the motorway.

The Alcantara-trimmed Recaro seats exclusive to this model are particularly good though, offering huge levels of comfort, grip and support, so you can really enjoy the experience.

Aesthetic parts aside, the Sport Recaro drives just like other 2.0-litre models.

Arctic 1.5-litre

Those lucky enough to get their hands on a limited-edition Arctic won’t be disappointed with their choice of spec. It comes with all the kit most customers will ever need and undercuts the more premium Sport Nav model considerably.  

Some drivers might prefer the slightly more hardcore 2.0-litre MX-5 derivatives, yet for us, the sweeter 1.5-litre engine is the one to go for.

Z Sport

While the Arctic had subtle styling cues to differentiate it from the rest of the range, the Z-Sport came with its own bespoke look.

Based on the 2.0-litre Sport Nav, all the extra cost of this model goes on these cosmetics; with no mechanical changes made elsewhere.

This means the Z-Sport drives just like the flagship MX-5, fitted with uprated suspension, a strut brace in the engine bay and a limited-slip differential to help maximise cornering traction.

Performance is also the same: with 160hp and 200Nm of torque, but oddly, this didn’t feel as urgent as previous examples we’ve tested – chiefly the Sport Recaro from 2016 – which, not only felt more eager to accelerate, but also made a louder, rorty noise in the cabin

The driving position also seems to have been raised a touch – which may compromise comfort for those who are taller.

30th Anniversary Edition

This special edition launched in 2019 celebrates the launch of the original MX-5. Finished in Racing Orange paint, this uses the 2.0-litre 184hp engine, front Brembo brakes and forged aluminium Rays wheels. Bar some orange colour coding, the MX-5 is mechanically the same.

You won’t find such pure, unadulterated fun as the Mazda MX-5 at this price anywhere else on the market – and that’s really its biggest selling point. It’s simple and great fun, like a roadster should be.