Since 1989, Japanese car manufacturer Mazda has been at the forefront of the market when it comes to small, two-seat affordable sports cars, with small engines and a lack of roof.
The MX-5 as we know it in this part of the world, has been loved by tens of thousands for decades and most recently, has received upgrades benefiting the model from enhanced dynamic performance, increased safety equipment and cabin refinements.
With pricing of the entry-level model having risen almost £5k in the year since I drove this test car, the MX-5 range now starts from just shy of £24k meaning gone are the days of a sub £20k sports car.
With its only direct rival, the Fiat 124, no longer being available in the UK, it leaves this little Mazda in a class of its own, and something it has been at the top of the matter what other rivals could bring to market.
Other potential topless sporting models available today include the Audi TT or the BMW Z4, both of which cost at least £12k more than the Mazda. As such, neither can really be pitched against this Japanese icon.
Styling of the MX-5 hasn’t changed a great deal since this model was launched around four years ago. Rightly so, too. Instead, Mazda has focused or making a driver’s car even more enthusiastic with a more powerful and higher-revving version of the 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G engine.
Substantially redesigned with lighter pistons and con-rod, the 2.0-litre engine also features revisions to the camshafts and exhaust valves, fuel injectors, throttle valve and air intake. The end result is an increase from 160ps to 184ps and a heightened redline, which rises from 6,800 to 7,500rpm.
As a result the 0-62mph performance improves by 0.8 of a second to 6.5seconds. The 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-G engine benefits from improved combustion and reduced internal friction to see a slight power increase to 132ps and a moderate torque improvement to 152Nm while at the same time retaining its superb efficiency and fuel economy.
These more Potent engines are backed up with substantial weight saving, with the highly praised 6-speed manual transmission being adapted for the front engine rear wheel drive layout for the first time, saving 7 kg. The rear differential is lighter and smaller, while clutch pedal weighting and movement has been honed for an even better driver experience.
The Mazda MX-5 has always been the definitive expression of ‘Jinba Ittai’ – the concept of driver and car as one, and from the start the MX-5’s driver-focused cabin and communicative controls have been a big part of this focus on delivering driving pleasure.
This latest MX-5 features telescopic steering adjustment and improved seat sliding operation, and with seats that are lighter and thinner than those in the outgoing car offer improved comfort.
The Mazda MX-5 lifts the benchmark for handling and agility to new levels. By merging Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology of lightweight engineering and efficient engines with the MX-5’s defining roadster principles, Mazda has been able to further enhance the iconic sports car’s confidence inspiring stability and smile inducing handling.
The current MX-5 model range comes in floor trim levels, starting with an ‘SE-L’ you get 16 inch black alloy wheels, heated seats with premium black cloth trim and silver stitching, DAB radio with single CD and MP3 playback including two drivers headrest speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, climate control, and cruise control with adjustable speed limiter.
Starting from £26,100 a ‘Sport’ trim adds 16-inch bright alloy wheels, black leather seat trim, premium Bose audio including passengers headrest speakers, auto dimming rear view mirror, automatic headlights, rain-sensing front wipers, and smart keyless entry.
A ‘Sport Tech’ starts from £28,405 and adds 17-inch bright alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, black plastic scuff plates with stainless insert, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and reversing camera. Finally, a ‘GT Sport Tech’ starts from £29,905 and adds 17-inch BBS gun metallic alloy wheels, Burgundy Nappa leather seat trim, and power operated heated piano black door mirrors.
These cars are all about drive-ability and that “roof down, revs up” mentality, and the sheer enjoyment of this chassis really is a winner in my eyes!
Mazda provide a 3-year, 60,000 mile warranty, with servicing intervals at 12,500 miles or annually.
Words: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY