Nic Cackett
13 March 2013

What is it?

Sat in Mazda's latest attempt to spruce up the MX-5, it's virtually impossible not to think what might have been.

As well as dangling the prospect of a 200bhp GT version in front of our noses six months ago (before snatching it back again), there was also once the possibility that 2013 might be the year in which the world's best selling roadster was replaced by its oft-mentioned successor.

It's a car that, if Mazda's rumour mill is to be believed, will be smaller, lighter and powered by a dinky, all-new turbocharged engine.

Unfortunately, the SkyActiv MX-5 has disappeared into the murk of extended development. We don't expect to see it resurface for at least another year or two, and that means the current model – which has been around since 2006 – will have to carry on for a while longer yet.

As such, Mazda has rummaged around its collective imagination, and introduced a few features intended to help it limp over the life-cycle finish line.

What is it like?

The most noticeable item on the agenda – aside from the mild change in expression afforded by a new grille, bumper and chin spoiler – is probably the 5.8-inch infotainment touchscreen, which has been assimilated into the elderly dash like an iPad filed on a library shelf.

Presumably so that it doesn’t stand out too crudely from its seven-year-old backdrop, Mazda has opted to have the guts of the system powered by TomTom, a decision which serves up an interface so old fashioned and sluggardly, it may as well have 'Powered by Pentium' plastered on it.

Nevertheless this is the MX-5's first built-in sat-nav, and it works, and that will likely be sufficient for most buyers to live with the £600 premium Mazda is asking for the new Sport Tech Nav trim.

Beneath it comes an unaltered 158bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine with the daintily wonderful six-speed manual gearbox. It's good that interacting with the latter is so pleasurable, because even with a modified throttle intended to deliver better response, the noisy four-pot is a slovenly unit to unwind without wanting to try too hard with your right foot.

Most buyers will live with that too, because elsewhere, when it counts, the MX-5 is still a masterly interpreter of enthusiastic driver inputs.

While never being quite as lithesome as it should be due to its middle-age spread, the car's rewarding rear-drive dynamic is never less than knowable at its modest limits – and biddable well beyond them – thanks to the wonderfully intuitive weighting of its controls (including a braking system that has been optimized for improved load distribution) and a confidence-inspiring sense of chassis balance.

Should I buy one?

Despite obvious limitations in refinement (together, road and engine noise qualify as a cacophony) and a gamboling ride quality, the aging third generation car is never less than a hoot to spend time in or exploit.

That rare attribute needs no updating, and it remains the best reason for becoming Mazda’s umpteenth customer before it finally gets round to downsizing the game plan.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe Sport Tech Nav

Price £23,295; 0-62mph 7.9sec; Top speed 136mph; Economy 36.2mpg; CO2 181g/km; Kerb weight 1248kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, petrol; Power 158bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 138lb ft at 5000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate


(He Says, Sarcastically ...)

1 year 37 weeks ago

It's because of reviews like this that the Mazda MX5 continues to sell in such small numbers ...

Sat Nav

1 year 37 weeks ago

Does Sat-Nav come with pre-loaded hair dresser locations?


Hydrogen cars just went POP

Doesn't need sat nav, it needs a lower price!

1 year 37 weeks ago

The bottom line is that the MX5 is the only remotely affordable proper 2-seater sports car left and it's fun to drive, for that we should be grateful. But oh dear, this version costs as much as the Toyota GT86, which doesn't seem right. 

Must admit, I'm seriously tempted by a used MX5 though. Quite recent ones can be bought for less than £10,000, which suggests that the depreciation on this run out model is going to be pretty severe...


1 year 37 weeks ago

The real problem now is that the MX-5 Miata faces off against both the GT86 and the BRZ, each offered for just a little more money.  What is Mazda thinking?  They should have had a crash program to update horsepower a year ago.



sales for UK

1 year 37 weeks ago

Suzuki QT wrote:

It's because of reviews like this that the Mazda MX5 continues to sell in such small numbers ...

Problem is since 2001 (and probably before but I don't have the stats) 2012 were sales figures were the worst.

They're a third of what they were in 2007 and since then have gone down every year!  


Hydrogen cars just went POP

'Tech', 'Nav' ?

1 year 37 weeks ago

Quite apart from the car itself, Mazda's marketing is all up the creek: MX-5s are about anything but 'Tech' and 'Nav'.

Since when was the MX5 crying

1 year 37 weeks ago

Since when was the MX5 crying out for a replacement. Does it drive any worse than ever before? No.

Its still a a cheap fun roadster. And more than likely better than the car that will replace it, if that gets a turbo powerplant and other eco touches.

As for the GT86, this is much cheaper. This version with all the toys is still £1700 less than the cheapest Toyota, and that has a roof. the soft top version will no doubt be much more again. 




1 year 37 weeks ago

NMGOM wrote:

The real problem now is that the MX-5 Miata faces off against both the GT86 and the BRZ, each offered for just a little more money.   

We seem to be forgetting that the Toyobaru twins aren't convertibles.  The MX-5 has the small roadster market covered all by itself, which has probably allowed Mazda to be slightly slower off the mark than if it had stiff competition.

It's still a great little car to drive, which is why I recently bought one.  Yeah, it feels long in the tooth in certain areas but what else is there that offers open motoring with a decent dose of fun at this price?


1 year 36 weeks ago

Anyone who pays list price for an MX-5 is a muppet... I bought a 2.0 Sport Tech Coupe with heated leather, parking sensors and built in Sat Nav (yes they have done it before on the Venture special edition) for £19.5k... try getting a similar spec'd GT86 for that sort of money - you'll pay around £8k more... enough to buy the missus a 2 year old Mini!

Hairdresser car?

1 year 36 weeks ago

Some statements and observations: I've owned two MX-5's and I've never understood the "hairdresser's car" label.  I still don't understand how the MX-5 can be compared to the Toyota GT86, at least until the GT86 is available as a convertible (assuming Toyota ditches the rear seats in the conversion).  The fact that it costs as much as the GT86; the GT86 should be cheaper because as far as I'm concerned, the GT86 is much less desirable.  I agree that the MX-5 doesn't need a tech/nav package as that's NOT what this car is about.  My complaint with the current MX-5: Mazda has let it get soft, but aftermarket parts will fix any/all softness.

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Our Verdict

Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 is still great fun, and more grown up

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