Is the Mazda MX-5 your favourite automotive icon? Read what we think and cast your vote

 

The Mazda MX-5 is in the running to be this year’s Autocar Awards Readers’ Champion. Each day a different member of the Autocar team will champion one of the 17 cars, but only one can be the Icon of Icons and it’s up to you to decide - vote here.

Thirty years of making the MX-5, and Mazda has managed not to bugger it up. It has not put on loads of weight, it has not grown fat, it has not got too powerful and it has not got too complicated. Oh, and it hasn’t even become expensive. That’s rather impressive, isn’t it? Even the Porsche 911 has expanded over the years, as the new 992 demonstrates. Bit heavier, bit wider, bit faster. 

When the MX-5 arrived in 1989, the affordable roadster was essentially dead. It was a type of car we Brits were particularly well known for. All right, cars like the Midget, MGB and Spitfire weren’t dynamically brilliant and the quality control was a bit Friday afternoon, but they were fun and could be bought by normal people. 

Our Verdict

Here is the fourth-gen Mazda MX-5 - the definitive small sports car

Fourth-generation MX-5 heads back to Mazda's roadster's roots, surpassing its predecessor in every area

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The Lotus Elan was the obvious inspiration for the MX-5, a car that hadn’t been built at Hethel for 16 years. Its steel backbone chassis would have made passing any sort of side impact test – even if the test involved a rabbit running into the side of the car – impossible. 

I can remember how excited I was about the imminent arrival of the MX-5 and I remember driving it for the first time. I thought seriously about buying one as they only cost £14,250, but interest rates were in double figures back then and we needed somewhere to live. The interior was a bit plasticky, but Mazda sensibly bolted a Momo steering wheel onto the car and wrapped the gearknob in leather. 

Like the Elan, the MX-5 had pop-up headlights. Unlike the Elan’s, they always worked. The Mk2, or NB model (Mazda has used blissfully simple type designations for the car: it started with NA and now we’re on ND), lost the pop-up lights but otherwise didn’t change much. The NC was quite a step onwards but the recipe wasn’t much messed with. 

When Mazda launched the current car, they assembled all four generations at Goodwood, where I drove them in age order. To my surprise, I enjoyed each one more than the last, though I think the speed of the circuit made a big difference. 

Eye-watering interest rates scuppered my purchase of an MX-5 in 1989 and another impediment arrived in 1992 in the shape of a child. A daughter who, 23 years later, bought herself a Mk1. It was a spec that I’d forgotten existed with a 1600cc engine, wind-up windows and manual steering. It was very low-mileage and original. When I drove it, I was stunned at how good it felt. In my experience, this happens with the very best cars: you drive them after a long break and they surprise you all afresh. 

It is hard to imagine Mazda not building the MX-5. I suppose one day there will be talk of it adopting electrification. If it gets no heavier, wider, faster and more expensive, then I will probably still love it. 

Click here for the Mazda MX-5 to be named our icon of icons

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Comments
5

7 March 2019

I've owned two first generation cars and I loved every minute behind the wheel. On a fast A road the lack of power was an occasional frustration, although B roads were just perfect. The hood could be lowered or raised while seated, so perfect for taking every opportunity for the wind in your hair. So much fun and for so little money. Surely a winner?

7 March 2019

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7 March 2019

i absolutely love my mark one. It’s just become my daily driver for a while, replacing a company Golf after a couple of years as a garage queen. I can’t get enough of it. Size is one of the reasons I can’t ever see myself losing it. It’s perfect for back road blasts in a way that little else is, while having proper doors, a roof and heater. The fact that you can also double the power for little cost is another bonus. Certainly my icon car. 

7 March 2019

I bought a brand new MK3 MX-5 and the list of faults was endless. The dealership were useless and didn't fix anything, just covered it in scratches then failed to repair their damage after four attempts (it just kept coming back worse). It broke down twice, once leaving my wife and I in a very dangerous potentially life-threatening situation. It then got damaged by a hit and run driver and when I insisted on a Mazda approved bodyshop to carry out the insurance repair work, it returned looking like a child had repaired it.

Mazda UK were useless and eventually refused to help (I couldn't reject the car as the supplying dealership wasn't the same dealership that did the damage), leaving me with no option but to trade in my terrible MX-5 on a different car at a massive financial loss.

So the MX-5 is the worst car I've ever owned (and I didn't get much chance to drive it as it was always at the dealership so its talents on the road, when it was actually working, were irrelevant to me) so I'll never recommend the MX-5 or any Mazda products to anyone, ever.

 

Everyone has a right to an opinion - don't confuse that with insulting your mother :-)

2 April 2019

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