We're running the latest iteration of the world's best-selling two-seater roadster to see if it's still got what's made the Mazda MX-5 so popular
10 December 2015

It’s 25 years since the original Mazda MX-5 went on sale in the UK. In that time, not only has it become the best-selling two-seat roadster in history but it’s also won huge acclaim with motoring journalists and enthusiasts alike.

So if you’re tasked with creating the new model, do you start from scratch or do you build upon what you’ve already got? Mazda has done a bit of both.

This fourth-generation car is all-new but still very much an MX-5. It gets a brand new rear-wheel drive chassis and a choice of two new petrol engines: the 2.0-litre unit that we’re running and a less powerful but still fun 1.5. But it’s still got the all-important MX-5 DNA.

MX-5 programme manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto told us there are five key characteristics that make up an MX-5: rear-wheel drive with a front-mid engine layout, 50/50 weight distribution, minimal ‘yaw inertia’ (how quickly it changes direction), a low kerb weight and affordability. This new model, he said, excels in each area.

For me, the two traits that are most impressive are the low kerb weight and the continued affordability. As cars get safer, faster and more high-tech, the tendency has been for them to get bigger, heavier and more expensive. The MX-5 totally bucks the trend. It’s shorter than any MX-5 that’s gone before, it weighs just over a tonne thanks to some clever weight-saving techniques and it starts at just £18,495, which is astonishingly good value for something this capable.

You’ll notice that our car has come in at nearly £3000 over that starting price. That’s mostly because we’ve gone for the more powerful 2.0-litre model, which isn’t available in entry-level SE trim. We’ve actually chosen SE-L Nav trim — adding £1350 to the starting price — which comes with the touchscreen infotainment system from the Mazda 3, sat-nav, climate control, cruise control, DAB, Bluetooth and two speakers in the driver’s headrest.

Upgrading to the 2.0-litre model is a further £850, but it’s well worth it, because you get not only improved performance but also a limited-slip differential and front strut brace as standard. The final thing we added is Soul Red metallic paint, a £660 option that looks fantastic. And speaking of looks, Mazda’s ‘Kodo’ design language really suits a two-seat roadster. It’s aggressive and futuristic but still clearly an MX-5. It’ll win a lot of fans.

As mentioned, this generation of MX-5 is the shortest yet, but you wouldn’t know it from the cabin. There’s still plenty of room for two adults and the driving position is great. You sit low down and the pedals, gearlever and steering wheel are all where you would want them to be. It’s a shame the wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, but that hasn’t stopped us getting comfortable.

The cabin is also the classiest yet. The materials are much higher in quality than those of the previous car. It’s true that the German manufacturers don’t need to feel threatened, but then it is significantly cheaper than an Audi TT or a BMW Z4, so we shouldn’t grumble.

One of the best touches is the folding roof. It’s lighter than before and can still be operated one-handed. It drops in just five seconds and is remarkably easy to use. It’s also pretty good at keeping out road noise when in place, but I hope to have it down as much as possible.

Now to practicality. The boot is 20 litres smaller than the one that went before it, but I’m assured it’s a better shape and therefore more usable. lf reports are to be believed that snapper Luc was able to get all his camera gear in it, I shouldn’t have any issues fitting a couple of weekend bags in there.

Right, so now we know all about it, here’s the important bit: what’s it like to drive? Well, all the reports you’ve read so far are true. This really is a fun car. It’s not remarkably fast, but the level of enjoyment it offers is hard to beat. It steers and handles beautifully and the gearbox is fantastic.

My commute won’t do this car justice, so I’m already planning weekends away to get the most out of it. That’s if I can hold on to the keys for long enough. In the Autocar office, a high percentage of people have owned an older MX-5, so we might have to come up with a booking system for weekends.

Is there anything negative to report so far? I could pine for a steering wheel that adjusts for reach, but that would be me being just a bit too sensible. 

Update - 10 December 2015

Now that the temperature has dropped, we've decided to put winter tyres on the MX-5.

A reader recommended Tyres on the Drive, a service that does as the name suggests and comes to your home or office to repair punctures or replace tyres.

The MX-5 was originally on Bridgestone Potenzas, but those have been swapped for Bridgestone Blizzak run-flat winter tyres. I'll report back on how the winter tyres have affected the MX-5's handling and braking, but I can report that everything with Tyres on the Drive went off without a hitch. A van-based mobile workshop arrived and changed the tyres in about 90 minutes without any hassle.

Read how we got on the Mazda MX-5 through its paces on the track and the road

Mazda MX-5 2.0i SE-L Nav

Price £20,695

Price as tested £21,355

Options Soul Red metallic paint £660

Economy 40.9mpg

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Our Verdict

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

Fourth-generation MX-5 heads back to the roadster's roots

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Comments
8

20 August 2015
I just wish they would make the 2.0 version (or any version) without Air Conditioning (its a soft top!!!), Electric Windows (just annoying to have to put the key back in after you forget you opened them), Electric Mirrors (use once never touch again), Electric Seats (use once never touch again), buttons on steering for useless features like never used radio and phones ) and tv screen for syncing with a phone I don't own. An MX5 is a toy - it does not need toys.

20 August 2015
Shame you didnt go for the 1.5 basic trim to really find out if the new mx5 was as good as the original it has less kit but could be more exciting and involving to drive making you think about taking speed through corners instead of relying on power.
I would be interested in the 1.5 test more than 2.0 really shame :-(

20 August 2015
Pistachio wrote:

Shame you didnt go for the 1.5 basic trim to really find out if the new mx5 was as good as the original it has less kit but could be more exciting and involving to drive making you think about taking speed through corners instead of relying on power.
I would be interested in the 1.5 test more than 2.0 really shame :-(

I think the majority of the time, the car mags just long term test what they are given by the manufacturer. They must feel this model and spec will be the besting selling or the most representative of that the car has to offer.

20 August 2015
And who can blame Mazda for wanting to promote the more expensive models in the range. A bigger engine generally costs to more to make than a small one, and there are big profits to be made from all the bells and whistles. Quite apart from which, most writers like plenty of power and a few toys to play with, and the review invariably mentions the entry level price, so everyone's happy. It's a pity this test didn't include an actual fuel consumption figure though: simply quoting the maker's "EU Combined" figure is a bit lightweight for what is supposed to be a Long Term Test!

20 August 2015
Well,@LP, I am suspecting the car has not been with Autocar very long, and if it has been driven with the gusto as shown in the pics, the "long term" figure might be 25 so far! That would not be lightweight. I am also suspecting that many owners may be more interested in driving pleasure than mpg, but I could be very wrong. If I were doing, say, 5000 miles a year in it, fuel cost +/- £200 either side of a figure of say £650 per year would not bother me a lot.

20 August 2015
Adrian987 wrote:

Well,@LP, I am suspecting the car has not been with Autocar very long, and if it has been driven with the gusto as shown in the pics, the "long term" figure might be 25 so far! That would not be lightweight. I am also suspecting that many owners may be more interested in driving pleasure than mpg, but I could be very wrong. If I were doing, say, 5000 miles a year in it, fuel cost +/- £200 either side of a figure of say £650 per year would not bother me a lot.

One of the pics does show 33.1mpg over 1053 miles.... Might not all be of Autocar's doing though.

12 December 2015
....40.9 mpg in December report. That sounds good!

11 December 2015
Pistachio, you should contact your local dealer and book a test drive in a 1.5 and get a feel for it yourself (even if you have not plans to buy one). My local dealer gave me the keys to a 1.5 for an hour and told me to go off and have fun. I certainly did! Everything about the car felt right on the country lanes around the outskirts of Chester. I must admit, I did feel it could do with more power, even though it felt great through the corners pivoting around my centre. I believe that's why Mazda feel the 2.0 will sell in larger quantities.

"Why is http://www.nanoflowcell.com not getting more media attention? It could be the future... Now!"

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