Currently reading: Nearly new buying guide: Mazda MX-5
We’ve said it before and we'll say it again - there's nothing quite like an MX-5

Usually, if you want to do something fun in life, it’s going to cost you. The current, Mk4 Mazda MX-5 (known as the ND) proves this need not be the case, as an entertaining little sports car that can now be bought for as little as £12,000.

The engine range starts with a 129bhp 1.5-litre four-pot. This sounds modest, but you can still enjoy brisk acceleration with it, since the MX-5 weighs comfortably less than a tonne. Then there’s a 2.0-litre unit that was initially offered with 158bhp before being uprated to 181bhp in mid-2018.

There are countless special editions of the MX-5, but we’re focusing on the main models here. The entry-level SE gets 16in alloys, LED headlights, air conditioning, a basic sound system with an aux input and a single detachable cupholder.

Click here to buy your next used MX-5 from Autocar

Move up to SE L Nav and you get a second cupholder for your passenger (or a thirsty driver), along with heated seats, cruise control, climate control and a 7.0in infotainment screen with a DAB radio and Bluetooth for your phone. If you go for the 2.0-litre engine, a limited-slip rear differential is included along with larger (17in) wheels.

Sport Nav gets you firmer sports suspension with Bilstein dampers, automatic lights and wipers, leather seats, a Bose stereo, rear parking sensors and lane departure warning.

This trim level’s optional safety pack adds blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Alternatively, GT Sport Nav+ includes that pack plus keyless entry and a reversing camera.

Weight, or rather the lack of it, is key to the MX-5 being as good as it is to drive. Its lightness means it doesn’t need stiff dampers, springs and antiroll bars to control body movements in corners. You can therefore have a nimble car – especially important on winding country B-roads – without compromising on ride quality. It may be a little tauter than the original MX-5, but this latest generation is still very supple, especially on its smallest wheels.

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Inside, you’ll find two snug seats, a stubby gearlever (there’s an automatic gearbox if you want one) and a fabric hood that can be neatly folded away in a single arm movement. It’s not the roomiest two-seater, mind, and there isn’t much storage space: only a small cubby in the centre console and a shallow tray in front of the gearlever.

The good news is that boot space is unaffected by the roof being up or down. The bad news is that while you can fit a couple of bags in there, the opening is rather narrow. Anyway, packing too much stuff would undo all those weight-saving measures.

Prices start at £12,000 for a 1.5 SE or a high-mileage 2.0. The 30th Anniversary edition is a touch pricey, with most going for at least £25,000, so it’s best to look for a tidy 2016 Sport Nav example with a relatively low mileage for around £15,000.




Engine There's no service book so you'll need to check the service history with a dealer or with Mazda. Invoices will show you the detail of what's been done. The stop-start system requires many things including the charge state of the capacitor and even the angle of the steering wheel to be just-so, so don't be too concerned if it doesn't work on the test drive. It probably will do in the future and especially if you do some long drives.  

Roof Check for heavy algae staining round the lower edge of the hood. A soft brush and a proprietary cleaner such as Auto Glym's Convertible Soft-top Clean and Protect will fix it. Water leaks are rare but check for damp carpets anyway. Make sure the drain holes on the windscreen scuttle are clear (they block up easily). A well-adjusted hood shouldn't rattle unduly on the test drive.

Locking Check the automatic door lock system works. It doesn't always but this is not necessarily a fault. It usually decides to work later for some inexplicable reason. 

Interior Where fitted, check the seat heating works since leaning on the seats to open the roof can damage the heater elements. Check with Mazda if any sat nav map updates have been performed. A system update may also be necessary if they have. 

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Wheels and tyres Examine the tyres for uneven wear and the wheels for scrapes. The rims are well protected by the tyre side walls but it's still possible to grind them on a kerb. 

Body Stonechips on the nose and bonnet are common but since it's made of aluminium, not a serious issue. Touch-up repairs are a sign of caring ownership. Check the front bumper underside for grounding and the sills for damage caused by the seatbelts being trapped in the doors as they're closed. 


Need to know

Fuel economy is reasonable for a car that’s meant to be enjoyed. The lighter 1.5 engine is obviously better, at 47.1mpg, but the official 40.9mpg of the 2.0 is achievable. The automatic gearbox does knock this back to 39.2mpg, though.

There have been three recalls so far on the MX-5, for an issue with the engine start/stop system; the automatic gearbox downshifting unexpectedly; and a bracket that holds on the undertray failing. To find out if your car is affected, use Mazda’s website or ask a dealer.

Leaking shouldn’t occur on a car so young, but if you’re still worried, take the car through an automated car wash to test for water ingress.

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Our pick

MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav: Heated seats allow you to enjoy top-down motoring much more often, so SE L Nav or more popular Sport Nav trim it is. And the 2.0-litre engine, since it gets a diff that’s great for drifting – only on track, of course…

Wild card

MX-5 2.0 30th Anniversary: The lurid orange paint of this special edition is for lovers of Lucozade, Terry’s chocolate and not losing your car in a car park. It could be worth it for the upgraded brakes, too.

Ones we found

2016 MX-5 1.5 SE, 21,500 miles, £12,999

2016 MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav, 58,000 miles, £11,998

2019 MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav+, 2300 miles, £20,990

2019 MX-5 2.0 GT Sport Nav+, 2500 miles, £21,995

Join the debate

Add a comment…
si73 1 October 2020

Is corrosion an issue with

Is corrosion an issue with them? All previous versions seem to suffer, a quick look at MOT history attests to this, maybe it's too soon to know.

@ Gavsmit, you do seem to have had a torrid time which seemed exacerbated by the dealer, I don't think it matters what brand of car you get, if the dealer is useless you are on for a hard time if something goes awry.

gavsmit 1 October 2020

Good luck

I got rid of my brand new MX-5 Cabriolet Coupe after 10 months because the car, the dealership and Mazda UK were all rubbish.

So if you saw my 10 month old car on a forecourt you have to pay careful attention to looking for a faulty hard-top roof folding mechanism, a grinding noise in third gear, a faulty throttle assembly sensor (that resulted in two dangerous breakdowns) ruined paintwork (the dealership washed it with a sponge with stones in it, then ruined it further trying to fix it on four different occasions - Mazda paintwork being very fragile anyway), leaking rear break lens on boot, creaking dashboard, corroded alloys and the bodged repairs from a Mazda approved bodyshop when a hit and run driver crashed into it.

I'll never buy Mazda again.

bol 1 October 2020

Think you might have mentioned that before

Some people have been unlucky with MX5s but if you accept that they're built to weight and price, then most people are very happy.  

One issue that has been reported a lot with early NDs is the weak gearbox. Not going to be an issue for most people, but if you use it on track, boost it, or generally treat it badly there's a fair chance it will fail.