From £18,3109
This is the first special edition MX-5 to be powered by Mazda's 1.5-litre engine. Can the Icon it live up to its ambitious name?

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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Jim Holder
14 September 2016

What is it?

This is the Mazda MX-5 Icon, a name that shows no shortage of confidence and one that some will argue sounds better when it is bestowed by others rather than self-awarded. No matter, for Mazda has a track record here, having launched three Icon editions previously, in 2000, 2005 and 2007. As here with this fourth-generation car, all have been sold in limited numbers, and all have sold well.

This time round, just 600 examples are being made, each resplendent with a plaque between the passengers' shoulders to prove it. To all intents and purposes, the MX-5 Icon is a well-kitted, well-priced 1.5 SE-L Nav bedecked with striking paintwork on its door mirrors, rear spoiler and front skirt, some stickers down the side, and the addition of some natty alloys and a temptingly long kit list that would normally cost rather more than the additional £800 it does when packaged together here.

It would be easy to be cynical, of course: reasonable value and eye-catching paintwork do not make a great car, but it would be a mean-spirited soul that begrudged the MX-5 - perhaps the least shouty sports car in the history of the genre - an opportunity to celebrate inherent qualities that have, to date, earned it a 4.5-star road test verdict with this engine, plus a ‘junior’ handling day win in 2015, shortly before delivering a mauling to some significantly more pricey opposition in handling day proper.

What's it like?

I dare say your brow won’t even register a flicker of surprise when I report that the MX-5 Icon is identical to the 1.5 SE-L Nav upon which it is based, both to drive and to sit in. The paintwork doesn’t make it faster and a celebration plaque doesn’t make its interior any more cerebral. Thank goodness for that, because this latest-generation MX-5 is a car that doesn’t need fiddling with, thank you very much.

Lest you have forgotten, it is a joy in pretty much every way. The cabin is noteworthy both for how it accommodates drivers of all shapes and sizes (within reason) and for how it does everything so well that you're often in danger of getting so comfortable that you take it for granted. The driver’s seat adjusts nicely enough, the pedal spacing (if not quite alignment) are just so, and the controls are nicely weighted and instinctively positioned. Many far more expensive cars fall at even these hurdles.

That you are seated nicely is all very well, of course. Nobody ever bought a car for that. Thankfully, the MX-5’s long-established recipe of delivering just enough without ever straying into giving you too much is alive and well. There’s a precision about the pedal responses, gearshift and steering that engender confidence and - excuse me if I get a little misty-eyed here - joy. 

The engine - all 1496cc, 129bhp and 111lb ft of it - completes the picture. Shock horror, it’s no firebrand, but it suits this car so sweetly. Naturally aspirated, it delivers what power it has so smoothly and - this word again - precisely, that it’s hard not to pause for a moment and think dark thoughts about turbos. If you wish, you can play with it all the way to 7000rpm, although it is better in our experience to stick to the mid-range.

It has been said before, but it bears repeating at this juncture: because of that engine, the MX-5 is a car that doesn’t need the right road to be enjoyed. You can use most of its performance most of the time, and when you do encounter the right road, which will be more often than would be the case with most cars that are given the sports car tag, you can push on without undue fear of falling off the road or being incarcerated at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Should I buy one?

Whether you buy a standard Mazda MX-5 or this Icon edition comes largely down to your tastes, because there are no other obvious ways of splitting the decision beyond weighing up the value of the additional kit and limited production numbers against the moderately raised asking price, which is likely to be a very personal thing.

What we can say is that the Icon is well-judged in terms of spec, so long as you want the 1.5-litre engine. It gets all of the niceties we’d recommend, including the cabin-enhancing touchscreen system, and it delivers pretty close to the bullseye on the MX-5’s established reputation of giving you everything that you want and not a lot more. 

For the MX-5 in general, the 2.0-litre engine is probably the better choice, especially for the enthusiast driver. However, those words are carefully chosen; powered by the 1.5-litre unit, the MX-5 is a mighty fine car that could bring a smile to the face of even the grouchiest of grouches. To drive it as hard as you can without fear that it might bite back is a luxury indeed.

Mazda MX-5 Icon

Location Iceland; On sale Now; Price £20,995; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1496cc, petrol; Power 129bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 111lb ft at 4800rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1050kg; 0-62mph 8.3sec; Top speed 127mph; Economy 47.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 139g/km, 22%

Join the debate

Comments
7

14 September 2016
At Her Majesty's pleasure, not 'leisure'.

15 September 2016
I'm sure that the MX-5 in any spec and trim is a great car, but why aren't there more around? And for that matter, where are all the other recent roadsters? I've yet to see a new Fiat 124, Alfa Romeo 4C or new Lotus Elise. There was a time when our roads were littered with MGs, Austin-Healeys, Sunbeam Alpines, Triumphs and TVRs. Have we Brits fallen out of love with the affordable 2-seater, or simply progressed to Porsches, Mercedes and Ferraris all of which seem more commonplace than the latest Mazda? I guess that we are all to blame - maybe I should go out and buy one right now!

bol

15 September 2016
Although I would happily pay more to delete the stickers and the red - but all a matter of taste I guess.

15 September 2016
LP in Brighton. I believe the MX-5 has outsold the combined total of Boxster, TT and Z4 sales this year. The Fiat 124 only arrived in dealer showrooms last Saturday.

15 September 2016
That's impressive, but then again I haven't seen many new Boxsters, TTs and Z4s either. It would be interesting to know the actual numbers. I appreciate that these are all niche models and will never sell in Fiesta like numbers, but I'd expect to see a few more about by now. My mistake with the Fiat 124: I've been reading about it for so long, I'd assumed that it was already on sale.

19 September 2016
Skelly wrote:

LP in Brighton. I believe the MX-5 has outsold the combined total of Boxster, TT and Z4 sales this year. The Fiat 124 only arrived in dealer showrooms last Saturday.

Nope the TT+TTS alone outsell the MX5 by 5600 v 2650 (MX5) in the UK for 2016 so far. And in the month of July 2016 in Europe the TT alone sold 1749 with the Mazda coming in a long way behind on 1054

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

19 September 2016
As someone who has a 2003 1.8 MX-5 I can can concur with the fun you can have from such a little car. In fact I'm taking mine to the Nurburgring on Monday for a couple of days. However I still think they could do with a touch more power..

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