From £18,3108
Does this latest limited edition have the same universal appeal as previous specials?

What is it?

Missing, reward if found: all the affordable, rear-driven sports cars. 

With Toyota out of the game until the GR 86 arrives, Mazda has been left flying the flag for this rapidly shrinking niche; although given that the MX-5 has long been the segment leader, it’s a pretty big flag.

The fourth-generation roadster may not have changed much visually since its introduction in 2015, but a recent range-wide update introduced stop-start functionality and Mazda’s i-Eloop KERS system. 

The latter uses a capacitor to store electricity generated by the alternator when decelerating, which is then used to power in-cabin systems such as the climate control. The alternator can then disengage and reduce drag for a promised 5% fuel efficiency gain.

That might not sound like much, but if that’s what’s needed to keep cars like the MX-5 in production during an era of increased electrification, we will gladly take it.

Mazda knows that efficiency tweaks aren’t likely to turn customers' heads, though, which is where this limited-run Sport Venture comes in. The MX-5 is no stranger to a special edition or two, with this latest one being something of a homage to the Mk3 Sport Venture released in 2014. 

Available exclusively with the entry-level 1.5-litre engine, this new Mk4 Sport Venture comes with a fetching shade of blue paint (Mazda calls it Deep Crystal Blue Mica, but from certain angles you would be hard-pressed to tell that it isn't dark grey), a grey fabric roof and silver-trimmed flourishes over the door mirrors and roll hoops. 

Inside, you get Light Stone Nappa leather (not quite white, not quite cream), which is normally reserved for step-up Sport Tech cars, sold exclusively with the more powerful 2.0-litre engine and commanding a near £3000 premium over the Sport.

What's it like?

It may have ‘just’ 130bhp from 1.5 litres, but that’s plenty when the entire car weighs little more than a tonne and positively encourages you to seek out the redline with every shift of its six-speed manual transmission. Little else comes close at this price for mechanical feel as you slot the gearstick from second to third.

The stop-start is smoothly integrated and touring economy is very respectable, although the dashboard shift indicator can be annoyingly keen for you to use sixth gear at 30mph. The engine sounds pretty grumbly when you do. It’s not especially rorty at any speed, but that rather suits the car’s demeanor as a fun yet relaxed roadster.

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Peak power arrives at 7000rpm and is delivered linearly across the rev range, being responsive enough for town and city driving at low revs but coming alive when you rev it out. Modern hot hatchbacks have it licked for straight-line pace, but it’s still no slouch, and it's more rewarding through the corners at any rate.

With no mechanical changes, the MX-5 remains an absolute delight to drive, thanks to its light weight and balanced handling. There’s plenty of grip when pressing on, and while you can force the rear end to step out, it takes more effort to do so than the more powerful 2.0-litre car and is very forgiving when you're trying to collect it again.

Few MX-5 owners drive their cars every day, given the limited boot space and distracting roof-up wind noise, but those that do will appreciate the Sport Venture’s 16in alloy wheels. They ensure that there’s slightly more rubber at each corner to soften the ride, making for more relaxed progress than last year’s R-Sport, which rode on 17in rims. 

The bespoke leather interior helps the cabin feel airy and light when the roof is closed, while the single manual catch lets you throw it down in just a few seconds when the opportunity arises.

There’s little else here to hint that you’re driving a rarified MX-5, but the strong driver focus leaves little to complain about.

Smartphone integration comes as standard and the 7.0in infotainment screen is easily controlled with the rotary dial on the transmission tunnel.

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Should I buy one?

If you’re searching for a rear-driven soft-top and have £30,000 to spend, there’s little choice in the matter: the MX-5 has no direct rivals any more. Only the BMW 2 Series Convertible comes close - but with four seats and significantly more mass, it’s not nearly as dynamic.

Unless you plan on spending any time on a circuit, the entry-level engine arguably has greater driver appeal than the more potent 2.0-litre unit, delivering engaging performance at road-legal speeds.

Whether the Sport Venture is worth seeking out is more debatable, though. It doesn’t stand out in quite the same way as last year’s more distinctive R-Sport, but if the combination of white leather and small engine appeals, this is the only way to get it.

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Comments
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escortjobsdelhi 5 June 2021

I am a proud owner of Mazda MX 5 15 Sport Venture 2021 . Thanks for the review!

McJohn 4 June 2021

I think if you check the details, you will find that last year's R Sport had 16" wheels, not 17" as you suggest.

flukey 3 June 2021
Why would you buy one? It comes down to the same old crap again with Mazda. Fun cars should be fun colours. Mazda offer (almost literally) 50 shades of gray and off-white. Oh there's one dark ish red. No yellow, blue, green, orange, nope.

Buy the orange 30th anniversary and you get a colour that actually matches the feel of the car.