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Well chosen mods remove the question marks over the MX-5’s handling, steering and ride

Our Verdict

Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 is still great fun, and more grown up

Richard Bremner Autocar
13 February 2009

What is it?

This is the revised Mazda MX-5 2.0i Sport. Mazda has performed a tight, targeted facelift on its popular roadster, tackling customer criticism ranging from the linearity of its steering to over-intrusive bottle storage arrangements.

The Mazda MX-5’s update is signalled by a new nose and tail. The front bumper now houses Mazda’s signature five-node grille, consigning the Lotus Elan-style elliptical intake of the old car to history.

There’s always been a small but nagging question mark over the dynamics of the third-generation Mazda MX-5, which has been spoiled by the artificial feel of its electric power steering, a slight lack of consistency in the same, and a back end that could break away with the suddenness of a rugby winger.

Revised suspension geometry has brought about a significant lowering of the Mazda MX-5’s roll centre up front, the aim being more consistent steering response and feel, while further fine-tunings are claimed to improve its ride.

The Mazda MX-5 2.0i Sport’s rev range has been stretched by 500 revs to 7500rpm, its bottom end has been strengthened and there’s now a torque converter paddle-shift auto option.

What’s it like?

The Mazda MX-5 2.0i Sport’s responses are indeed more regular, and the steering has been rid of the strangely glutinous resistance that spoiled earlier third-generation versions.

There could still be more of the enlivened sensations that you expect of a serious sports car, but the Mazda responds more consistently than it did before, breaks away at the back end more cleanly and responds tidily to corrections.

The 2.0i’s standard-fit dynamic stability control does allow some slither before intervening and, as you’d expect of a sports car, it can be switched off. On a twisting road the new Mazda MX-5 2.0i Sport is better behaved than before, and a greater entertainer.

And it's all the more so thanks to a more energetic-sounding 2.0-litre engine, which trumpets its achievements via a through-bulkhead tube that makes the MX-5 sound invigoratingly busy when stretched.

With this engine the Mazda MX-5 2.0i Sport feels more potent, although its outputs remain the same – and its consumption is reduced.

Should I buy one?

This is a noticeably better Mazda MX-5, and therefore very good indeed. It’s still a bit mute for a purist sports car – the aged MG TF shows more spirit – but it’s a very balanced car, in every sense of the word.

The new Mazda MX-5’s cleaner responses and improved in-cabin storage arrangements are good news, though tall passengers will fidget over the footwell’s lack of length and width.

The 2.0i Sport seems a little pricey, though you do get air-con, a limited-slip diff, a six-speed ’box, the bespoke Bilstein dampers and a cross-brace, heated seats, a Bose sound system and cruise control.

Join the debate


13 February 2009

Good to see Mazda listening to what is a very wide customer base.

14 February 2009

[quote Autocar]There’s always been a small but nagging question mark over the dynamics of the third-generation Mazda MX-5, which has been spoiled by the artificial feel of its electric power steering[/quote]

You might want to check yourselves - the MX-5 NC never had an electric steering.

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