From £18,3108
Mazda's fuel-saving tech trickles down to its iconic two-seater sports car
Felix Page Autocar writer
31 March 2020

What is it?

When Mazda introduced the fourth-generation MX-5 back in 2015, driving enthusiasts were quick to bemoan a lack of power from both available powertrains – a 1.5-litre unit pushing out 129bhp and a 2.0-litre range-topper that had a barely more exciting 158bhp on tap.

Fortunately, in 2018 the situation was put right, and subtle mechanical tweaks across the board saw the power of the top-rung variant increased to a nice, usable 181bhp, bringing with it added bonuses that included improved acceleration and a more distinctive warble at low revs.

Mazda has lightly refreshed the MX-5 range for 2020, with the aim of enhancing the usability of a car already billed as one of the more accessible sports cars on sale, and bolstering the range of specification packages available. A new GT Sport Tech trim heads up the range, resplendent with its gunmetal grey BBS alloys, stainless steel scuff plates and a red leather interior, while Mazda’s i-Eloop KERS technology and stop-start functionality feature for the first time across the MX-5 line-up. 

Like all 2.0-litre models, our test car came outfitted with Bilstein shock absorbers at each corner, a front strut brace and a limited-slip differential. In second-from-top Sport Tech trim, it has a comprehensive kit package that belies its relatively low £28,395 list price, with 17in alloy wheels, a reversing camera and adaptive LED headlights.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Find an Autocar review

Back to top

What's it like?

You really need to keep the Skyactiv engine on the boil to find out what it’s worth, but, at more sedate speeds, it’s as quiet and unprepossessing as your average family hatchback, and not much less economical - Mazda claims the 2.0-litre four-cylinder will crack 41mpg on the WLTP cycle. This is partly due to the car’s trademark lightweight construction, but also a result of its newfound eco-credentials.

Stop-start functionality is a surprisingly welcome addition to the MX-5 formula; no longer must you feel so guilty for driving a non-electrified sports car through congested town centres, although, as with the 3 hatchback – fitted with the newer and more economically minded Skyactiv-X engine - it can be rather too keen at times, cutting the motor just as you’re getting about to get back on the accelerator, and firing back up if you so much as nudge the clutch pedal while stationary.

But it’s the sheer duality of the powertrain that remains one of the MX-5’s greatest assets; in very few new cars is it possible to sit so comfortably and quietly in urban traffic, cocooned in well-bolstered leather seats and sipping frugally on petrol, before turning at will onto a sweeping B-road and seizing the opportunity to truly turn up the wick without attracting unwanted attention. 

As has always been the case, the MX-5 continues to provide one of the most forgiving and accessible rear-wheel drive experiences on the market. Dynamic response is on a par with much more costly alternatives, and the fact that the MX-5 isn’t a truly fast car (0-62mph is dispatched in a brisk, rather than rapid, 6.5 seconds) means you can pretty much take it to the limit wherever you fancy without falling foul of the law. 

The flip side of that Bilstein suspension system's performance bias is a degree of crashiness on country lanes and over speed bumps. It’s not constantly intrusive, but harsher surfaces have the roof mechanism rattling over harsher surfaces; you soon find yourself steering round larger potholes to avoid any harsh jolts. The benefits of such firmness outweigh the cons, though; corners can be taken fast and flat, and there’s none of the low-speed wallowing that might be experienced with a cushier set-up. 

As a compact sports car, the MX-5, even in its better-equipped forms, remains hampered by a distinct lack of storage space; a small centre console fails to quite compensate for the absence of a glove box, the boot is big enough for no more than one medium-sized suitcase, and there aren’t even any door pockets. It’s unfortunate, because the MX-5 really doesn’t feel as small as it should on motorways – where the only real bugbear is the constant wind roar – and otherwise could feasibly perform the same daily motoring tasks as any hot supermini

Back to top

Should I buy one?

As a hugely capable sports car with more than a touch of civility, this latest iteration of Mazda’s sporting flagship is as much of an all-rounder as it always has been. However, the introduction of new equipment levels has also seen the removal of the non-sport suspended 2.0-litre car, potentially taking the edge off for those looking for more relaxed top-down motoring.

And when it comes to fun, it goes without saying that the MX-5 has any hot hatch beat – power deficit notwithstanding. On a warm day, with the roof down and liberal use of one’s right foot, it’s very much still in a class of its own.

Mazda MX-5 2.0 Skyactiv-G Sport Tech

Where Kent Price £29,185 On sale Now Engine 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder Power 181bhp at 7000rpm Torque 151lb ft at 4000rpm Gearbox Six-speed manual Kerb weight 1127kg Top speed 136mph 0-62mph 6.5sec Fuel economy 41mpg CO2 155g/km Rivals Toyota GT86, Audi TT

Join the debate

Comments
15
Add a comment…
LP in Brighton 1 April 2020

i-Eloop

It would be good to have a full description of this, but from what I can gather this is simply an energy recovery device which works under braking. Unusually it uses a capacitor as an intermediate storage device which then charges the regular 12v battery - thus taking the load of the alternator which free-wheels most of the time. Unlike a normal hybrid, there is no engine assist function to increase engine torque, so it is simply a fuel economy device. I'd estimate that the benefit would be of the order of 3% and then primarily when high power electrical devices are in use, such as headlights and rear screen heaters.  

gavsmit 31 March 2020

My new 158bhp 2.0 MX-5 was nippy, not fast

When it wasn't at the garage after its latest breakdown, or being fixed after more damage inflicted by the appalling dealership, I got fed up being over / under taken by just about any car fitted with a turbo, usually a run-of-the-mill diesel saloon.

I'd be keen to test the new, more powerful 2.0 MX-5 out of curiosity, but I'd never buy one after my terrible experience of Mazda.

 

275not599 31 March 2020

There may be nothing wrong

There may be nothing wrong with a modern automatic gearbox or a well sorted FWD chassis, particularly for safe family transport, but I for one find that, all other things being equal, a manual gearbox and rear wheel drive is more entertaining.  I don't care if I am slower than a Fiesta ST; it's not a race, it's about having fun.

Find an Autocar car review