What is it?

Mazda’s iconic sports car. And I don’t use that term lightly.

In the 30 years or so it has been around, the MX-5 has become an indelible part of the motoring landscape.

It is to this century what the MG was to the last, the embodiment of fun and the promise of a better, more fulfilling life.

That’s because you don’t have to be rich to own one of these cars.

 

What’s it cost?

Prices start from $34,190 for the 1.5 with a manual change.

The 2.0-litre model is priced from $41,960 and comes in GT guise only. An auto adds $2000 to the price of either.

Then, if you must, there’s the hard topped RF and RF GT for $39,400 and $45,960 respectively.

The RF’s roof still retracts but at the cost of extra weight and in a car this size, with modest engine output, weight can be a performance killer.

The entry price gets you cloth trim and airconditioning, along with push button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, handbrake lever and gear shift knob, 16-inch alloys, 195/50 series tyres, tyre pressure monitoring, LED headlights, cruise control, six-speaker audio, AUX, USB and Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls and in the case of the manual a limited slip rear diff.

The GT adds leather and climate air, seat warmers, daytime LEDs, auto lights and wipers and an auto-dimming rear view mirror, plus 7.0-inch touchscreen display, with satnav and nine-speaker Bose audio.

Despite its size, the MX-5 is a safe car too, with all the usual stuff and a full 5-star safety rating.

Additional security is provided by Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and with the latest update brings Smart City Brake Support [Forward] (SCBS-F) and Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR).

 

What’s it go like?

The details might change with each update, but the general idea remains the same.

The MX-5 is lightweight, sits low to the ground, with a wheel a each corner and goes around corners like the billy-kart you built as a kid.

The engine is in the front, with near perfect weight distribution and powers the rear wheels like any self-respecting sports car should.

That’s it in a nutshell. You can argue the toss about whether it needs more power, but those that ask this question are really betraying their own ignorance of what driving is all about.

The free-revving 1.5-litre engine now produces 97kW of power and 152Nm of torque and is in many ways the pick of the two.

The larger 2.0-litre engine delivers 135kW and 205Nm, redlining at a lofty 7500 revs.

There’s two transmissions: 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, the latter with gear change paddles.

The 1.5 is good for 6.1L/100km while the 2.0-litre engine returns 6.9 – both in manual form.

Our 2.0-litre test car delivered 7.5L/100km after 400km including a thrashing.

Getting into the car could take some gymnastics for bigger blokes like yours truly, but once your’re in the MX-5 fits like a glove and just like a glove acts as an extension of your own body.

Turn and it turns, brake and it brakes, with a free-spinning four cylinder engine, absurdly easy to use gear change and a chassis that communicates volumes about the road over which you’re travelling.

Until now there was no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, but Mazda has fixed that with the latest update.

They’ve added a rear view camera too, rectifying a grave oversight that was never clearly explained.

You can chose between a hard top or soft removable roof, but for mine the softy is the way to go.

It doesn’t add weight and with the roof down on a summer’s evening, a tree lined winding road ahead, life is just about perfect.

The experience is immersive. You can see and feel everything that is going on in and around the car, all up close and personal.

The best part however is that you feel like you’re going really fast when in reality the speedometer says otherwise — that’s got to be good for your licence.

 

What we like?

  • Bang for your buck
  • Pure driving experience
  • Built in joie de vivre
  • Five-year warranty

What we don’t like?

  • My back doesn’t like it
  • The older you get the harder it is to get in and out, especially out
  • No one likes the backpack-sized boot either

 

The bottom line?

The MX-5 nails the sports car experience and it won’t cost you an arm or a leg to join the club. What are you waiting for?

 

CHECKOUT: Mazda finally ‘fixes’ MX-5

CHECKOUT: Mazda MX-5 RF a hard act to follow

 

Mazda MX-5, priced from $34,190
  • 8/10
    Looks - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Safety - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Thirst - 8/10
  • 6/10
    Practicality - 6/10
  • 7/10
    Comfort - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Value - 8/10
7.5/10

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.