Mazda MX5 Sport – Review
By Liam Bird
Take a browse on Mazda’s website or flick through one of their brochures and it won’t be too long before you stumble upon one of their buzzwords. For quite some time Mazda has been banging on about their KODO – Soul of Motion design philosophy and their award-winning SKYACTIV technology. And rightly so. Modern Mazdas are easy on the eye and, dare I say it, good to drive, and neither do they resort to ever being too heavy a burden on your wallet or the environment. They’re also well screwed together.
When it came to developing their MX-5 back in 1990 though, you could be forgiven that it was the old acronym KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid, which really inspired them. Well, either that or the original Lotus Elan, but that’s another story… Nevertheless if you’re fortunate enough to sample this, the latest MX-5 it doesn’t take long to figure out that keeping things simple worked very well indeed.
With a kerb weight of just 975kg the 4th Generation MX-5 is both lighter and smaller than the car it replaces; it’s also only 50kg heavier than the original Mk1. That’s no mean feat, especially when you factor in that the Mazda MX5 Sport of today – albeit in SE-L trim and above – gets climate control, touch screen sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB, cruise control, and multiple airbags as standard. In 1990 in-car navigation was ring-bound and air-conditioning meant lowering the roof.
“Pure driving pleasure”
Fortunately we’ve moved on, but some things never change. Lowering an MX5’s fabric hood, air-con on or not, is as simple today as it’s always been. There are no heavy motors, no elec-trickery. Instead undoing one simple clip above the interior mirror is all it takes to fully enjoy the full wind-in-the-woolie-hat experience. Raising or lowering, it can all be done with one hand from the driver’s seat. Even on chillier days, roof up or down, and with heated seats set to toasty, it’s surprising just how cosy the strictly two-seater cabin – there isn’t even a glovebox – can be.
There are some concessions to storage of course. There’s a cubby between the seats for your phone and sunglasses. The boot space is about big enough for a couple of weekend away bags. If you’re planning on buying flat-pack however, make sure the store delivers.
Scandinavian bookcases notwithstanding, what the Mazda MX5 Sport does deliver is pure driving pleasure regardless of whichever variant, 1.5 or 2.0 litre, you plump for. And having driven both back-to-back over the same roads I’m going to stick my neck out and say that it’s actually the 1.5 that would be my pick.
The smaller-motored car might not get the Bilstein dampers, strut-brace, limited-slip differential and 17” alloys of the 2.0 litre. But ultimately, because it makes you work it that little bit harder and make more use of its rifle-bolt precise six-speed gearbox, it rewards your efforts all the more. The pedals positively encourage you to heal-and-toe. Changing direction is merely a matter of a flick of the wrists. The ride in the 1.5 is more compliant too. There’s just enough performance to indulge in a little oversteer should you find your favourite roundabout a tad damp.
If you’re looking for a classically laid-out front-engined, rear-wheel drive, two-seater drop-top, for the money there’s still nothing to touch the Mazda MX5 Sport. It’s the world’s bestselling roadster. If this new one is anything to go by it will continue to be so.
Or, to put it simply: The best just got better.
Mazda MX-5 1.5 131ps Sport Nav
Engine: SKYACTIV G 1,496cc, 4Cyl, DOHC 16V Petrol
Transmission: 6 speed manual. Front Wheel Drive
Power: 129.2 bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque: 110.6 lbft @ 4800 rpm
0-62mph: 8.3 sec
Max Speed: 127 mph
MPG: 47.1 combined.
Price: from £22,445 (car driven £22,985)