Mazda MX-5 Review
Written by Justin Delaney, an Independent Reviewer, Journalist, and Motor expert.
Mazda’s iconic two-seat lightweight sportscar the MX-5, has continued to trend as the best-selling roadster in history. To celebrate its longevity we now have the 30th anniversary version available here in Ireland. Approximately one million MX-5’s have been sold worldwide since it was first introduced in 1989.
This fourth generation model benefits from some design changes, along with weight saving measures and the introduction of new SKYACTIV engines. Through the use of aluminium and other weight saving materials this MX-5 is 100 kilograms lighter than its predecessor; the 1.5-litre variant has a kerb weight of just 975 kilograms. The front wings and bonnet are constructed from all aluminium, the rear suspension cross members have holes in them to further reduce weight without scarifying performance.
Masashi Nakayama the Chief Designer was keen to stress that all along the design process of this MX-5, it was extremely important to him that Mazda remain true to the key attributes of the original MX-5. This 4th gen model is instantly recognisable as an MX-5, however it has been faithfully modernised with sleek lines and a shorter wheelbase.
The driver and passenger now sit further back, closer to the rear wheels and 20 millimetres lower, this aids the car’s perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The front of the car has been lowered with a shortened overhang, with less space Mazda’s designers have incorporated compact LED headlights on all variants.
Mazda MX-5 Features
The interior is driver-oriented, with the steering wheel, instrument cluster and pedals in perfect symmetry. There’s adequate space for two adults to travel in comfort with numerous storage compartments throughout, there is two decent sized storage areas behind the seats, and the boot too has been increased over its precursor and can accommodate two carry-on-cases with ease.
Irish motorists can choose from two trim levels, the entry-level MX-5 Roadster featuring 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a leather steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity, cruise control, heated power door mirrors and dynamic stability control with traction control. The Roadster GT variant costs an additional premium. For the additional spend the car has 16-inch gun metal alloy wheels, a Bose sound system with nine speakers, piano black wing mirrors, rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, keyless entry, heated leather seats and lane departure warning.
Our flagship 30th Anniversary model on test had forged aluminium Rays wheels developed exclusively for the MX-5 and a 30th anniversary badge displaying the model’s serial number. Other unique features include orange brake calipers with Nissin brakes on the rear and Brembo brakes up front. Inside, the bespoke touches continued with orange accents on the seats, door trim, dashboard, steering wheel, air vents and gear lever, while Recaro seats and Alcantara trim on the door card and instrument panel add a sense of exclusivity. The 30th Anniversary Edition also features Apple Carplay and Android Auto as standard.
Powering the new MX-5 are two SKYACTIV-G petrol engines, a 1.5-litre unit that produces 131hp and 150Nm of torque and a 2.0-litre engine that produces 160hp and 200Nm of torque. We drove both models at the original launch, many moons ago. Both cars excelled along our test route in Barcelona at the time.
The car’s steering is now an electric power assist system, which replaces the previous hydraulic power assist steering. It’s accurately weighted for turn and feel. There is an impressive amount of front-end grip on turn-in; the car instills confidence on twisty sections of road. Changing gear is extremely satisfying with the short crisp gear change on the six-speed manual transmission. Acceleration is smooth, the 1.5-litre engine happily revs to the redline at 7,500 rpm, there’s a slight change in the engine note from 5,000 rpm as the car accelerates at a decent pace.
There are two notable differences when driving the 2.0-litre variant, firstly the additional torque aids acceleration from low revs with ease. Secondly, this model is equipped with a hydraulic limited slip differential. We don’t think any driver will feel short-changed with the smaller capacity engine. It delivers sufficient performance for an entertaining drive. We do believe though that it would benefit from having the differential, that said, the majority of drivers may not drive the car too enthusiastically to appreciate the benefit of the differential.
This fourth generation Mazda MX-5 thankfully remains true to the original mark 1, a lightweight sportscar with a traditional front engine rear-wheel-drive configuration. Decades on the MX-5 is every bit as entertaining to drive as the original.
At the time of launch, the fourth generation MX-5 was Euro NCAP tested and awarded four-stars for safety. It lost a star because it didn’t have active city stop at the time. Front and side airbags, Dynamic Stability Control and traction control are all available across the line-up, while anniversary cars feature Blind Spot Monitoring, a Driver Attention Alert and a Lane Departure Warning.
Mazda MX-5 Prices
Entry into Mazda MX-5 ownership starts at €33,095 or if you prefer the hardtop version, the MX-5 RF is €37,895. Our most recent test car in 30th anniversary specification was priced at €40,995. Various PCP and leasing opportunities are also available through your local Mazda dealer.
This 30th Anniversary version we recently took out to test drive features the new 184hp version of the 2.0 Skyactiv-G petrol engine. It is available only as the roadster body-type in Racing Orange. This range-topping special edition comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, Bilstein dampers, strut-brace and limited slip differential.
With global production limited to 3000 models, only 10 units will be available in Ireland and all 10 units will be sold in selected authorised Mazda dealerships. With the added power the Anniversary MX-5 is a hoot to drive! Yes you are under the spotlight a bit in such a lairy colour but we loved our time with the roadster. Mazda feels that the MX-5 has grown into more than simply Mazda’s creation. It now belongs to the enthusiasts around the world who have supported the development of the model and helped it become the world’s best-selling two-seater roadster.
Launched as both a tribute to these MX-5 fans and as a mark of the high hopes the firm has for the future of its sports cars, the MX-5 continues to impress and it doesn’t necessarily have to be an anniversary edition. To see more, be sure to check out our full video review on YouTube.
Mazda MX-5 Pros
Mazda MX-5 Cons
To see a list of available Mazda MX-5’s for sale in Ireland please click here.
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