I never thought the day would come when I’d get the chance to not only drive a brand new Mazda MX-5, but only have good things to say about it.
I’m loathe to admit it, but my sense of loyalty to other brands – and the fact that the MX-5 is just so damn common – prevented me from ever really liking it. I always thought it to be a less attractive and less charming version of MG sports cars (specifically the F and TF), but boy, was I wrong.
Jess and I had headed to Leamington Spa to film an episode of Road Trip. On arrival, I had been asked by the event organisers if I would be driving. That certainly wasn’t the plan, but since they were giving me permission, I sure as hell wasn’t going to say no. A sporty two-seater is a sporty two-seater, regardless of opinions I may have held in the past. Suffice to say, my mind has been firmly changed.
The MX-5 is now in its fourth generation of life since its introduction in 1990, and this latest revamp is seriously attractive.
I first spied it on a once-popular BBC motoring-themed show (other, still-existing motoring shows are available), and didn’t think much of the aggressively slanted headlights. Now, they’re really not the focus. The body shape is both sleek and chunky, the roundness reminiscent of gen 1, while the sharp lines make it look a little retro and a lot British. The car comes with a manual soft top as standard, which is so easy to use it can be done one-handed.
‘Cosy’ is one word to describe the cockpit of this car. Of course everything you need has to be within reach as the interior is so small, but it’s also all placed logically and sensibly. With the high placement of the short gear stick, you can manipulate the MX-5 even at high speeds while comfortably resting your left elbow on the centre console.
The black with contrasting red stitch is simple and sexy, nicely offset by silver hints.
The placement of the satnav isn’t ideal; as in the image above, it juts clumsily from the middle of the dashboard, and you aren’t able to move it. It’s unresponsive unless the car is stationary, and even then isn’t especially straightforward to use. However, this is the only downside to the otherwise fully functional and extremely comfortable interior.
The new MX-5 is available in both 1.5 and 2.0 engines, and the 2.0 used for this review can reach 0-60 in 7.3 seconds, returning an impressive 41MPG. As such, this car seriously goes, with plenty of grumble and pull. The engine sounds are beautiful, and the brakes, acceleration, and steering are buttery-soft. All the power, without having to put much work in. Perfect.
Assuming you’re a law-abiding citizen, you can’t exactly push this car to its full potential on the average road, but the power behind it will make you really, really want to. It’s one of those cars that makes you feel smug driving it, especially when waiting at a red light as pedestrians spy you with envious eyes. It does have a wide turning circle, making some manoeuvres a little tricky, but parking in a car of this size is easy as anything.
While most cars require some getting used to in terms of how much room they take up, the fact that you can see all of this car means you can meander through traffic and slot into spaces with minimal effort. I can’t stress enough how easy the MX-5 is to drive.
Comfort and practicality
Normally in a car like this you’ll feel close enough to the ground that every chip and crack in the road will cause heart palpitations, but the suspension in the MX-5 is so good, you just float. I now know from experience that you can go over an unexpected speed bump at 30MPH and barely feel it. Most cars can’t boast that, let alone dinky two-seaters.
The short gear stick in the centre console allows you to change up and down whilst comfortably resting your elbow. Switching between the six gears feels a little crunchy, but that’s to be expected in this kind of vehicle.
The seats themselves are firm and supportive, but it’s still easy to relax in them. As is usual in a sports car, the pedals are small and close together, but they’re so soft that driving without shoes if necessary isn’t a problem.
While cars of this size can sometimes prove an issue for those of us in that elusive 6’+ range, that isn’t the case with the MX-5; I happily got into it with minimal Tetris-style insertion of my own limbs. One’s head peeking just above the top edge of the windscreen can be an issue, however, so I’d recommend a headscarf a la Grace Kelly for those of us who value the state of our hair.
The only thing the MX-5 is lacking in is storage. Of course, this isn’t exactly an all-terrain road trip car, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be ideal for short holidays and weekends away, with the decent MPG and fun, relaxed feel. Just remember to travel light.
I’m definitely not too proud to admit how much I now love this car. To be able to drive one of these as a bonus to already enjoying a fun day of filming Road Trip was an absolute treat – I now understand why the Mazda MX-5 is the most popular two-seater roadster in the world. It’s firmly earned that title, and with the wonderful new fourth generation, I imagine it will keep it.