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Mazda MX-5 review | Auto Express

The Mazda MX-5 is a unique proposition in the new car market, with the latest car continuing a proud tradition of sporty rear-wheel-drive two-seaters. The combination of modest power outputs and a nimble chassis mean it’s a great way to learn about car handling, all the while delivering the kind of stellar reliability and everyday usability that similarly priced hardcore sports cars can’t match.

Mazda’s claim that the latest MX-5 returns to the original car’s formula and offers a genuine sports car thrill still stands, but for buyers on a budget the MX-5 will be harder to justify as prices have crept up significantly.

About the Mazda MX-5

The fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 fits the classic roadster template and has plenty of thrills to offer. It’s the planet’s best-selling two-seat sports car, and it has earned iconic status in its 25-year history, becoming as ubiquitous as the British sports cars it emulated when it first arrived in 1989.

The MX-5 Mk4 arrived towards the end of 2015, and was smaller, more efficient and more than 100kg lighter than its predecessor. The Mk4 was updated in 2018 but in typical Mazda fashion it was a small facelift as a result of customer feedback. Both 1.5 and 2.0-litre versions received a small hike in power and became WLTP compliant, more standard fit safety kit was fitted, as was a telescopic steering column for a more comfortable driving position. Further revisions were made in early 2020 with a realigned model line up and additional standard equipment.

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Power comes from 1.5 and 2.0-litre petrol engines, but choosing the former is no hardship and the MX-5 is equally enjoyable to drive with either engine. Four trim levels are available: SE-L, Sport, Sport Tech and GT Sport Tech, while there’s also the Sport Venture limited edition.

The smaller engine is available on SE-L and Sport models, while the larger can only be had in conjunction with Sport Tech and GT Sport Tech trim further up the range. A six-speed manual is standard across the range.

There are two body styles available: a convertible with a fabric roof and the folding targa hardtop of the RF. We prefer the former for its purer driver experience and looks, but those after a little more security and refinement will welcome the metal roof of the RF. It’s also the only model available with the option of a six-speed automatic (on 2.0-litre versions only). 

Rivals for the Mazda MX-5 are scarce, but they do exist. Most obvious is the now-discontinued Fiat 124 Spider, which shares its running gear with the MX-5 but uses its own engine, while similarly sporty non-convertible rivals could include the Subaru BRZ and Audi TT.

If you’re really serious about owning a sports car and don’t mind sacrificing practicality and comfort, it’s also worth considering the excellent – but incredibly old-school – Caterham 7. 

For an alternative review of the Mazda MX-5, visit our sister site…

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