We know that the all-new MX-5 will be officially launched later this month, so we thought we would spend a little time driving the third generation Mazda MX-5 before it disappears. It didn’t disappoint us at all, it will be a tough act to follow .
Just like the previous MX-5s – and the car which inspired them, the Lotus Elan from the 1960s – this is a genuine two-seat sports coupe which delights with the purity of its driving experience. And rewards by being very reasonably priced.
So you can shove your Gen Y paraphernalia – mood boards, think tanks, consumer clinics, research groups and the rest – because the idea with the MX-5 remains so incredibly simple.
You take a nice-looking compact two-seat coupe, keep it light, fit an appropriate engine, manual transmission and drive the rear wheels. Balance is the key so a hulking great V8 will upset the applecart just as much as puny hybrid.
Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe Overview
Mazda offers the MX-5 in two models and Car Showroom tested the ‘entry-level’ ‘Roadster Coupe’ which is priced at $47,280. For a bit more ($49,885) you can snare the ‘Roadster Coup Sports’ which adds juicy extras like BBS alloy wheels and a leather/alcantara interior with Recaro sports seats.
Both share the same driveline.
And while we drove the ‘entry-level’ model don’t for a second think it pulls-up short in the specifications – inside there’s nice leather-trimmed sports seats, aluminium sports pedals, cruise control and a seven-speaker Bose audio system.
Of course previous MX-5s came with a folding soft-top roof but the current generation is exclusively a power-operated hardtop with the ‘luxury’ of a glass rear window complete with demister.
We still love the Mazda MX-5 - this is absolutely the reasonably priced sports coupe by which others are still judged – and it was nice to have a ‘farewell tour’ for a week in one of our favourite cars.
Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe Engine
Yes here it is, Mazda’s punchy naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine which hasn’t been ‘SkyActiv-ised’ (although we’d lay some cash on the all-new model featuring Mazda’s ground-breaking new technology). For now this remains one of the sweetest engines Mazda has produced and ideal for the MX-5.
There’s 118kW of power at 7000rpm and peak torque of 188Nm at 5000rpm. But those figures just provide a preview of the real story – combined with its diminutive size, light 1,167kgs weight and a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission driving the rear wheels - Mazda’s 2.0-litre works all the way to the redline and delivers a racy exhaust note as it gets about its best work north of 4000rpm.
Take away just one of those elements and the Mazda MX-5 story just doesn’t have the happy ending it currently does.
Mazda MX-5 Coupe Roadster The Interior
When you haven’t driven a Mazda MX-5 for a while, the first impression reminds how small this true two-seat sports car is. You definitely climb down to enter via small doors and once seated you have an immediate sense of being close to the road.
A few simple adjustments and you have an ideal driving position with the leather-wrapped steering wheel in just the right place, your legs relatively straight to the pedals and a perfect view of the sports car instruments in a curved binnacle.
For the current generation MX-5, interior highlights take-on a gloss dark grey colour which enhances the sporty feel and also looks a bit richer than the previous silver colour.
Audio is a seven-speaker Bose system with the usual connectivity.
As with all two-seat sports cars, luggage space isn’t massive but at 150-litres there’s enough for overnight bags for two and – as we proved – a family-sized haul of groceries.
Mazda MX-5 Coupe Roadster Exterior & Styling
Mazda’s stylists pursued a sportier, more aggressive look for the third generation MX-5. It’s also a smidge larger than the previous model with, for example, 47mm added at the front to incorporate the new grille.
Aerodynamics also got a ‘once-over’ and MX-5 ‘tragics’ point to the flared front bumper (to direct air away from the front wheels) and shaped edges around the fog-lights.
Parked alongside earlier generations, the latest Mazda MX-5 also sees a musclier look around the wheel arches and rear three-quarters.
Mazda MX-5 Coupe Roadster On the Road
Our schedule was chockers the week we had the Mazda MX-5 so we had time for just one run over our high-speed mountain roads test loop. Bugger!
Because this is a car which was made for roads like that.
Thing is the Mazda MX-5 is so balanced and pointy, it’s almost impossible to be imprecise when you go hunting for corner apexes. Ratios in the six-speeder seem to be perfect for the ‘atmo’ 2.0-litre engine and you have plenty of urge when you’re back on the power accelerating out of corners.
Mazda also has the double wishbone front/multi-link rear nicely calibrated and there’s little ‘dive’ under braking or roll when cornering. In fact, in motor sport terms, the Mazda MX-5 takes a ‘set’ very early in a corner which inspires confidence to apply plenty of throttle from very early.
Around town the diminutive MX-5 is very easy to live with –the six-speed manual is light in the peak-hour crawl and the tiny 9.4-metre turning circle makes parking a breeze (although the low coupe hardtop does provide some restrictions in the over-the-shoulder look when reverse parking).
Mazda MX-5 Coupe Roadster Issues
We’re not deducting points from the Mazda MX-5 for anything but it is now getting a outgunned by the BRZ and 86. However this is a pure two-seat convertible sports coupe which can go toe-to-toe with later rivals in any department at a decent price.
Mazda MX-5 Coupe Roadster Verdict
Well Mazda has laid-down some high-standard marks for the all-new MX-5 to aspire to. This generation of the Hiroshima-based company’s iconic two-seat sports coupe will be remembered because it was a tad more ‘grown-up’ than those before but was, in our opinion, even better to drive.
For us, Mazda has nailed the suspension calibration for easier everyday living and the looks of the Roadster Coupe are the best MX-5 so far. Doing all of that while being true to the original purity of the MX-5 was the hard part and Mazda has pulled it off.
What will be the pricing of the all-new Mazda MX-5? We have no idea.
What we do know is when you factor in value-for-money, dynamics and the fun-to-drive factor, there’s no doubt the current Mazda MX-5 meets the benchmarks of its predecessors…and there’s no greater compliment than that.
Mazda MX-5 Coupe Roadster The Competition
Every time we see a Subaru BRZ or Toyota 86 we doff our caps in admiration. Both give you change from $40,000, very pointy rear-drive chassis and a bit more grunt than the MX-5. We suspect the MX-5 might have a bit more grip and higher limits in the twisty stuff.
Mini Coupe ranges in price from $34,900 to $52,600 (the latter giving you 155kW/260Nm of turbocharged 1.6-litre grunt). Styling is open to debate (we love it) but good as the Mini is, ultimately it’s front-drive layout limits the fun compared to the rear-drive MX-5, BRZ and 86.