- We like...drive, reliability
- We don't...not much
Classic two-seat sports car has now grown up. But it's still as fresh and keen as it ever was. We love it
We love the MX-5. It’s so right, so focused and just so great at what it ds. It makes no attempt to be anything other than it is: a two seat drop-top that turns even a yawn of a journey into a whiz.
The first MX-5 appeared here in 1990. Mazda studied classics such as the 1960s Lotus Elan, nicked the best bits, and put it in a package that looked and drove wonderfully. And MX-5s were (and are) terrifically reliable.
Two generations and 18 years further on, the current car keeps the original’s essence. Power to the rear tyres, super-direct steering and short, clunky gear picking make for a characteristic tail-waggy drive that’s rare. This latest one rides a little more serenely, screens road and tyre noise a little better, is more civilised all-round. But only as much as is needed: it’s grown up, not grown old.
It has become more practical with age, too. Where the boot used to be silly-small, there’s now enough room for a couple of large holdalls. Meanwhile, between and behind the seats provides a warren of storage spaces, most of which lock. Big door pockets and bottle holders keep your belongings in place on a long drive. Inside, the cabin plastics are nothing special but the instrument binnacle looks handsome while the wheel is thick rimmed and feels good to hold.
The cabin seems cosy but even tall drivers fit just fine, although some may find it hard to peer beneath the top screen rail, which is low. Its chairs are a treat, hugging you through the bends but without digging you in the kidneys as those in some performance cars will.
Ours is the coupe version, which means you get a steel roof rather than a cloth one. Push a button, yank a lever, thumb another button and 12sec later, you’ve an open-top car. The metal lid and glass rear screen fold themselves away without taking boot space. But going this route bumps the cheapest model up to £18,600. That’s quite a premium when the cheapest MX-5 costs £15,750. This packs a cloth roof that raises and lowers in a few secs, using just one hand. What’s more, we think the cloth-topper looks the prettier of the two.
Still, the tin-top is reassuring if you park in city areas prone to crime and it ds screen out noise at motorway speeds more effectively. Coupes have climate controlled air conditioning as standard, too.
Whichever you pick, they’re much the same to drive. There’s just two engines, the 125bhp 1.8 and a 158bhp 2.0. Ours had the smaller engine and while it’s never startlingly quick, it’s enough and feels sweet and balanced. The car performs best given a firm hand but it is easy to drive for all that. The drive train is easy enough to trickle through town, while wind and road noise is bearable at motorway speeds. It’s at its finest, though, drifting along a country lane, top down, wind biffing at whatever hair you have.
Right then, in the moment, there’s no better car – no matter what you spend.
- 0-60 mph9.3sec
- Insurance groups11
Motors.co.uk value verdict: