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Car review: Mazda MX-5

Exhilarating yet affordable, the MX-5 is a sports car people can buy with their heart and their head, writes car reviewer Tim Barnes-Clay.

Mazda MX-5 exterior

Mazda's MX-5 is a legend. It just does everything you ask of it in a straightforward way. 

Forget the "tech" in the name of the 2.0i Sport Tech version I test drove for a week. 

The car has an electric hood, but everything else about the Mazda MX-5 is mostly about good, simple, honest fun.

Impressive steering

Turn the key and the engine guns into life, with an unpretentious bark. 

Slip the gearshift into first and the car whirs along contentedly through the cogs. 

However, it’s the ultra-direct steering that impresses. Turn the wheel a fraction and the car responds urgently. 

Feedback from the road surface through to the steering wheel is also excellent and, indeed, old Mazda MX-5s are often sold for track day purposes. 

Rear wheel drive grips to the road

There’s a reason for this: the rear wheel drive drop top is perfect for flinging around corners and will grip to dry roads like a koala bear to a eucalyptus tree. 

That’s not to say it’s perfect. The modern day motor, just like any other rear wheel drive, can catch you out in the wet. 

Push it too hard and you’ll notice some tail-waggle, but generally the MX-5 driving experience fills you with confidence.

The Mazda isn’t just about driving precision though; it’s a lot to do with dependability too. 

Award winner

So much so, it was named Britain’s most reliable new sports car in the 2013 Which? Car Survey – a major study of car satisfaction.  

Achieving a reliability score of 97.4% and 91.1%, the MX-5 beat rivals to claim first and second places in the age-related categories. 

The vehicle is also on the practical side – for a strict two seater. 

The boot is a respectable rectangular shape and will fit a couple of carry-on flight cases as well as a few odds and ends.

Aggressive front design 

Looks-wise, Mazda gave the MX-5 a fresh face at the end of 2012, with an aggressive front grille and a different bumper design with a bold chin spoiler. 

All this creates a deeper and wider appearance that also improves aerodynamics by reducing drag around the fog lamps and over the front tyres. 

What’s more, there’s a pedestrian-friendly bonnet on the MX-5. 

If a collision is detected, the edge of the hood instantly pops-up to increase the crumple zone between the bonnet and engine, helping reduce the severity of pedestrian injuries.

Inside technology 

Mazda MX-5 cabin

Inside, the Sport Tech Nav model benefits from climate control and glossy grey dashboard panel and steering wheel inserts. 

It also has an auto-dimming interior mirror and boasts an alloy pedal set. 

A satellite-navigation system with an integrated touch screen monitor, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity is fitted too. 

So, okay, admittedly, there’s a little more technology than there used to be in the MX-5s, but there’s still an overriding sense of simplicity about the entire car.

A modern sportscar

The Mazda MX-5 enjoys incredible popularity in Britain. 

The latest range offers an even more rewarding sportscar ownership experience, while remaining unrivalled as an exhilarating drive that can also be used every day.

Together with its affordability, low running costs, reliability and great residual values, the MX-5 is a thoroughly modern sports car that people can buy with their heart and their head.

Pros & cons 

  • Iconic √
  • Driving satisfaction √
  • Quick √
  • Affordable √
  • Limited space X

Fast facts 

  • Max speed: 136 mph
  • 0-62 mph: 7.9 secs
  • Combined mpg: 36.2
  • Engine: 1999 cc 4 cylinder 16 valve petrol
  • Max. power (bhp): 158 at 7000 rpm
  • Max. torque (lb/ft): 138 at 5000 rpm 
  • CO2: 181 g/km
  • Price: £23,095 on the road

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Tim Barnes-Clay

Leon Poultney

Tim is an experienced motoring writer with a background in radio and TV journalism. He puts his pedal to the metal each week with his must-read car reviews.

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