The MX-5 over-de­liv­ers on its prom­ise of the joy of driv­ing — and the price is right

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - MOTORING & LIFESTYLE - BILL McKIN­NON

When I tested Mazda’s fourth­gen­er­a­tion MX-5 in mid-2017, not long after its launch, I gave it five stars. It’s still the only car to achieve the max­i­mum road test score. At the time, mo­tor­ing ed­i­tor Richard Black­burn queried my gen­eros­ity. There’s no such thing as the per­fect car, he ar­gued, and the Mazda has a few faults.

True, but five stars doesn’t mean per­fec­tion. In a mar­ket where ev­ery class has frag­mented into ever smaller, more spe­cialised niches to meet the di­verse re­quire­ments of cus­tomers, a car that scores highly in our road tests is one that nails its brief and de­liv­ers ex­actly what its own­ers ex­pect of it. At the right price, of course.

The MX-5 overde­liv­ers on its prom­ise — the joy of driv­ing, pure and sim­ple — and the price is cer­tainly right.


It’s just been up­dated for 2019 to up­grade safety, fix a few er­gonomic flaws, im­prove en­gine re­spon­sive­ness and add a bit more top end kick.

The 2.0-litre en­gine, avail­able from $41,960 in the six-speed man­ual GT soft-top, has been re­worked with lighter, lower-fric­tion in­ter­nals, bet­ter breath­ing at high revs, more ef­fi­cient com­bus­tion, sharper ac­cel­er­a­tion and a higher red­line — now 7500rpm, an in­crease of 700rpm.

Power is up by 17kW to 135kW. That doesn’t sound like much of a gain but in a car that weighs a svelte 1035kg it has a no­tice­able ef­fect, par­tic­u­larly on top end ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Torque also rises, by 5Nm to 205Nm but, of greater con­se­quence, it’s now on tap 600rpm lower in the rev range, at 4000rpm, giv­ing the 2.0-litre an ef­fec­tive 3000rpm zone be­tween peak torque and max­i­mum power, 1600rpm wider than pre­vi­ously. This trans­lates to stronger, more tractable midrange per­for­mance.

The six-speed au­to­matic, with sportier shift map­ping and a lower fi­nal drive ra­tio on 2.0litre mod­els, adds $2000. RF vari­ants, with the 2.0-litre and fold­ing hard­top, start at $39,400. We’re test­ing the RF GT man­ual, at $45,960.

Mazda’s in­fo­tain­ment, dubbed MZD Con­nect, has a ro­tary con­troller/cur­sor (plus touch­screen func­tion­al­ity) and in­cludes nav­i­ga­tion, re­spon­sive voice con­trol and seam­less Blue­tooth. Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto con­nec­tiv­ity is a $495 op­tion.

GT spec­i­fi­ca­tion in­cludes 17-inch al­loys with 205/45 Bridge­stone Potenza tyres, adap­tive LED head­lights, key­less en­try and start, leather up­hol­stery, heated seats and Bose au­dio, with speak­ers in the driver’s head­rest. The power fold­ing roof can be had in black for $1000.


The MX5’s steer­ing wheel now has reach ad­just­ment, so tall drivers can tai­lor their seat­ing po­si­tion with greater pre­ci­sion and com­fort. The nar­row, sup­port­ive driver’s seat is pretty firm; height and lum­bar are fixed, but you can ad­just the cush­ion an­gle.

When Mazda does an up­date, it goes through ev­ery as­pect of a car with foren­sic at­ten­tion to de­tail. This MX-5’s doors are eas­ier to open and close in nar­row spa­ces. Seat re­cline levers are more se­curely an­chored. Even the cuphold­ers are stronger and eas­ier to re­move.

Sus­pen­sion is un­changed, so the ride re­mains re­mark­ably com­fort­able and com­pli­ant for a road­ster, with a trace of front end shake only on very rough roads.

Roof up, the RF is as quiet as a coupe, al­beit with in­tru­sive tyre noise on coarse bi­tu­men. Roof down, it’s calm in the cabin, but at 100km/h the wind gen­er­ates a racket in the cor­ners of the roof but­tresses, im­me­di­ately be­hind your head.


To the stan­dard blind spot mon­i­tor­ing and rear cross traf­fic alert, Mazda added a rear cam­era, rear park­ing sen­sors, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing (up to 80km/h, and from 2-8 km/h in re­verse), fa­tigue alert and speed sign recog­ni­tion.


Mazda doesn’t quote a 0-100km/h ac­cel­er­a­tion time. It’s far from the most rel­e­vant num­ber on the MX-5’s spec sheet any­way but 135kW is se­ri­ous power in such a ma­chine. With the 2.0litre’s more tractable and re­spon­sive de­liv­ery, it would eas­ily knock a cou­ple of tenths off the pre-up­date’s time of about 7.5 sec­onds.

Pre­vi­ous MX-5s al­ways felt as if they could use a bit more power. The new 2.0 has enough.

Han­dling re­mains other-worldly. Mazda’s “car and driver as one” spiel sounds like just an­other car com­pany mar­ket­ing blah-blah but it’s true. I’ve rid­den mo­tor­cy­cles on which you feel less con­nected and in con­trol than the MX-5. You steer it by thought, not phys­i­cal ef­fort.


I want four things from a car: blue skies, a sunny day, the wind in my hair and the one I love be­side me. Well, OK, three out of four.


The MX-5 has the per­for­mance to com­ple­ment its su­perla­tive rear-drive chas­sis. The Porsche Boxster, at al­most three times the price, is the only other road­ster that nears driv­ing en­joy­ment.


Fiat’s sharp model-share ver­sion of the MX-5, with a 125kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbo. Fiat claims 6.8 sec­onds for 0-100km/h. Must have been a strong tail­wind that day.


The Mini’s fun and you can take a cou­ple of rear pas­sen­gers. Power from a 100kW/220Nm 1.5-litre turbo triple or, in Cooper S, a 2.0-litre turbo four pro­duc­ing 141kW/280Nm.

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