NOT for the first time a new generation of Mazda MX-5 has been hailed as a return to the halcyon days of the classic original for the two-seater convertible roadster. Finally the 2016 model delivers on that back to the future promise, especially in 1.5L manual form tested here.
Boasting a barely believable sub $32k sticker price (plus on-roads) the new edition costs almost a third less than the outgoing model and just $2k more than its debut in 1989. Pared back to maximise power to weight performance it’s 10 percent lighter than its predecessor and at 3.9m is shorter than ever.
On brand with Mazda’s now familiar design philosophy, the MX-5 certainly looks the goods. Like the original edition, eye-catching headlights are its most striking feature, the new squinting lamps setting an aggressive tone.
Approach the MX-5 and you feel a sudden growth spurt. The car is seriously tiny. Standing 1.22m tall with 140mm ground clearance, the MX-5 will test your flexibility entering, exiting and straining upwards to reach SUV friendly parking gates.
For a medium sized driver the cockpit is snug. Larger bodies enter at your own risk. Once positioned in the close fitting fabric seats, all the main controls all fall easily to hand; not that there are many buttons and dials with the manual 1.5L.
No MZD touch screen (an $1,100 optional extra over and above the standard specs) means sat nav and reversing camera are not on the car features list in our test vehicle. Modern standards like auto wipers, auto headlamps and climate control also require an upgrade the 2.0L GT.
While the leather wrapped steering wheel surprisingly lacks reach adjustment. Bluetooth is the base MX-5’s one concession beyond the pure driving experience.
Scarce storage is a given with any MX-5. Locating the glove box positioned at shoulder level between the seats presents an early challenge, while the 130L boot has just enough depth to swallow a picnic basket and rug for a day trip.
Should the weather turn nasty the brilliant lightweight fabric roof takes just seconds to raise or stow away. However notable increases in wind and road noise, together with limited blind spot vision are great reasons to go top down whenever possible.
Safety is one area the diminutive MX-5 does not stint. Front and side airbags, ABS, dynamic stability, traction control and even emergency break assist are all standard. A handy hill hold feature that prevents roll-back does feel like cheating though.
The MX-5 shares its 1.5L engine with its Mazda2 sibling, with power boosted to a more than ample 96kw (118 Kw for the 2.0L). On the road the car feels quicker than it is.
A superb short throw six speed gearbox and hint of engine whine provide the feeling of lively acceleration. The low, firm and slightly bumpy ride on uneven surfaces also contribute toward the sensation of speed, while reminding you this is a small sports car not a luxury sedan.
Cornering is where the real fun begins. The light, nimble MX-5 simply dances from side-to-side along a twisting stretch of road. Steering is precise without being overly sensitive, which makes for an easy yet lively drive, allowing an amateur to feel like an expert.
Pick your passenger wisely however, as a lack of handholds and miniature door armrest may leave your guest less than enthusiastic about the dynamic qualities of the corner hugging convertible.
Let the MX-5 cut loose and there’s plenty of fun to be had at high speed, with a road hugging thrill ride ensuing (but still you feel oddly safe in the MX-5 – it just drives like that, it’s really quite liberating). Doing so will eat up its outstanding fuel economy though.
For example, we were managing a highly respectable 6.6L/100km in city driving, but when we unwound on the open road and put the MX-5 through its paces, we pushed it out to 8L/100km (with respect to the MX-5 we were driving it hard).
The 2016 Mazda MX-5 is the ultimate example of ‘fit for purpose’ motoring. The new MX-5 makes top down sports car fun a live option for most new car buyers, provided you can live with its famously impractical nature. Designed with a singular focus to bring driving enjoyment to the masses, the MX-5 succeeds spectacularly.
The 2016 Mazda MX-5 comes in six nice colours including Blue Reflex Mica, Crystal White Pearl Mica, Jet Black Mica, Meteor Grey Mica, Ceramic Metallic and Soul Red Metallic.
Our test vehicle was provided by Mazda Australia. To find out more about the 2016 Mazda MX-5, contact your local Mazda dealer.
Road Test: 2016 Mazda MX-5
Pros – exceptional value; cornering dynamics; easy one-hand roof operation.
Cons – need for a second sensible car; basic entertainment system, lack of passenger holds.