Why the latest version of the Mazda MX-5 is likely to remain the world’s favourite roadster for many years to come.
I have to admit, I was a little sceptical when I first saw the fourth generation Mazda MX-5. Had it lost some of its cheeky charm? Was it a little feminine? How could it be any better than the previous model?
Thankfully, within moments of getting up close and personal to the new car, my worries were dispelled.
And I should declare an interest right from the start – I own a 55-plate MX-5 and it’s still a constant source of pleasure.
The new MX-5 looks a little more feline than the slightly more butch third generation car, but it’s exceptionally pretty in an understated way.
The more you study the lines and its proportions, the easier it is to understand why it’s just become the first car to win both the World Car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year awards.
Slip behind the wheel, and the new MX-5 is one of those cars that feels instantly right. The winning formula hasn’t been changed – it still has a front engine, rear-wheel drive layout, it’s nimble, handles beautifully and is competitively priced.
Of course it also offers the joys of soft-top motoring and I have no reason to think it won’t be as dependable as its ancestors, making it a practical everyday car.
There’s a choice of two punchy petrol engines – a 1.5 and 2.0-litre – and both are hooked up to a slick six-speed manual gearbox.
At 8.3 seconds, the 129bhp 1.5-litre is a second slower to 62mph than the 161bhp 2.0-litre, and according to official figures, they are capable of 47.1 and 40.9mpg respectively.
The 2.0-litre definitely feels and sounds more powerful, but the reality is that the 1.5-litre engine is more than enough for most, especially as the MX-5 has been on a diet and now weighs less than a tonne.
The fact is that in every respect the new Mazda improves on the previous model. The gearbox is now lighter and slicker, the cabin is more modern and packed with everything you’d expect in a modern car, including a 7-inch colour display with (thankfully) a rotary control on the centre console, an excellent sound system with DAB and full connectivity, cruise control and LED daytime running lights.
The MX-5 isn’t perfect. Luggage space is still at a premium, so two large suitcases are still definitely out of the question, the roof is still manual (though just as easy and light to use), while some rearward visibility with the roof up can still be challenging. But overall it’s a star car and it’s as rewarding to drive as ever.
The new Mazda MX-5 range starts at £19,245 and there are five trim levels – SE, SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport and Sport Nav.
Verdict: The best just got better. The new Mazda MX-5 is as close to a perfect sports car as you can get – and here’s the thing, it’s practical and great value too!