The Mazda MX-5 is one of the most iconic convertible sports cars on the market. It’s never broken a speed record in its life but its combination of attractive styling, great handling and affordable pricing have made it a real sales success. A number of versions of the car are available, including a soft top and a Roadster Coupe, which totes the fastest metal folding roof in the world. We hopped behind the wheel of the latter to see if it this hard-top-toting street weapon is the definitive edition.
The Mazda MX-5 has oft been criticised for its slightly effeminate looks, with many branding it a “hairdresser’s car“. We couldn’t disagree more. Previous models could be accused of looking slightly wet behind the ears, but the latest MX-5 facelift has a fairly aggressive look about it with a beefy front bumper that boasts an air vent large enough to swallow a medium-sized pig. It’s particularly striking in Roadster Coupe form, its body-coloured hard top providing a more cohesive, modern appearance than the contrasting ragtop.
The MX-5 Roadster Coupe’s interior errs more on the side of function than flamboyance. The driving position is brilliant, although the steering wheel lacks adjustability. The interior doesn’t look as if it’s been updated since the mid ’90s, thanks to plenty of cheap-looking plastics, but Mazda has shoehorned a bit of style into it with a few gloss black elements on the steering wheel, dashboard and gear knob.
Don’t buy an MX-5 if you’re concerned with practicality. It has two seats, cup holders in the doors, a decent-sized central storage cubby and a 150-litre boot large enough for a couple of weekend bags.
The MX-5 Roadster Coupe’s metal folding hard top is both a gift and a curse. It folds up and down within 12 seconds after a flick of a clamp and the push of a button, providing true open air motoring. Unfortunately, while it lets in plenty of sunshine and fresh air, it also lets in plenty of noise. Driving at speed with the top down is a bit like standing in the middle of a hurricane (we imagine). It’s not much better with the top up, either, so be prepared to bring a pair of headphones for long motorway journeys.
Performance & Handling
The Mazda MX-5’s primary mission in life is to provide drivers a sense of enjoyment behind the wheel, and it’s largely successful in this regard. There are two engines to choose from, including an entry-level 126bhp 1.8-litre unit that’ll hit 60mph from a standstill in a very pedestrian 9.9 seconds, and a 160bhp 2-litre engine that’s good for a 0-60mph time of 7.9 seconds. It’s fairly pedestrian by hot hatch standards, but extracting its performance is reasonably good fun.
The MX-5 is one of the most agile cars you’ll come across. It changes direction with such alacrity and with such little fuss, we found ourselves darting from lane to lane just for the hell of it. The steering is communicative too, transmitting plenty of easily decipherable information through to your palms. The MX-5’s trump card is its rear-wheel-drive layout – switch the active stability control off and you can slide its tail out until the cows come home.
It’s reasonably pleasurable to drive at low speeds, too. The engine has plenty of torque throughout the rev range and the suspension does a good job soaking up rutted road surfaces.
Economy & Environment
The Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe’s lack of outright pace has an upside – good economy. The 1.8i is good for 39.8mpg with CO2 emissions of 167g/km. The 2.0, meanwhile, manages 36.2mpg while emitting 181g/km. That’s on a par with the, admittedly slightly faster, Toyota GT86.
Equipment & Value
The entry-level MX-5 Roadster Coupe starts from £19,995 in the cheapest SE trim, and comes with Mazda’s 1.8i petrol engine, 16-inch alloys, a CD player with six speakers and air con. The next grade up, the MX-5 Sport Tech, costs £3,100 more but includes a more powerful 2.0i engine, 17-inch alloys, sports suspension, a Bose stereo with six-CD changer and seven speakers, plus Bluetooth.
£200 more buys you an integrated TomTom sat-nav, but don’t bother, as it’s the most infuriating sat-nav you’ll ever come across. It’ll get you places, but the only way to switch it off once you get to your destination is to yank the memory card out. Or shoot it. Do yourself a favour and buy a standalone TomTom instead.
EuroNCAP hasn’t tested a Mazda MX-5 since it gave a 2002 car a four-star rating. Since that time, Mazda has added an active-bonnet safety system which, during a collision with a pedestrian, lifts the trailing edge of the bonnet to increase the crumple zone between the bonnet and engine.
In addition, the car features dual front air bags, side airbags and dynamic stability control. Be warned, though, the brakes in the standard SE car lack the sophistication of other trim levels due to its lack of ABS with electronic brake force distribution.
The MX-5 is a solid little sports car that should appeal to a wide range of drivers. Some may find it a little under-powered, but those in the know will forgive this trespass thanks to its superb handling and rear-wheel-drive layout. If you’re after a good all-round convertible sports car that’s dependable, affordable and fun, the MX-5 Roadster Coupe is in a class of its own.
Model tested: Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol + 6-speed manual
Acceleration: 0-62 in 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 136mph
Emissions: 181g/km CO2