Mazda MX-5 review – Telegraph

1 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Mazda MX-5 review – Telegraph
Mazda MX-5

A facelift for the Japanese sports car also marks a return to form.

Making the most successful sports car of all time is not easy, especially when you’ve been doing it for two straight decades. But that’s been Mazda’s role with its hugely popular MX-5, which has so far attracted 854,000 customers a big number for a less-than-practical two-seater.

So brilliant was the original that it lured plenty of rivals into a market that had been virtually dead, although many later departed or took refuge in the pricier end of the pool.

That has left today’s MX-5 with few rivals at the price, although the latest, third-generation version has not been quite as stellar as its predecessors. Completely renewed in 2005, this fractionally bigger, slightly more muscular version was impressive for the structural rigidity of its bodyshell, the cheese-paring zeal with which Mazda relieved it of surplus weight, the effortless convenience of its hood and an interior that, if not luxurious, was certainly more comfortable than the 1989 original’s.

But doubts have clustered around that most crucial of sports car characteristics, its handling. The 2005 MX-5’s inconsistent reactions were a disappointment, as were the oddly glutinous power steering and a rear end that could break away with the suddenness of a collapsing seaside cliff. So Mazda has mounted a mission to exorcise these flaws and once again make the MX-5 the darling of traditional sports-car lovers.

The most obvious change is the revised frontal appearance. The elliptical mouth that paid homage to the 1962 Lotus Elan, the MX-5’s original muse, has been replaced by Mazda’s trademark five-node grille and the bumpers are new, too.

The vital difference, though, has been made to the front suspension, where altered pivot points lower the Mazda’s roll centre to produce more consistent reactions from steering gear that has ceased to feel syrupy.

The MX-5 now feels more confidently poised in bends and so do you. Enjoyment is further heightened by an impressively supple ride, even from the 2.0i Sport’s firmer Bilstein shock absorbers. Although the steering could still yield more feel, and the Mazda’s demeanour is a little subdued compared with the recently resurrected MG TF, this car is thoroughly satisfying to drive, in both mellow 1.8 and slightly more enthusiastic 2.0 versions.

The bigger engine’s efforts are broadcast via the automotive equivalent of an ear trumpet, incidentally; a tube telegraphing its eager threshings to the cockpit. If this sounds potentially wearisome, fear not the noise level is well judged.

Neither engine is more powerful than previously, but the 2.0’s performance at lower rpm has been strengthened and its rev range stretched to 7,500rpm. It’s also slightly more economical.

The remaining changes improve the MX-5’s convenience and, in the case of the retractable hardtop coupé, refinement (attention to the roof has reduced the commotion of motion). The cabin has more storage space, the bottle-holders are less invasive and a seven-speaker Bose sound system is now available.

These are small but important changes, because they herald a return to form for a car that has lately been a little off colour.

Price/availability: £16,345-£21,695. On sale April 1.

Mazda MX-5

Engine/transmission: 1.8-litre, four-cylinder petrol with dohc and 16 valves; 126bhp at 6,500rpm, 123lb ft of torque at 4,500rpm.

2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol with dohc and 16 valves; 160bhp at 7,000rpm, 139lb ft at 7,000rpm. Five-speed manual on all models except six-speed manual on 2.0i Sport. Six-speed automatic optional on 2.0 petrol.

Performance: 1.8; top speed 121mph, 0-62mph in 9.9sec, EU Urban fuel consumption 40.4mpg, CO2 emissions 167g/km.

2.0i Sport; 132mph, 7.6sec, 37.2mpg, 181g/km.

We like: Styling, entertainment value, balanced character, durability.

We don’t like: Steering still short of feel, cramped for some.

Alternatives: Alfa Romeo Spider, from £25,374. BMW Z4, from £23,707. Caterham Seven, from £19,695. Honda S2000, from £27,604. Lotus Elise, from £24,950.

MG TF from £16,055.

Mazda MX-5
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