by: Mike Ginsca
The Mazda MX-5 is one of those cars that only receives updates every decade or so. Even then, it’s usually just a few new features and an update to the looks because why mess with a recipe that works? For the 4th generation, Mazda gave the MX-5 a new look, a few new features… and a new roof?!
Performance – Before we get to the new roof, this little car hasn’t lost any of it’s driving charm. As one of the last few true 2 seater convertibles out there, it is one of the best to drive just for the sheer enjoyment of driving. The steering is perfectly weighted and precise. The Brembo brakes, that are part of the Sport package, stop the car with ferocity. The suspension is supple over city bumps but just firm enough through twisty mountain roads. The driving dynamics of this little car is second to none for the same price. I challenge anyone to drive this car without a smile on their face.
Under the hood is a 2.0L Skyactiv engine with just 155hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. While it may be less power than this car’s main rival, the Toyota 86 (aka Scion FRS, aka Subaru BRZ), the MX-5 is significantly lighter at just 1,114 kg and that’s what gives it a better 0-100km/h time. There is also the short ratio 6-speed manual gearbox that also gives the edge to the Mazda over the Toy-scio-aru 86-FR-Z. And the 6-speed manual is definitely the transmission to opt for rather than the automatic. Even in city traffic, it is a joy to shift gears manually with a nicely weighted gear shifter and a light clutch with a smooth engagement point.
Comfort – This is where it starts to fall apart a bit for the Mazda MX-5. First things first, yes I am a freak at 6’5” so if you’re as tall or taller than me, the term “comfortable seating position” doesn’t exist. My right knee literally had bruises because every time I braked, it would hit the dashboard. There is just enough headroom with the roof up and elbow and shoulder room are good. As mentioned before, the suspension does a good job absorbing most of the bumps from the road and the optional Recaro seats provide good enough support that long distance trips don’t feel like a form of torture. It’s also decently quiet in the cabin with the roof up but there is still a noticeable amount of wind noise coming from the seals around the windows at highway speeds.
The MX-5 shares a lot of it’s interior design with the CX-3 and has the same level of quality. But unlike the CX-3, Mazda’s engineers had to be clever with space as it is at a premium in the much smaller MX-5. For example, there is no glove box and instead there is a small cubby hole in between the driver and passenger. Cupholders are like interchangeable toys that can be put behind the center armrest (which takes away from elbow space) or next to the gear shifter.
And then there’s the convenience aspects to consider especially on this lower GS trim level. It does have push button start but it does not have keyless entry. So to open the doors, you have to pull out the key, press the unlock button, and then put the key back into your pocket. The trunk also cannot be opened from the outside unless you push the trunk release button on the remote or inside the car. Also this GS trim MX-5 RF starts at just under $39,000 CAD and it does not have automatic climate control but it does have satellite navigation and blind spot monitoring. However on the GT trim, you do get climate control and proper keyless entry. In my opinion I’d be happy switching the navigation and blind spot monitor for climate control and keyless entry.
Odds and Ends – Now to the roof. It folds away in less than 15 seconds and it doesn’t take away from the already small trunk space. Because it’s made of metal rather than fabric, it does provide a sense of security when driving. Operating it is literally as easy as pressing a button. Now for the bad stuff. Yes the roof can be retracted or erected while the car is moving but it has to be below 10 km/h. That speed is painfully slow. Joggers move faster than 10 km/h. Also whether the roof is up or down, the targa style buttresses create huge blind spots over your shoulders. Maybe that’s why blind spot monitoring is standard equipment on the RF MX-5.
Overall the 4th generation Mazda MX-5 is still a fun car to drive and is more refined than ever before. The hardtop roof makes the car feel more like a 3 out of 4 season sports car rather than a 1 out of 4. But it’s hard to recommend an almost $40,000 small sports car when the Toyota 86 is less expensive, more practical, and almost similar driving dynamics. But if you really want a convertible 2 seater, this is the car to get.
Thank you to Mazda Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mazda.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.