by: Mike Ginsca,
In 2016, Mazda introduced the 4th generation of the MX-5 with new looks, lighter chassis, new features, and even a targa hardtop option. Now almost 3 years into the model generation, Mazda has listened to its fans and gave the MX-5 what everyone wanted. More power.
Engine – The engine still displaces 2.0L but for the 2019 model year, it produces 181hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. It’s an upgrade of 26hp and 3 lb-ft of torque over the previous year’s 2.0L engine. In addition to the power, the redline has been raised from around 6,500 rpms to 7,500 rpms. The increase in power makes the 2019 MX-5 even more peppy than before and much faster than its closest rival, the Toyota GT86 (formerly Scion FRS / Subaru BRZ). But you may think “how is the MX-5 faster than the GT86 with its 205hp?”. Well the MX-5 tips the scales at just 1,065 kg whereas the GT86 is closer to 1,250 kg. The lighter chassis not only improves acceleration and handling but also fuel economy. While the engine is more powerful, it’s still frugal with fuel consumption. During my week with the 2019 Mazda MX-5, I managed a combined average of 7.5 L/100km which is on par with what Mazda claims.
Transmission – A 6-speed automatic is available but the 6-speed manual is the better bet in a car like this. It has a nice mechanical feeling when swapping between gears and the clutch is light for everyday use with a distinct engagement point.
Braking – This particular demo vehicle is the GS-P trim with the Sport package which adds these Brembo 4 piston front calipers. Because of the MX-5’s light weight, they provide an enormous amount of stopping force when you stomp hard on the brake pedal. Crashing would be the only way to stop more quickly in the MX-5.
Handling – If you want to know how a sports car should feel like, drive the Mazda MX-5. Its lightweight and precise steering make it the best handling and most enjoyable sports cars on the market right now. The body does roll a bit more than one would expect through corners but it doesn’t feel like it’s unsettling the car. If the back end starts to slide, it’s very easy to catch and control it into a drift or just back into a proper line for fast cornering. It is an absolute blast to drive around a track or twisty mountain roads.
Ride Comfort – The suspension does a good job absorbing most of the bumps from the road and these optional Recaro seats provide good enough support that long distance trips don’t feel like a form of torture. However taller people like myself will have a difficult time finding a comfortable seating position because it’s nearly impossible. For 2019, the steering wheel is telescopic, in addition to tilting, but even so there is not enough leg room and head room is just enough.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – This being a soft top, there is a lot of wind noise intruding into the cabin at almost all speeds with the top up. Thankfully there are no extra annoying noises being produced by the interior trim as it feels well put together. The Mazda MX-5 does not have a sporty-ish exhaust system so the engine noise is not quite as nice to the ears as it is in the Mazda 6 Turbo for example.
Interior Design – The interior remains unchanged from last year’s model but one change are the redesigned cup holders. You can still move them around from the passenger side of the center console to behind the center armrest. But now they hold cups, or Tim Horton’s coffee here in Canada, better than last year’s model.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The base GS trim Mazda MX-5 comes nicely equipped with a lot of safety features such as blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and thanks to government laws, a backup camera! The best bang for your buck though has to be this GS-P trim with or without the Sport package; that depends on your intentions with the car. If you plan on doing a lot of autocross or trackdays with the car, yes the package is worth it otherwise the regular GS-P trim is enough. The Sport package adds the Recaro seats, Brembo front brake calipers, and 17” BBS wheels for $4,400 CAD. The GS-P trim already gives you nice features such as navigation, BOSE premium audio, heated seats, a limited slip differential, and Bilstein shocks. A pretty good package but it is a little on the expensive side at $36,900 CAD. If it was around $2,000 or $2,500 less, then it would be a bargain.
Exterior Design – The exterior sees very, very few changes over the previous year. The biggest noticeable change is the backup camera in the back bumper that Mazda did nothing to try to hide in any way. But overall it’s still and aggressive and handsome looking little car.
The bump in power is definitely a big plus for the 2019 Mazda MX-5. Whether it’s better than the RF version I tested last year, I don’t know. I think I would still prefer the hardtop over this soft top and thankfully, it is still available for the 2019 model year.
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.