With the MX-5 drivers, it’s a bit like vegans. It’s a great joke that they’d rather tell you that sooner rather than later. And why are they convinced it’s the only right thing. And that’s probably true in the case of the MX-5, after all, the little Mazda is one of the best-selling roadsters ever, with over a million units sold since its introduction in 1989. Youngsters love the car, too. There are over half a million posts on this topic on Instagram alone. Whether it was surprising or not is debatable, but in any case, the MX-5 is the antithesis of the modern motoring lifestyle, where more and more cars are needed to get more and more money.
Conversely, the fourth-generation MX-5 still proves that you don’t need more cars for more driving pleasure, but cutting out the right spots can be just as effective. If not better. Mainly because it ultimately affects the CHF 32,300 starting price for the Mazda MX-5. But there’s equipment just as basic as you’d expect in a small roadster: 16-inch rims, cloth seats, and unpainted mirror caps. A four-cylinder engine with a power of 97 kW (132 hp) is installed longitudinally and with rear-wheel drive. In the Prestige version with a 2-liter engine with 135 kW (184 hp) as in our test car, the price rises to 41,800 francs. Plus, Mazda itself offers all sorts of options you’d normally get from a tuner: lower springs, a sport exhaust, and milled oil caps with pre-available lettering or shaded side indicators.
So much speed, so much fun
Our test car is a Skyactiv-G 184, equipped with a 2-liter engine with 184 hp and 205 Nm. The naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine is installed lengthwise and transmits its power to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. So the standard veteran drive, which today often has to give way to front-wheel drive geometry in the front engine, but is still the surest guarantee of driving pleasure. In the manner typical of naturally-aspirated Japanese engines, the Skyactiv-G features a high top speed of 7,500 rpm and an increasingly linear performance curve that peaks only at 7,000 rpm. Although the engine also responds directly to bursts of gas in the lower speed range, the flex range only reaches between 4,000 and 7,000 rpm. Combined with the close-ratio transmission, this means several gear changes are required to keep the mood high. With short distances and an obvious gearbox, the gear shift itself puts you in a good mood. Compromise on purity: You won’t find a dual-clutch transmission, and the six-speed automatic torque converter is only available on the MX-5 RF Targa version.
In addition to being sporty, the manual transmission has another advantage: it is light, which plays a role in the MX-5’s hand. Even though our test car weighed 1080kg and thus was just above the magical one-ton limit, Mazda actually mentions a value that is slightly less than that of the base equipment. The good thing is that Mazda has also taken a bit of an outdated trend here. While models typically increase in equipment and weight with each facelift, the MX-5 goes in the opposite direction and is constantly downsized. Not only that, the little chip he has on his hips sits almost perfectly with a 52:48 weight distribution. Thus, the handling of the current generation is better than ever, even though this current generation will soon be seven years old.
small electronic innovation
Which brings us to the not-so-great innovation of 2022: motion posture control. It is one of the very few electronic assistants on board the MX-5, and according to the developers, cornering stability should be improved. It’s one of those solutions that only Mazda can come up with. Which interferes so subtly that you never know if the system is now working perfectly or not at all. But over-engineering is one of Mazda’s strengths, just remember how they wanted to improve the car’s directional stability by changing the engine torque…
The motion posture control sounds similarly adventurous. When turning, the electronics give a short braking impulse to the inner rear wheel. Due to the force on the brake disc, the wheel deflects slightly, which leads to rolling stability, reduces body rolling and improves driving stability. However, this is not really noticeable, and whether a lightweight roadster, in which ESP can be turned off without fear of overtaking the rear axle, is the correct application of the system, you should be wary. This is probably one of the reasons – if not the only reason – why the MX-5 is so well received by the boys. It’s wonderfully playful, and with 184 hp and 205 Nm, not much can go wrong when testing the physical limits of driving.
Still with the highest evidence
The irony also extends to the interior, after the car was already seven years old, the cockpits at that time looked a little different than today – and there is absolutely nothing negative in that. The central element behind the steering wheel is an analog tachometer, flanked by an analog tachometer and a small multifunction display. The small 7-inch infotainment system and air-conditioning dials (automatic climate control only available as an optional) look nicely dated and send an unmistakable signal that this car is built to be driven, not run. With the turn button on the center console, this is cumbersome. The roof is also manually operated, not “unlocks in 17 seconds to 45 km/h” or something like that. With a simple movement the roof opens and moves behind the seats. What hasn’t changed over the years is that the MX-5 is a small car for young people. If you are more than 1.85 meters tall, you will have a hard time finding a suitable seating position, and after driving with the roof open, you will inevitably get out of the car with a windy hairstyle. Otherwise, there are few changes in the interior. The glove box between the seats is plentiful, the cup holders are full of speakers, and the speakers built into the headrests come in handy with the top down.
The Mazda MX-5 is a specialized model, now more than ever. It is the antithesis of the common misconception that driving pleasure must be somehow directly related to engine performance. The only model that still follows a similar concept is currently the Subaru BRZ / Toyota GR86 duo, which is not available as a convertible. So when all MX-5 drivers talk proudly about their car without even being asked – we don’t let them jog!
The test result
Total marks 79/ 100
The Mazda MX5’s 2-liter four-cylinder engine produces 184 horsepower, which is enough to get a car weighing about one ton quickly. In the best way, Japanese engines with naturally aspirated, increase their speed (up to 7500 rpm).
Thanks to the car’s low mass, the chassis does not require much. The steering is direct, the car is agile.
The car is too cramped for tall people. a point. Everyone else can be happy that screens and touch panels don’t distract them. It’s all somehow: retro.
The number of assistance systems is reduced to a minimum, even remote cruise control is only available at an additional cost.
Base price 32,300 francs – you can hardly have more fun for less money in a new car. Depreciation is also acceptable, so operating costs should also remain low.
The Mazda MX-5 is a smart little car and a proof that a lot of driving fun can be achieved without a lot of power if the components are right. The high-revving engine, naturally aspirated and closely spaced gearing ensure that weekend trips through the trails or on the occasional track day never get bored.
Our technical data and measured values for this model can be found in the print version and in the electronic sheet of AUTOMOBIL REVUE.