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MX-5 Makeover – Mazda's Cool Convertible Driven
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
When the much-loved MGB Roadster was finally laid to rest in 1980, many feared that we would not see its like again. Mazda had other ideas and in 1989 launched the MX-5. Far from being innovative, the MX-5 took an established concept and updated it, with the added bonus of Japanese reliability and build quality thrown in for good measure.

It was perhaps a gamble on Mazda’s part but it soon found out that demand still existed for an affordable two-seat sports car that was fun to drive. It also dramatically increased the profile of the company and even today the MX-5 casts a halo over the now extensive range of Mazda cars.

With over one million world-wide sales to date, the MX-5 is also a Guinness record breaker, holding the title of the world’s best selling roadster.

The fourth generation model has been on sale for a few years now in both convertible and retractable fastback forms. Time for a few changes to keep it at the top of its game...

The promise of a couple of days driving the updated model on empty Irish roads was too good to resist and I was soon Belfast bound.

At the press briefing Mazda UK MD Jeremy Thomson waxed lyrical about the MX-5 and the assembled gathering of seasoned hacks seemed to agree.

An interesting fact is just how affordable the MX-5 is and always has been. Back in 1990, the Mk1 cost a reasonable £14,249 and yet 28 years later, the latest car costs from just £18,995.

In the flesh, the new MX-5 still looks good, sitting as it does on a footprint almost identical to the original. Popular Mazda colour Soul Red Metallic especially suits the roadster and would be my choice.

The diminutive 1.5-litre engine has had a modest power increase to 132PS and remains an efficient and economical choice. For many it will be ideal.

Of more interest to the spirited driver, a category into which I most definitely fall, is the introduction of a new more powerful 2.0-litre engine.

With 184PS now available to be unleashed, the MX-5’s 0-62mph sprint time falls by 0.8 seconds to just 6.5 seconds. This more powerful motor can also now be redlined at a heady 7,500rpm, though in truth things get somewhat raucous if driven thus. Better to enjoy the 205Nm of torque and make good use of the slick six-speed manual gearbox.

Inevitably if you use the power to the full, and why wouldn’t you if you’ve just bought an engaging sports car, you won’t achieve the 40.9mpg Mazda quotes for the combined cycle. Early 30s is more realistic I would suggest.

The Irish weather was good enough to make roof-down motoring the order of the day, but one particularly heavy shower did see us cocoon ourselves in the snug cabin... I was grateful for my woolly hat as our test route was long and after a while the wind does nip at the ears on cooler days.

Folding the roof is a simple one-handed job and can be accomplished from the driver’s seat, so no excuses for not making the most of any fine weather.

For now the new 184PS engine is only available in top GT Sports Nav+ trim and with it comes the sports suspension set up with Bilstein dampers, a limited slip differential and strut brace. These additions maintain the MX-5’s composed ride quality, but inspire much confidence in the bends due to lack of body roll.

The low-slung sporty driving position, comfortable and cosy cabin and generally excellent road manners will also delight. Powerful, fade-free brakes do a sterling job too as does the raft of standard-fit safety equipment.

Also by Andy Harris...
Tesla Model 3 Makes Its UK Debut
Maserati Levante Gains New Entry-Level V6 Petrol Engine
Velar Revisited – Catching Up With The Rakish Range Rover
JCT Founder Jack Tordoff Honoured With An OBE
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – Updates To The Popular Green SUV
I challenge anyone looking for a fun sports car not to be seduced by the MX-5’s considerable charms. Be in no doubt, the MX-5 is a very fine driver’s car and the more powerful engine will be appreciated by the keener driver.

I was lucky enough to own a 1991 MX-5 for many years and now that I am at the age where sensible family transport is no longer a necessity, maybe it’s time to return to the fold. Fire up the online configurator...

Fast Facts

Mazda MX-5 GT Sports Nav
Convertible and Retractable Fastback (RF) versions
{B}Price from £25,759
184PS 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G engine
Six-speed manual gearbox
0-62mph in 6.5 seconds
Combined economy 40.9mpg
Emissions 156g/km CO2
Soul Red Crystal paint £790

MX-5 Makeover – Mazda's Cool Convertible Driven, 18th September 2018, 12:43 PM