Mazda_MX-5_frontMazda’s evergreen MX-5 has weathered not one but two pretty impressive financial meltdowns – the huge Asian financial disaster in the nineties and the global crisis that is still causing drama.

Cars like the MX-5 are usually the first to go during tough times, but has motored on to its much-anticipated fourth generation.

What’s even rarer is a carmaker leaving alone a winning formula like the MX-5’s and cutting the price at the same time. It must be quite something…

The ND series MX-5 comes in two trim levels with a choice of two engines and manual or automatic transmission. The ranges starts at $31,990 for the 1.5 litre manual Roadster and climbs to $41,550 to the automatic 2.0-litre GT.

Our car was as basic as it gets, a white, manual 1.5-litre manual. For your tick under thirty-two grand you get 16-inch alloys, cruise control, a six speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, LED headlights, leather gear knob and steering wheel, electric windows and keyless entry and start.

The only available options are Soul Red metallic paint (one of six colours) for an entirely reasonable $250 and MZD Connect (touchscreen with satellite navigation) for $1000.


Mazda’s unveiling got the internet talking. To say it was a polarising design is a fairly spectacular understatement. The social media chatter was mostly around the front end, with armchair experts complaining Mazda hadn’t left enough room for a number plate.

Yeah, well, they’re wrong. While you don’t have to like the design, it’s lithe, muscular and everything an MX-5 stands for. It looks light and it is light, crouched low to the ground and looks good roof up or down. Even in the white of our test car it’s a looker.

Inside is so, so much better than the NC. The insult-to-injury of that car was its much higher cost but with a cheap-feeling interior. The ND’s is still heavy on the plastic, but not so much of the snappy, scratchy kind.

The seats are small and just enough, the support coming from the door and transmission tunnel. The small seats mean people of all sizes and shapes (within reason) can fit easily in an MX-5.

The dashboard is a model of clarity, with a large central dial flanked by two smaller dials. In the greatest sports car tradition, the big dial is the tachometer, with the speedo to the right and a small, low-fi LCD panel to the left with all the warnings and levels.

There’s even a couple of drink holders, as well as a lockable storage bin in the rear bulkhead. The glove box does what it says on the tin and no more. The boot swallows a very modest 130 litres, but will take a decent-sized suitcase. The trade-off is a lack of spare tyre.


Four airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake assist, fixed rollover protection and pretensioned seatbelts.
The MX-5 recently scored the maximum five ANCAP safety stars in ANCAP testing.

It’s a pretty basic offering in the entry level Roadster, with a six-speaker stereo paired with a head unit lifted straight from the bargain basement Mazda2. It’s fine and is usable and if it’s good enough for an almost half-a-million dollar Lamborghini Huracan to have six speakers, then it’s probably okay here.

It’s easy to use and pair with your phone but you’re fairly restricted on how you can use the phone and, if following the rules to letter, you have to pull over to change the music you’re playing if you’re on your own.

Mazda’s SkyActiv 1.5-litre four-cylinder – familiar to Mazda2 owners – does duty under the bonnet, producing 96 kW and 150 Nm with the aid of direct-injection.
With the six-speed manual, Mazda claims 6.1L/100km, which is surprisingly not far off the mark, our test car’s 7.1L/100km achieved despite giving it a right good thrashing.

We’ve made a bit of a point of directing your attention to the parts bin raiding to keep both weight and cost down. When you consider the final NC series MX-5 was a hefty $50,000-plus and does basically the same job as this one, the reduction in cost without losing a single ounce of fun is remarkable.

Mazda’s cars are increasingly good fun to drive, but the MX-5 is the one to beat. With rear wheel drive and a limited slip differential to keep things interesting, the revvier 1.5 (you get a higher redline over the 2.0-litre) is a car you really have to push along.
Nothing is a chore in the roadster – the gearshift is slick and precise, the softer of the two suspension tunes means a good ride and a livelier real-world experience. There’s even detectable body roll as you chuck the car into corners.
The great thing about the car is that you can be brutal, bashing up and down the gearbox, harsh steering and braking inputs and you won’t get into trouble. Go the other way, and learn to flow and you will have just as much fun.

While it’s never going to be a hooligan car – expect its turbocharged Fiat sister car, the Fiat 128 Spyder to be a lairier beast, especially when the chippers and tuners get on it/ruin it – its startlingly good balance is most on show here in the entry level.

In everyday life – limited luggage space notwithstanding – it’s easy to drive with its hatchback-based engine and transmission keeping it all light and easy.

The fourth-generation MX-5 roadster is a back to basics marvel, finally taking on the tin-top Toyota 86 price-wise while delivering the roof down, purist thrills for which it’s famous.

With a better interior, much better price and that light nimble chassis, the entry-level car is a cracker. It’s soft, light and has all the power it needs and not a watt more.

LIKES: Simple, cheap, sweet
DISLIKES: Hardly any storage, smartphone integration embarrassed by cheaper cars.

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