At last we’ve had a chance to spend a week in a Mazda MX-5. We were a bit slow at putting up our hands to borrow one to drive on our home territory after the successful media launch drives early in the year. When we say slow, we are talking about being a few seconds late off the mark. The tiny Mazda roadster has proven as popular with the motoring press as it has with owners.

Close to 200 MX-5s with the ‘big’ 2.0-litre engine were sold before the first ship even arrived in the docks downunder. Which might explain why we were given the 1.5-litre to test. Ah, well, it gives us the excuse to get into a 2.0L later.

As well as the standard MX-5, simply called the Roadster, there’s an upmarket one, the Roadster GT. The GT gains 16-inch wheels, black door-mirror housings, a seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, internet radio, automatic lights and wipers, climate control on the air conditioning, and keyless entry and start.

Our test machine was a 1.5-litre Roadster GT.

Shaped for the 21st century, the all-new Mazda MX-5 is no longer an evolution of the first three generations, it’s a clean sheet design.

It comes as no surprise that the MX-5 uses the Kodo design that’s so been so successful in other models in the current Mazda range. Just look at the TV commercial to see the brilliant little roadster leading a V-shaped group of Mazda cars and SUVs.


For the first time, the Mazda MX-5 is offered with two engines. A 1.5-litre, four-cylinder unit with a modest 96 kW of power, and 150 Nm of torque, and a 2.0-litre (118 kW / 200 Nm). The two engines are obviously closely related and feature Mazda’s SkyActiv technology that lets them run a very high compression ratio to provide excellent efficiency.

Mazda offers the MX-5 in five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. In the early days Mazda Australia is finding buyers are going for about 60 per cent manual gearboxes. A wise decision to our way of thinking, though the auto is a sporty little unit it does take the edge of the driving experience.

Unless you’re sentenced to spend most of your commuting life in heavy-duty traffic why not enjoy the excellent gearshift and improved control a ‘real’ gearbox gives you?

Starting with a blank computer screen means the designers have been able to trim a significant amount of weight from that of the 1110 kg NC Series MX-5, bringing the new car down to 1009 kilograms.

Part of the weight reduction means the MX-5 now has a soft-top again, not a folding hardtop.


Mazda’s MZD Connect infotainment system has a 7.0-inch touchscreen and can be operated by a centrally located ‘Commander Control’ that is available as an option on the 1.5-litre Roadster. It’s standard on the 1.5-litre Roadster GT, as well as on both 2.0-litre models.

Not tested as yet, Mazda Australia anticipates a four-star rating from ANCAP.

Operation of the soft-top roof is very simple; you undo a single catch in the centre of the windscreen rail, fold the roof back and it clips down into the open position. You can do it in less than five seconds to grab the best of the conditions, or seal yourself up again if the weather suddenly turns wet.

The engine has been moved slightly backwards and the little roadster can be classed as mid-engined as its complete powerplant is within the wheelbase. It has also been lowered to bring down the centre of gravity even further.

Naturally, Mazda Australia is aiming to find buyers amongst young couples and singles, but makes no secret that it is also chasing empty nesters – those who can afford to own a daily driver as well as a toy car in the form of an MX-5. Being in the empty nester class I find it less than easy to get down onto the seats as the old knees aren’t keen on getting my backside down and up from even lower set seats than in the previous NA to NC series cars.

Once settled in, the seats are great, with very good support for cornering, as well as for long (ish) country trips. But people of all ages who are over 6-feet tall may find legroom limited.

Cornering is simply luscious, the little roadster turns in precisely, almost feeling as though you only have to think it into the corner and it reads your mind. It then determinedly clings on to the black stuff, but is more than happy to change direction mid-corner without a moment’s hesitation.

This machine is simply guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of those who love their cars and getting the best from them.

The MX-5’s ride is impressively comfortably for a car with this sort of balance and superb road grip and is a real credit to the suspension and tyre engineers.

Engine performance from the 1.5-litre is best described as adequate. At times we had to change down a couple of gears on hills that many other cars would have sailed up in top. Fortunately gearchanges on the MX-5 are extremely precise so being forced to make changes can actually make you feel good.

SUMMING UP A brilliant little machine, the Mazda MX-5 still has the timeless feel and sheer driving pleasure that has made it the best selling sportscar of all time.


Roadster 1.5-litre two-door convertible: $31,990 (manual), $33,990 (automatic)
Roadster GT 1.5-litre two-door convertible: $37,990 (manual), $39,990 (automatic)
Roadster 2.0-litre two-door convertible: $34,490 (manual), $36,490 (automatic)
Roadster GT 2.0-litre two-door convertible: $39,550 (manual), $41,550 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mazda dealer for driveaway prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Mazda MX-5 1.5-litre petrol two-door convertible)

Capacity: 1.496 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 96 kW @ 7000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 150 Nm @ 4800 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 95RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.1 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: Not available

Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic

Length: 3915 mm
Wheelbase: 2310 mm
Width: 1735 mm
Height: 1225 mm
Turning Circle: 9.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1032 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 45 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Three years / unlimited km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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