The Mazda MX-5 has been with us for over 25 years and in that time it has become the worlds most successful sports car. How? As with most success stories, it kept things simple. Using the blueprint of the classic British sports car, Mazda produced an engaging lightweight machine with plenty of character. Add Japanese reliability and a competitive price tag to the mix and what you have a recipe for a motoring icon. Over the decades several generations moved things on adding more refinement whilst retaining that MX-5 spirit. One thing most motoring journalists have in common is that, at some point in their lives, they have all owned an MX-5. Quite the endorsement if the “experts” are spending their own money on the car. For this all-new 4th generation MX-5 the company wanted to take this two seat convertible back to its roots. Can the ND become the enthusiasts choice just like its forefathers? We snagged the keys to a 2015 Mazda MX-5 2.0 SE-L Nav to find out.
Visually this new car is a big departure from the model it replaces. Gone is the curvaceous front facia and in its place is a far more aggressive design. Raked headlights and a low wide grill immediately highlights a sporting stature. The bonnet is creased like origami creating two peaks at the wheel arches. That said, proportionally it is very much a typical MX-5 featuring a long bonnet and short rear overhang. Some of the details, such as the rear light signature, hark back to the original MK1. In Meteor Grey with dark alloy wheels, our test car emitted a slightly sinister aesthetic, something we liked.
The snug interior, whilst equipped with modern technology, will also have you reminiscing of the 1989 car. Clear but simple instrumentation, a low hip-point, and a general feeling of ergonomic soundness. Body colour panels line the doors creating a sense that the interior and exterior are inextricably linked. Neat circular vents are dotted along the dashboard whilst Mazda’s excellent infotainment system heads the centre console. This car is in SE-L Nav trim and so came equipped with a pair of supportive fabric seats. The lack of storage within the cabin is slightly disappointing and on base models you don’t get a pair of cup holders. A 130 litre boot is enough space for you and your co-driver to spend a weekend away.
This specific 2015 Mazda MX-5 has the 2.0 litre SkyActiv engine under its bonnet which powers the rear wheels. A 1.5 litre unit is also available as an entry level option. In addition to the extra power offered by the larger engine, all 2.0 litre cars get larger alloy wheels and a limited slip-differential. Step above this trim and Sport models are endowed with stiffer dampers. Push the starter button to bring to life a freely revving engine and a nice exhaust note. From the moment you round the first corner this cars lack of weight is immediately noticeable. Being about 100KG lighter than the MK3 it replaces, its agility benefits. Take this car to its natural home of twisting B-roads and that MX-5 magic begins to shine through. The 158BHP 2.0 car has a reasonably quick turn of pace and a broader power band than its 1.5 litre sibling. A six speed manual transmission delivers utterly satisfying shifts with a very mechanical motion. Heel and toe a few changes and you soon feel like part of this highly enjoyable recipe. There is some body roll through fast corners, but good amounts of grip and a pointy front end makes you feel like you could thread the eye of a needle in this sports car. Throw the roof down in one swift motion and you are in Mazda MX-5 nirvana. Feeling a bit naughty? Give the throttle a prod at a pivotal moment and the back end will come out to play. The whole experience is one of balance, feel, and connection. The brakes also benefit from the weight saving and can be modulated with plenty of precision. Without the stiffer dampers this 2015 Mazda MX-5 strikes a good balance between composure at speed and balanced ride quality. Mazda claim that you can even get 40.9MPG on the combined cycle. What’s not to love?
With just an £850 difference between the 1.5 litre car and 2.0 litre, the question on most peoples minds is which one is best? The answer is both. MX-5 with a smaller capacity engine is a bit lighter, but requires the gearbox to be worked harder to make progress. Whilst that is not a bad thing in such an enjoyable car, the 2.0 litre makes effortless overtakes on the motorway without the need to change down a gear. Your preference will dictate your choice, but the small price jump between the two makes the decision entirely up to you. This 2015 Mazda MX-5 came to £21,235 with its options making the fourth generation car attempting proposition once again.