I’ve always been full of admiration for the Mazda MX-5.
Against a backdrop of anodyne SUVs, it stands out as a beacon of fun, a reminder that driving isn’t just a chore to be endured, but to be enjoyed.
However, there have been those who’ve felt the MX-5’s remarkable chassis has been held back by a lack of power.
To answer that, the company has given the 2.0-litre engine a comprehensive going-over aimed at making it spin harder and faster.
Mazda’s engineers have opted for lighter pistons and con-rods (by 27 and 41 grams respectively, if you’re interested), and improved airflow thanks to larger throttle and intake ports, lighter exhaust valves and a high-lift exhaust camshaft.
Air intake temperatures have been lowered, while fuel is now injected at higher pressures through new high-diffusion injectors. A new low-inertia dual-mass flywheel allows the engine to spin up more freely, while the reduced internal mass has allowed Mazda to raise the redline from 6,800 rpm to 7,500 rpm.
The result is a jump in power from 160 to 184ps, now achieved 1,000 rpm further up the rev range at 7,000 rpm.
If you still mourn the demise of the rev-monster that was the Honda S2000, this new MX-5 will be right up your alley.
Below 4,500 rpm it feels distinctly lethargic, but push it towards the extremities of the rev counter, wring out every last revolution, and it becomes a much more lively beast.
Personally, because I live in the congested south east of England where there just isn’t time to rev out an engine before a speed camera jumps out at you, I would have preferred more in the way of low-down torque. Yes, peak torque has increased slightly and arrives marginally earlier, but it’s only 5 Nm and by 600 rpm.
To some extent then, the new 2.0-litre is answering a question I wasn’t asking.
But then I was one of those weirdos that always preferred the smaller 1.5 because it’s better balanced, and in the real world – away from the sinuous traffic-free tarmac of a far-flung press launch – the way a car feels is more important to me than how quickly it can get me into trouble.
Something I was asking for was to have a little more cabin space and greater adjustability in the driving position, so I was chuffed when Mazda announced they’d added a telescopic steering column.
Don’t get too excited, though, as it only offers 30mm of travel. Realistically that’s more likely to benefit shorter drivers, so us six-plus-footers will still find our experience compromised by a lack of rearward seat travel, a curious lump in the floor and a handbrake that’s almost wilfully situated to make entry and egress difficult.
I was also hoping to see a digital speedo in place of the unnecessary gearshift indicator, but alas that one remains on our wish-list, too.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now available thanks to a dealer retrofit accessory, so that’s at least one item off our list. Plus there’s a greater array of electro-safety goodies with Sport Nav cars featuring front and rear Smart City Brake Support, Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition and Driver Attention Alert. Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Adaptive LED headlights and a rear-view camera are available as part of an optional Safety Pack that’s standard on the new GT Sport Nav+ model.
What definitely hasn’t changed is the way the MX-5 drives – it’s still a masterpiece of chassis tuning and driver engagement, and no amount of quibbling about how far the seat moves or where the power is developed will change that. Quite simply, there is no other car in production today that offers the opportunity to have quite so much fun at everyday speeds.
If, like me, you prefer the more authentic experience offered by the 1.5, it too has received its fair share of revisions, resulting in a slight power and torque boost plus a modest economy improvement.
The 2.0-litre RF we spent a week with impressed us by notching up an average of 45.1 mpg, beating its official WLTP-certified figure of 40.9 mpg.
And although our GT Sport Nav+ started to look a little pricey at £28,465 after options, the £18,995 Mazda asks for the entry level 1.5 convertible is an absolute steal.
As it happens, that’s still the model I’d go for. Well, I would if I could fit.
- Revised 2.0-litre engine now a more rev-oriented beast, peaks at 7,000rpm, needs 4-5k before really responding
- Telescopic steering column only adds a marginal 30mm of travel; still not enough seat travel for tall drivers; handbrake location and lumpy floor still a pain
- Precious little cabin storage space
- Crying out for a digital speedo in place of gearshift indicator
- Still a masterpiece of chassis tuning; consistently delivers simple driving fun at any speed
- 1.5 convertible still the one to go for in our opinion
- 45.1 mpg on test.
|Entry-level Price||£18,995||Price as tested||£28,465|
|Engine||1998cc 4-cyl petrol||Transmission||6-speed manual|
|Power||184ps @ 7,000rpm||Torque||205Nm @ 4,000rpm|
|0-62||6.8 secs||Top speed||137 mph|
|Economy||40.9 mpg||CO2||156 g/km|
|Dimensions||3915 x 1735 x 1235 (LxWxH)||Kerb Weight||1148 kg|