Review: Mazda MX-5 (2005 – 2015)

Rating:

A great sports car. Incredibly nimble. Responsive steering. Easy to live with day to day. Comparatively inexpensive to run. Roof is easy to fold down.

Limited cabin space. Requires special coolant. Roof not electric.

Recently Added To This Review

30 August 2019

Report of clunking from rear of 68k mile 2008 Mazda MX-5 when cornering right or left. Drop linkes replaced but clunking continues. Possibly CV joints. Read more

24 August 2019

Report of rainwater getting into the boot of a 2011 Mazda MX-5. See: 27-3-2018; 28-1-2018; 5-7-2014; and general intro to this section. Read more

21 May 2019

Tapping/rattle noise reported from engine of 2005 MX-5 2.0i. Starts around 2,500 revs and seems to disappear over 3,500/4,000. Owner can only hear it when he throttles off or at the point when he is... Read more

Mazda MX-5 (2005 – 2015): At A Glance

Lots of people claim to be father of the Mazda MX5. The story I like most came from Shigharu Hiraiwa, original project leader. The task fell to him to sell the MX5 concept to the then formidable three-man Mazda main board.

He simply said, "would you like to build a car for one third less than a Mazda 323?" All three heads nodded in the affirmative. He then asked, "would you like to sell that car for one third more than a Mazda 323?" all three heads nodded enthusiastically. That's how the original Mazda MX5 got signed off. Now, 16 years and 721,000 sales later, we have a third incarnation of the most successful sportscar ever built.

Mazda MX5 2005 Road Test

Mazda MX5 Roadster Coupe 2006 Road Test

Mazda MX5 2009 Road Test

 

What does a Mazda MX-5 (2005 – 2015) cost?

List Price from £19,490
Contract hire from £167.15 per month
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Mazda MX-5 (2005 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 3995–4020 mm
Width 1720 mm
Height 1245 mm
Wheelbase 2330 mm

Full specifications

Some important differences are a slightly longer wheelbase, theoretically allowing drivers up to 6' 1" tall to fit comfortably inside the car. The soft-top latch is now central, enabling the hood to be folded up or down single-handedly in as little as 3 seconds.

First impressions are there's lots to like. Details such as the switches and door handles and the feel of the steering wheel are all really nice. There are four cupholders (for two passengers?) in the doors and centre console, but of course the centre console doubles as a space to keep mobile phones, digital cameras and other bits and pieces. The top really does go up or down in 3 seconds, and stores neatly, level with the waist of the car. The steering wheel is height-adjustable and the seat is rake-adjustable, but drivers with longer legs will find themselves sitting upright because with the seat right back the built-in roll hoops stop it being reclined at all. It was ideal for me at 5' 9", and everything was in the right place. But I'd urge anyone taller to go for an extended test drive before swallowing the notion that a six-footer can be really comfortable.

Apart from the console cupholder storage, a decent sized glove locker and a lockable compartment behind the seats, there isn't any storage space inside the car (zoom zoom without much room room). And though the boot takes 150 litres, and will take golf clubs laid across, 150 litres isn't very much. So Mazda offers an accessory bootrack and airline cabin compatible aluminium suitcase, which are worth investing in if you were planning a touring holiday in the car.

Child seats that fit a Mazda MX-5 (2005 – 2015)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

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What's the Mazda MX-5 (2005 – 2015) like to drive?

The new chain-cam engines are more powerful, yet the 1.8 offers better fuel economy and lower emissions, making it a better BIK deal for company drivers. And, despite being bigger and better, the car is only 10kg heavier than before. Some of the weight saving has been in the suspension which now has aluminium rather than pressed steel wishbones and ultra lightweight anti-roll bars, and the fuel injection system is a light plastic moulding rather than a heavy metal casting.

The new car had a long gestation and project leader Nobuhiro Yamamoto was keen to emphasise the singleminded concentration on ‘Jinba Ittai', the ancient Japanese martial art of horseback archery that required man and his mount to work together in perfect harmony (the very qualities that made the MX5 Mk 1 and 11 so well loved). 320 sketches from Mazda design studios in California, Germany and Japan were refined into seven quarter scale models, then three full-scale models that had to pass the test of being recognisably MX5s from 100 metres. The Japanese design won, but details from both the Californian and German cars were incorporated into the final production car.

Out on the road, it accelerates well and handles beautifully but on our 2.0i 6-speed there was a bit of a power spike between 2,500 and 3,000rpm that needed to be ‘driven around'. No problem once you got used to it, but a good reason to leave the standard DSC working on wet winter roads. The mesh windbreak works well and you don't get uncomfortably buffeted even at up to 120mph.

To give us a chance to fling the car around in relative safety, Mazda booked a go-kart track for the morning. That's right. An impossibly tight, twisting, narrow go-kart track. It was second gear all the way, maximum speed no more than about 50mph and a lot of it no more than 30, yet the objective of proving how chuckable the car can be was achieved. It was a severe test of the otherwise very progressive brakes, though, which faded badly given the go-kart treatment. Not that this is likely on the open road.

Then, we got to drive the theoretically much slower 126PS 1.8i 5-speed, and I'm pleased to tell you that the cheaper car is a peach. With a sweetly progressive power delivery and no DSC, it really can be driven hard yet kept on the right side of the road, bringing smiles and no nasty surprises at all. On its squidgy Yokohama tyres it was totally predictable, every wheel sending a separate message of exactly how much traction it was getting and giving a useful margin for error. ‘Jimba Ittai' personified. Absolutely huge fun. Better even than a MINI Cooper. And with excellent ride quality that soaked up all kinds of dodgy road surfaces.

So, though the 2.0i 6-speed is the faster car, it's the £16,400 1.8i with cloth top and alloys that gets a very enthusiastic nod for being just a touch more friendly to drive. But do make sure it comes on those soft-compound Yokohama ADVAN 205/50 R16 tyres

MAZDA MX5 2009 UPDATE

The Mazda 5 has had a facelift.

It's a bit like meeting an old girlfriend, thinking she looks a lot better than you remember, and not being quite sure why.

She went to the right plastic surgeon. Instead of major scalpel work it's just been a neat nip and tuck. A half measure of botox in the lips. A bit of sculpting around the eyes. A shapelier rear end. And suddenly she's a new, younger woman.

There's also been a bit of surgery under the skin. The rev limit of the 160PS 2.0 litre engine has been raised to 7,500rpm, allowing it to unleash its full power at 7,000, so you can stay in the gears longer. A new Induction Sound Enhancer makes her a bit more aural when she's performing.

Yet, surprisingly, she's easier on the wallet. Fuel economy is up to 38.17 mpg and emissions down to 177g/km or 181g/km for the Sport, bringing her one band down in the annual tax.

The 1.8i is also improved in this respect, up from 38.7mpg combined to 40.1mpg, and down from 174k/km to 167g/km.

For the second time in Britain, there's also the option of an automatic transmission with the 2.0 litre engine. An auto was, very briefly, available in the MX5 Mk II. But the new one is a six-speed, full torque-converter jobbie, confusingly called ‘Powershift', like Ford's entirely different box, and with the benefit steering wheel paddleshifters. Possibly one for the ladies, but there were so few autos available on the launch we didn't get a chance to try it.

There's no longer a base model with plastic hood and steel wheels. The range now starts with a canvas top and alloys. All get a leather covered steering wheel, gearknob and parking brake grip. The radio/CD is MP3 compatible and has an aux jack and six speakers. All have revised front suspension giving more linear steering, and Dynamic Stability Control. All 2.0is come with Traction Control and a limited slip diff.

2.0i Sports get Bilstein dampers, 17" alloys with 205/45 Bridgestone Potenzas, front strut brace, 6 speed manual box, front fogs, heated leather seats, climate control aircon, cruise control, a BOSE premium sound system with 6CD autochanger, 7 speakers and a Bluetooth hands free system for your mobile phone. In fact it's actually an enhanced version of the spec for the 2005 MX5 Mk III Special Launch Edition.

And, of course, instead of a soft-top, you can opt for the ‘Roadster Coupe' with a hardtop that retracts into a space above the boot in just 12 seconds without interfering with the luggage capacity of the boot.

The keeper of the keys had decreed that if we wanted to drive an automatic we had to be Belgian. So we left the paddleshifters to the Frites and started our test in 2.0i Roadster Coupe Sport, moved on to a 1.8i Roadster Coupe, and, next day, because some other nation had its towels on the autos, we finished off driving right round the Amalfi coast in another 2.0i RC Sport.

On our journeys we encountered every weather condition imaginable apart from sustained, warm sunshine, so the tin tops remained over our heads.

The 1.8i was fine, with a much better ride quality on its sensible 205/50 R16 Yokohamas than the 2.0i Sport on 205/45 R17s and stiffer dampers. The adoption of DSC was very helpful because when we hit icy grease on a couple of corners it stopped the car getting seriously out of shape. And really, it's fine. If you want a fun, sporty car that's good to drive on real roads whether they're potholed or not, you don't lose out with the 1.8i engine and its nicely spaced 5-speed box. And, at £16,345, it's actually £5 cheaper than the original MX5 1.8i Option Pack was back in 2005.

It's just that if you're a bit more serious about your sportscars, then you have to have the 2.0i Sport, whether you prefer canvas or tin between your head and the rain.

Somehow or other in this one I never found myself in the wrong gear. Second was as low as I needed to go for hairpins to keep the engine on the boil. Third allowed a huge range of speed for just one gear. The engine always pulled cleanly. 6th gave about 24mph per 1,000rpm. The combination was as near perfect as it gets for under £20k.

Actually, it doesn't get better under £30,000, even including the Honda S2000 in your sums.

Driving MX5s again the day after the Abarth 500 brings home how much better a good rear-drive sports car can be than anything with front wheel drive. Which isn't to say the Abarth 500 paled in comparison. It was just a completely different kind of car.

At some time in the not too distant future, I have to take an MX5 2.0i Sport up Gurston hillclimb to see how it handles those two very difficult bends.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.8i 39–40 mpg 9.4–9.9 s 167–174 g/km
2.0i 35–37 mpg 7.6–7.9 s 177–193 g/km
2.0i PowerShift 35 mpg 8.5 s 188 g/km

Real MPG average for a Mazda MX-5 (2005 – 2015)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

93%

Real MPG

26–43 mpg

MPGs submitted

208

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Mazda MX-5 (2005 – 2015)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

What is a pensioners racing car?

My wife and I - both pensioners - are car enthusiasts. We recently bought a Kia Sorento KX3 automatic for towing the caravan and now would like a car for local journeys. We want either a car very good to look at or a performance car. Our budget is less than £10k. What do you suggest?
In your position, I'd be tempted by a Mazda MX-5. Your budget will get you a third-generation model (https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/mazda/mx5-2005/) with the 2.0-litre engine, producing 160PS and hitting 62mph in 7.9 seconds. It's not the most powerful car you could buy for the money, but it's a lot of fun and will also be cheap to run. If you'd prefer a bit more practicality, consider a hot hatch like the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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