Review: Mazda MX-5 (2015)
Excellent handling makes it fun to drive. 1.5-litre model works very well on uneven UK roads. 2.0 as quick as many drivers would ever want. Well-equipped for the money.
No rear seats. Avoid the automatic gearbox unless you really need an auto.
Mazda MX-5 (2015): At A Glance
- New prices start from £18,455, brokers can source from £20,355
- Contract hire deals from £167.15 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 24–30
- On average it achieves 102% of the official MPG figure
The latest Mazda MX-5 sticks to the formula that has made Mazda's little sports car so popular. It’s small, light, affordable and fantastic fun. But there are some changes. This time around it's more aggressively styled and has new engines but as ever it's still easy to live with every day.
There are two engines to choose from – a 1.5-litre initially available with 131PS and a 2.0-litre with 160PS. These increased to 132PS and 184PS respectively from 2019.
The free-revving 1.5-litre is all most MX-5 buyers will need. It has an enjoyable exhaust note and sprightly performance, taking 8.3 seconds to get from 0-62mph. From 2019, the 2.0-litre takes just 6.5 seconds to reach 62mph, meaning it feels genuinely quick. It also benefits from a limited-slip differential to sharpen up the handling over the 1.5.
Those extras aren't really necessary for drivers who don't participate in track days though. The 1.5-litre might not be quite as immediately direct as the 2.0-litre, but it rides slightly better and works wonderfully well on pockmarked British roads, providing huge amounts of fun and driver feedback, even at low speeds.
The fun-factor is ramped up even more when the fabric roof is down. This is a simple, manually operated affair with a latch near the rearview mirror. The handbook recommends getting out of the car, but it can easily be folded up or down from the driver’s seat, even with a seat belt on. It takes a few seconds and no real strength is required.
Fun though the MX-5 is, there is no escaping its tiny size. The cabin is quite cramped for taller drivers and there aren’t many places to store odds and ends like change or drinks. The boot isn’t particularly spacious either – although it does have enough room for some weekend bags or a trip to the shops.
But criticising the MX-5 for its practicality is missing the point. If you want excellent driving dynamics and top-down motoring at a fairly reasonable cost, there is simply no better alternative. There are some great hot hatches for similar money, but none can match the MX-5 for pure, simple, back-to-basics fun.
What does a Mazda MX-5 (2015) cost?
Mazda MX-5 (2015): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 130 litres
The MX-5 only has two seats, so it isn’t the most practical car. The low slung driving position makes for an enjoyable drive, although getting in and out can be tricky and taller occupants might find things cramped. That said, most people will be able to find a comfortable seating position without much difficulty.
Storage space in the cabin is limited, though there is a small glovebox located – oddly – behind and between the two seats. There’s also a tiny storage area behind the gear lever. Aside from these there are small door pockets and a pair of awkwardly-placed cup holders.
The rest of the cabin is fine – the plastics are generally fairly sturdy and strong, although it’s clear where Mazda has shaved weight. The sun visors, for example, are made of very thin plastic – though they still do the job. Thankfully Mazda hasn’t skimped on quality when it comes to things like dials and switches, many of which are finished in metal.
The boot isn’t the largest, but it’s big enough for a shopping trip or a pair of weekend bags. Unfortunately the design is awkward and requires things to be lifted up quite high and then dropped in. It’s a bit of a pain when loading or unloading heavier bags.
The previous MX-5 was available with an electronically-operated folding hard top as well as the manual soft top, but this time around only the latter is available. It’s thankfully very easy to operate, with a simple catch. Everything clicks reassuringly into place whether folding or unfolding, which can be done from the driver’s seat in a few seconds, though only when stationary.
All cars have alloy wheels, LED headlights, electric windows, air conditioning and USB connectivity. SE-L models add some creature comforts like a touchscreen system with Bluetooth and climate control in place of manual air conditioning. Top-spec Sport models gain leather, auto lights, auto wipers, heated seats, keyless entry and BOSE audio.
SE trim comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, cloth upholstery, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear lever, trip computer, detatchable cup holder, electric windows, manual air-conditioning, plus USB and AUX inputs for the audio system.
SE-L trim adds LED running lights, red-stitching, an additional cupholder, cruise control, climate control, 7-inch touchscreen, additional USB connector, Bluetooth for audio streaming, phonecalls and web connectivity. 2.0-litre models gain a limited slip differential, front strut brace and larger 17-inch alloy wheels. Nav models gain satellite navigation.
Sport trim adds gunmetal alloy wheel finish, auto wipers, auto lights with adaptive front light system, leather upholstery, heated seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless entry, premium BOSE audio, lane departure warning system. 2.0-litre models gain a limited slip differential, front strut brace, Bilstein dampers and larger, 17-inch alloy wheels. Nav models gain satellite navigation.
Child seats that fit a Mazda MX-5 (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.
What's the Mazda MX-5 (2015) like to drive?
Neither of the available MX-5 engines is particularly scintillating in terms of outright performance. The basic 131PS 1.5-litre petrol can get the car from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds, a figure reduced to 7.3 seconds if you opt for the 160PS 2.0-litre. But the MX-5’s fairly ordinary performance figures don’t translate into boring driving.
In fact the MX-5 feels fantastic, even at low speeds. The low-slung seat and sporty driving position provide a great sense of connection with the car, while the controls feel rewardingly slick, well-weighted and accurate. The steering is immediate and precise, the gear lever is positive and the pedals are very well spaced, making a challenging road a rewarding experience, whichever engine is under the bonnet.
Despite its lower power output we don’t think there is a real penalty for picking the 1.5-litre over the 2.0-litre, since on the road the performance difference is negligible. The 2.0-litre does have a front anti-roll bar designed to sharpen the steering, along with a limited slip differential for tighter cornering, and these changes make the car feel a little stiffer than the 1.5 over typically uneven British roads.
Regardless of engine, the MX-5 feels poised and balanced through corners. There’s a little more body roll than you might get in a hot hatch like a Ford Fiesta ST, but the MX-5 gives the driver so much feedback it doesn’t matter. It might not be capable of taking corners at tremendously high speeds, but the sensation of driving is wonderfully communicated even at normal road speeds – and the driving fun is accompanied by a raspy exhaust note.
Around town the MX-5 isn’t any trouble thanks to its compact size, although rearward visibility with the roof up isn’t great. On the motorway the MX-5 gets a little loud, with plenty of wind noise around area the roof seals. It also feels quite vulnerable around big vehicles like trucks, simply because it is so small and low slung. That said, there are creature comforts like cruise control and lane departure warning on offer to make distance driving a little easier.
With the roof down the cabin can get a little blustery, but thankfully the heating system is very quick to warm up, taking just a couple of minutes. It's handy if you like to drive with the roof down in all seasons, as are the heated seats. Again, these warm up very quickly, although they aren’t standard on all models.
Fuel economy for the 1.5-litre version is 47.1mpg, with emissions of 139g/km, while the 2.0-litre manages 40.9mpg and 161g/km. Those economy figures are fairly realistic in real world driving, but the relatively high emissions mean annual VED isn’t cheap – a shame for such a small, light car.
|1.5 132 RF||46 mpg||8.7 s||143 g/km|
|1.5i 131||47 mpg||8.3 s||139 g/km|
|1.5i 131 RF||46 mpg||-||142 g/km|
|1.5i 132||45 mpg||8.3 s||143 g/km|
|2.0 184 RF||39–41 mpg||6.8–7.9 s||156–157 g/km|
|2.0i 160||41 mpg||7.3 s||161 g/km|
|2.0i 160 Automatic RF||39 mpg||-||167 g/km|
|2.0i 160 RF||41 mpg||7.4 s||161 g/km|
|2.0i 184||41 mpg||6.5 s||156 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Mazda MX-5 (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.
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.
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