Mazda MX-5 Review 2024

Mazda MX-5 At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
In a world of low-emission zones and high living costs, a two-seater sports car is an extravagance many can do without. The Mazda MX-5 is easy to justify, though – it’s fun to drive, well equipped and won't cost as much to run as you expect.

+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. Technology is now looking a bit dated. Not available with an auto gearbox (but that's no real loss).

New prices start from £18,455, brokers can source from £24,400
Insurance Groups are between 24–30
On average it achieves 103% of the official MPG figure

Looking to buy a car that’ll put a smile on your face every time you drive it? The Mazda MX-5 will do just that. This affordable convertible is more fun to drive than any oversized SUV, while it won't necessarily cost a lot more to run than a future-proof electric car. The catch? It’s not all that practical, while the infotainment display is starting to look dated. Read our full Mazda MX-5 review to find out why it’s one of the best sports cars you can buy.

Now in its fourth generation, the latest Mazda MX-5 is just as small (and light) as the original model from 1989. That’s quite significant in a world of increasingly obese cars. In soft-top form it weighs around 1100kg, while the Mazda MX-5 RF is only marginally heavier.

There are two engines available in the Mazda MX-5: a 1.5-litre or a 2.0-litre. Both are petrol-powered, each uninhibited by turbos or hybrid technology.

We actually quite like the entry-level 1.5-litre engine. With just 132PS, it's not that quick (on paper), but having to drop down a gear or two to accelerate out of a corner is all part of the MX-5 fun. You can really wring its neck and you’ll never be travelling at silly speeds, while the distinct exhaust note adds to the enjoyment.

The 2.0-litre feels noticeably brisker - especially since it was updated in 2018 to deliver 184PS. That doesn't sound a lot but remember, the Mazda MX-5 weighs significantly less than any modern hot hatch.

There’s enough punch here to spin up the rear wheels with some clumsy footwork, especially in wet conditions.

Power goes to the rear wheels, allowing the front to handle going around corners. And it’s flipping brilliant at that – thanks to the sharp steering and near-perfect driving position. You’ll notice a small amount of body roll in stock form, but that adds to the enjoyment as you fling it around.

Another thing in the entry-level Mazda MX-5's favour is the diddy 16-inch alloy wheels and chunky, high-profile tyres that are fitted as standard.

This combo means it rides much better than a sports car ought too; it feels perfectly set up for uneven British B-roads.

As you’d expect, practicality isn’t the Mazda MX-5’s strong point. It’s pretty cramped inside, meaning some taller drivers might feel a few aches and pains over a longer journey.

You might want to check you actually fit before getting too excited about the prospect of a Mazda MX-5.

There aren’t any rear seats... or even a conventional glove box. There is a useful stowage box behind the seats, along with a few flimsy (and removal) cup holders. There's a distinct lack of space for storing your mobile phone, but that’s the price you pay for driving a back-to-basics sports car.

The 127-litre boot means you'll have to pack lightly for a weekend away, but you might be surprised how many squishy things you can fit in there and still close the lid. We wouldn't recommend that approach with the weekly shop – things could soon get messy.

While the interior isn't as posh as inside an Audi TT Roadster or BMW Z4, it looks (and feels) well-finished. The seven-inch infotainment display is now looking a bit dated, but it's easy to use – helped by the rotary controller between the seats.

Equipment levels are pretty comprehensive, with even entry-level cars now featuring heated seats, cruise control and wireless Apple CarPlay.

Prices for a new Mazda MX-5 start from around £26,000, while the 2.0-litre is a smidgen over £30,000. While not quite the bargain it once was (£18,500 would buy you a brand new Mazda MX-5 in 2015), we still think it's a huge amount of fun for the price of a Volkswagen Golf.

An exceptional reliability record and a huge support network mean the Mazda MX-5 can be a brilliant used purchase, too.

An early fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 can now be picked up for just £12,000. While there has been a constant stream of minor updates over the years, even an expert would struggle to tell the difference between an early example and one of the latest 2023 models.

Ask Honest John

What used two-seater convertible do you suggest?

"I'm looking to buy a 2-seater convertible to keep at our holiday home. Budget of £8-10k. I really like the look of the Mercedes SL, but have heard that they can have issues with the batteries if not driven regularly. Unfortunately, we don’t gave the option of plugging it into a trickle charger and given the car may go 3-4 weeks without being driven, would love to hear of something stylish and fun that could cope with that. "
We'd recommend a Mazda MX-5. It's the UK's favourite sports car for a reason: it's great to drive, represents excellent value for money and is exceptionally reliable. From experience, a Mazda MX-5 should manage three or four weeks without being driven. Your budget will get an early example of the latest (fourth-generation) model which still looks and feels like a very modern car. Don't dismiss the older third-generation MX-5, though, it's a bit more spacious and more comfortable than the later car. If you'd prefer something with a premium badge, take a look at the BMW Z4.
Answered by Andrew Brady

Does the Mazda MX-5 RC have the same drainage holes as the soft top?

"I have a Mazda MX-5 RC with folding hardtop. Does this model have the same problematic water drainage holes as the soft-top? I've owned the soft-top and I think the roof attachment of the RC is sufficiently different not to need the drain tubes. Please can you advise me?"
Although the hard top MX-5 offers better water resistance than the soft top, it has the same drainage holes, so you may still experience problems if they become blocked. A quick search online should bring up several guides on how best to clean these out to avoid issues in wet weather.
Answered by David Ross

What comfortable but reasonably fast car would you suggest on a £35k budget?

"I have owned a sports car as a second car for many years and currently have a BMW M2. Due to advancing years and the poor state of the roads I would like a car with a more pliant suspension but still reasonably fast. I would appreciate any suggestions for a small (the M2 width only just fits my garage) two or four seater car for around £35,000, either new, used or classic."
You could get a really nice Mazda MX-5 well within budget. It won't be as fast as your BMW M2 but it'll be a lot of fun in a different kind of way - and it's relatively soft compared to other sports cars. Alternatively, you could go down the classic route - an R129 generation Mercedes SL (sold between 1989 and 2001) is a modern classic with compliant suspension.
Answered by Andrew Brady

Which tyres should we fit it our MX-5?

"Looking forward to picking up our 2016 MX-5 next weekend. We want new tyres suitable for use throughout the year, but not for ice and snow. We won’t do track days and need a sensible performance tyre for dry and wet conditions on road. What do you recommend for that purpose? "
Take a look at the Uniroyal Rainsport 5 tyres. They've been developed to provide exceptional wet weather performance and they're very highly rated with MX-5 owners in all conditions. They also represent good value for money. Enjoy your MX-5!
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions

What does a Mazda MX-5 cost?

Buy new from £24,400(list price from £28,015)