Mazda MX-5 2.0 2019 Road Test

The world loves the Mazda MX-5. More than a million have been sold since the original was launched in 1989 and the latest model arrived to universal praise in 2015. Three years later, it’s still one of our favourite sports cars on the market - and in 2018, our readers helped it win the Honest John Convertible of the year award.

The MX-5 has never been about 0-62mph times, majoring instead on a pure, lightweight driving experience made up of incredible handling and a short, snappy gear change. A rev-hungry four-cylinder petrol engine combined with a raspy exhaust note has been enough to please the majority of MX-5 buyers for more than 25 years, but that doesn’t mean a small minority don’t wish it had a bit more power.

So, for the 2019 MX-5, Mazda’s not bothered with the usual cosmetic updates we’d expect from a mid-life facelift. As far as design updates go, the alloy wheels are offered in a slightly different shade of grey - but you'd have to be a true MX-5 aficionado to spot the difference.

Instead, both the 1.5 and 2.0-litre engines have been upgraded. The entry-level 1.5 is up just 1PS, but the 2.0-litre now has 184PS, up from 160PS. It’s the latter we’re testing here.

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As a result of that power boost, the 2.0-litre will now hit 62mph in 6.5 seconds - 0.8 seconds quicker than before. But it feels faster than that. For the first time ever, the MX-5 now feels almost hot hatch quick. Spin the engine towards its (now higher) 7500rpm rev limit and the car surges forward, all the while the MX-5’s compact dimensions and low seating position means you’re totally immersed in the experience.

Mazda hasn’t fiddled with the six-speed manual gearbox, which is a relief because it’s fantastic. With one of the most enjoyable shifts ever fitted to a road car, you’ll find yourself changing gear for the fun of it - helped also by well-placed pedals and a sharp throttle response.

When you're not in the mood for driving enthusiastically, the MX-5 is a little compromised. You'll feel bumps in the road and the steering is a touch on the darty side for motorway driving. There's a lot of wind noise, too, the disadvantage of choosing the fabric soft-top MX-5 rather than the RF with its folding hard-top.

For the first time, start-stop technology has been fitted to the MX-5 to help it pass new WLTP fuel economy tests. It’s not a huge change and, obviously, you’re not going to notice it until you put it in neutral, release the clutch and the engine intentionally conks out.

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A new rearview camera is fitted as standard to the GT Sport Nav+ and is available as part of an option pack on the Sport Nav+. You might not think an MX-5 needs a camera to help you reverse but visibility isn’t great, especially with the roof up, so it does come in handy.

Practicality has always been the MX-5’s biggest downfall. It’s not that the boot’s small - it can fit a couple of overnight bags, which is fine most of the time - it’s the lack of storage space inside the cabin that’s more of an issue. There are a few flimsy cup holders (redesigned for 2019, apparently) but no glove box or door bins. There’s some useful storage behind the seats, but nowhere to put your phone while driving.

Do we think the MX-5 needed the extra power? Not really. But we’re not going to pretend we didn’t enjoy every second of driving the MX-5 during its launch in Northern Ireland.

The car isn’t transformed by any stretch of the imagination; if you’ve never ‘got’ MX-5s, it still won’t appeal to you. But if you are an MX-5 person, the latest model is just that bit more perfect. And if you want a two-seat convertible, there's nothing else that competes for the money.

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 is on sale now.

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