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Mazda MX-5 (2.0-litre Sport Tech Nav Roadster) review

Andrew Unsworth
24 Sep 2013

A bargain two-seat convertible that’s as exciting and engaging as ever, though there are some minor annoyances

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Mazda’s iconic MX-5 is a phenomenally successful two-seat rear-wheel drive sports car that pretty much kickstarted the 90’s appetite for small convertibles. The current generation continues the trend, but modern buyers can choose between two engines: a 1.8-litre, 126ps engine with a 0-60 acceleration time of 9.9 seconds and a 2.0-litre, 160ps engine with 0-60 acceleration time 7.6 seconds for the soft-top version and 7.9 seconds for the hard-top model.

There are also a number of different trim levels and special editions, and more information about these can be found on the Mazda website. The model we’ve reviewed is the 2.0-litre Sport Tech Nav roadster coupe, which has a retractable hard-top roof and looks absolutely stunning from the front, thanks to its long bonnet, fog lights that look as though they belong rather than just tacked on to the design and wide, cheerful grille.

Mazda MX-5 Front Shot

The roadster coupe looks fantastic with the roof up or down, but the excitement it elicits with the roof down on a hot summer day is primal and giddy. Once behind the wheel, it was seconds before we were tearing around country lanes, harassing tight corners and playing music much too loudly as if we were Dustin Hoffman at the start of Straw Dogs.

As you’d expect from a modern roadster, the roof is a cinch to lower. The buttons are located at the top of the centre console, and the roof safely stows away in 14 seconds. It takes 15 seconds to raise it again, but it’s worth noting that you must be stationary in order for the roof to raised or lowered.

Mazda MX-5 Front Three-Quarters

Despite its low stance, getting in and out of the MX-5 isn't too difficult, especially with the roof lowered. That's true as long as you can open the door wide, which can be a problem in multi-storey car parks. No matter what your age or fitness level, any difficulty with entry or exit is well worth putting up with.

TWIST AND SHOUT

Despite having a 2-litre engine and weighing just 1248kg, our Mazda MX-5 Sport Tech Nav felt remarkably calm and well composed in normal driving conditions. There was no drama or raucous expressions of childish aggression from the exhaust, just an easy, effortless cruise that makes the car perfect for driving around congested town centres or promenading through country villages.

However, push the engine beyond 4,000rpm and the MX-5 becomes a different beast. The bonnet rises slightly and there’s a progressive rush of acceleration. The acceleration isn't especially rapid, and it lacks the visceral thrill you get from turbo- and supercharged vehicles, but it’s enough to bring a smile to your face.

Mazda MX-5 Cornering

Of course, the appeal of the MX-5 isn't its straight-line performance but its magnificent cornering and handling. Take it on a twisting, hilly route and you’ll be rewarded with a truly exciting drive. The MX-5 is supremely agile, and turns into corners with an immediacy and confidence you rarely experience in a road car at this price. Press the accelerator as you exit a sharp bend and you get an ever-so-slight shift in movement from the rear of the car, further increasing the fun and excitement.

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