Mazda MX-5 Review

The latest version of the hugely popular Mazda MX-5 roadster is the best yet

Strengths & weaknesses

  • Great fun to drive
  • Head-turning looks
  • Affordable for a sports car
  • Cramped interior
  • Not at all practical
  • Visibility is restricted for taller drivers
Mazda MX-5 prices from £10,999.
Finance from £259.64 / month.

Mazda MX-5 prices from £10,999   Finance from £259.64 per month*

The Mazda MX-5 is a model name that has been around since the early Nineties. In that time, it’s become known the world over for providing a fun, affordable top-down driving experience and is the best-selling two-seater convertible of all time.

The most recent fourth-generation model, introduced in late 2015, remains true to the original version's philosophy of offering a small, light and simple rear-wheel-drive car with a modestly powerful engine and very precise steering for a satisfying, involving driving experience.

Direct rivals for the MX-5 are hard to come by. It’s a lot cheaper than even the cheapest Porsche Boxster, Lotus Elise or BMW Z4, while less expensive (but still comparatively more expensive than the Mazda) convertibles like the Audi TT, Mercedes SLK and MINI convertible are heavier, have four seats and lack the Mazda’s pure focus on fun. The Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ are similarly focussed, but they’re not offered as convertibles, so you miss out on wind-in-the-hair thrills. The only true competitor to the MX-5 is the Fiat 124 Spider, which is built from many the same bits.

Inside, the MX-5 is best described as ‘snug’. There’s enough space for two adults up to around 6 foot tall, anyone much taller than that will feel squashed by the convertible roof. It's a two seater, so there are no rear seats, and there isn't much in the way of interior storage either besides a single compartment large enough for a wallet and a pair of sunglasses. The 130-litre boot is small, but you will get a couple of good sized bags in there for a long weekend trip - tennis players will find there is space for a large tennis bag.

The MX-5 is best suited to people without many commitments or children. It's designed to be a fun ‘weekend’ car, a driver's toy rather than a useful errand-runner. We'd recommend buying one to sit alongside your weekly shopper or school taxi.

It's driving where you will find the MX-5's calling. No matter which engine you choose, smile-inducing performance is easy to come by; the throttle is responsive, the steering is light but precise, and the low seating position makes even 20mph feel exhilarating. But perhaps the best bit is the glorious six-speed manual gearbox. It clicks so satisfyingly into gear that it makes quick bursts of acceleration seriously enjoyable.

Mazda also decided not to use turbocharging technology in this car, so fuel economy and CO2 emissions from the two petrol engines are on the high side, with a minimum £140-a-year tax bill for the 1.5-litre model.


Key facts

Warranty Three years/60,000 miles
Boot size 130 litres
Width 1,735mm
Length 3,915mm
Height 1,225mm
Tax (min to max) £130 to £180

Best Mazda MX-5 for...

Best for Economy – Mazda MX-5 1.5

The 1.5-litre petrol returns the best fuel economy of the two Mazda engine options – around 47mpg. As it isn’t turbocharged, its CO2 emissions are quite high, though, so road tax is £130 a year.

Best for Families – Mazda MX-5 1.5 SE-L Nav 2dr convertible

As it only has two seats, the Mazda MX-5 is not suitable for use as a family car. We think the SE-L Nav is the sweet spot of the range, though, striking a good balance between an affordable purchase price and appealing standard equipment.

Best for Performance – Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport 2dr convertible

The 2.0-litre is a stronger performer than the 1.5-litre, getting from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds and generally feeling more urgent and responsive in day-to-day driving. It is more expensive, though, and the 1.5-litre is just as much fun to drive, so it’s debatable whether it’s worth it.

One to Avoid – Mazda MX-5 1.5 SE 2dr convertible

The entry-level Mazda MX-5 is a perfectly fine car – it’s just missing some kit that buyers tend to like, such as sat-nav and automatic climate control (it has manual air-conditioning).


September 2014 Unveiling of fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 for 2015 sales
November 2015 Sport Recaro limited-edition model added to range
2018 Range is updated with a more powerful 2.0-litre engine and a new selection of trim levels

Understanding Mazda MX-5 names

Engine 2.0

Mazda offers two petrol engines for the MX-5: a 1.5-litre and a 2.0-litre.

Trim SE-L Nav

There are a number of trim levels for the MX-5, each with a different level of equipment on board and varying interior design options.

Mazda MX-5 Engines

Petrol 1.5-litre, 2.0-litre

One of the trickiest decisions to make when buying an MX-5 is what engine to get. As this is a sports car, the obvious choice may seem to be the more powerful 2.0-litre, but in reality many people may prefer the cheaper, and more economical 1.5-litre. 

The 2.0-litre will be appreciated if you use the motorway a lot or are a serious enthusiast who likes going quickly. Those planning one using their MX-5 on track will also gravitate towards this engine because of its extra power. Cars with this engine and Sport Nav+ spec also have sportier suspension for sharper handling.

As neither engine is turbocharged, the Mazda MX-5’s fuel economy and CO2 emissions aren’t particularly impressive when compared to other modern sports cars. It’s still reasonably cheap to run, though, and the fun you’ll have driving it makes up for the slightly higher bills.





0 - 62mph

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Mazda MX-5 Trims

SE+, SE-L Nav+, Sport Nav+, GT Sport Nav+

Affordable sports cars like the MX-5 are all about the driving experience, rather than lashings of in-car technology and luxury. So we don’t think it’s necessary to spend too much on a high-spec version – or trim level – when even the cheapest MX-5 has that great 1.5-litre engine and sweet six-speed manual gearbox.

The range begins with SE+, which has climate control, cruise control, push-button start, electric windows, 16-inch alloys, LED lights, a seven-inch colour touchscreen, DAB digital radio and Bluetooth. SE-L Nav+ simply adds sat nav, which is worth going for, as not only does it make day-to-day driving less stressful, it’ll also make the car more appealing on the used market.

The Sport Nav+ model adds keyless entry, grey rather than silver alloy wheels, automatic lights and rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, two extra speakers for the stereo, heated leather seats and a lane-departure warning system. They also have a form of autonomous emergency braking, a lane departure warning system and a traffic sign recognition system.

GT Sport Nav+ was added to the range in 2018. This is top of the line, and has all of the options above, as well as a blind spot monitoring system, adaptive LED headlights, and a reversing camera.

Mazda MX-5 Reliability and warranty

Previous versions of the Mazda MX-5 are known for their near-bulletproof reliability and long-term dependability. This model’s immediate predecessor, for example, was ranked 17th for reliability and 66th for build quality out of 200 cars in the most recent 2015 edition of Auto Express magazine’s Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.

This generation Mazda MX-5 is highly rated by owners and was ranked 4th out of 75 for reliability in the 2018 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.

The warranty is a fairly standard three-years / 60,000 miles, which is no better than average.

Used Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 is a very popular and desirable car, so used values are strong and new discounts reasonably modest.

There are currently 25 Mazda MX-5s available on BuyaCar, with prices ranging from £10,999 to £24,490 for nearly-new models. Monthly finance payments start from £259.64 per month.

A few different limited editions have graced the range, like the Sport Recaro. This was introduced in late 2015, available exclusively with the 2.0-litre engine. To the Sport’s spec, it adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a black rear spoiler and bodykit, alloy pedals and special Recaro sports seats. 

In September 2018 the MX-5 was updated. The most notable change was to its 2.0-litre engine. Power was upped from 160bhp to 181bhp, and there's a notable difference in pace. So if you're after the fastest MX-5, it's worth seeking these out.

Mazda MX-5 deals

Mazda MX-5: used car prices 1 year old 2 years old 3 years old

Best for performance Mazda MX-5 2.0

£13,750 £13,750 £13,750
Best for economy Mazda MX-5 1.5


£10,999 £10,999 £10,999

Other Editions

MX-5 RF (2017)

Secure and weatherproof, the Mazda MX-5 is a hard-top convertible version of the classic sports car.