Car Reviews

2016 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Review

Carzone drives the 2016 World Car of the Year on Irish roads...


Pros: Incredibly engaging drive, eye-catching looks, great equipment levels

Cons: Restricted storage, we had to give it back!

The Mazda MX-5 revolutionised the sports car segment when it was launched in the late 1980s as it was the first truly-affordable two seater roadster. Incredibly fun to drive, reliable and eye catching out on the road, it was an instant success and garnered a loyal following of fans for the Japanese car manufacturer. Fast forward to 2016 and Mazda has sold almost 1 million MX-5s around the world. The new fourth generation MX-5 has been crowned the 2016 ‘World Car of the Year’ and it will appeal to even more of the masses as it meets the demands of the modern buyer, with improved running costs, looks and quality, but can it really mirror the huge success of the original models? We spent a week driving it on Irish roads to find out.

What is it like?

The new MX-5 has adopted Mazda’s ‘Kodo Soul of Motion’ styling ethos, which means it’s more aggressively designed up front with a swooping bonnet and slim line LED headlights, while lunging lines along the doors and along the top of the boot give the impression that the car is moving even when it’s parked. Dropping the soft-top roof down only further enhances the MX-5’s image, while new eight spoke alloy wheels and revised bumpers nice additional touches. If one thing’s certain, you will stand out from the crowd driving around in the new MX-5.

The new model has the shortest cabin of any MX-5 which means it feels snug as you step inside. The interior is very driver-focused with a high transmission tunnel, low sporty leather seating, a stubby gear lever and a traditional handbrake all within easy reach. The layout is minimalist with an easy-to-read speedo and rev counter and all of the materials feel high quality to touch. All models feature a seven-inch tablet screen mounted in the centre of the dashboard which lends it a clean and uncluttered look, although the infotainment system does take getting used to. The MX-5’s cabin isn’t high on storage areas, but alas that’s to be expected of a two seater roadster.

In Ireland the new MX-5 is available with one engine, a 1.5-litre petrol unit producing 129bhp and lowly torque output of 150Nm. Yes, the engine is small in the grand scheme of things, but what It lacks in size it makes up for with an incredibly raspy engine note and a high 7,500rpm rev limit. Thanks to the low weight of the MX-5 chassis, it can cover the 0-100km/h sprint in just over eight seconds and ease on to a top speed of over 200km/h. The MX-5 uses a slick six-speed manual transmission which offers smooth and precise gear changes, a perfect match for the spirited 1.5-litre engine. The whole experience of the free-revving MX-5 is seriously addictive and you’ll find yourself constantly chasing the higher rev range as a result, it is incredibly fun. 

The MX-5’s characterful engine is backed up by truly sublime handling capabilities from it’s rear-wheel-drive platform. The lightweight chassis offers a 50/50 weight distribution which means it is incredibly balanced during cornering and truly confidence-inspiring. The steering is sharp and precise, the levels of grip are astounding through tight turns and the focused driving position makes you feel one with the car. It’s impossible not to smile uncontrollably in the MX-5 on tight and twisty back roads, as this is where it is most at home. Stability control is standard across the range and can be deactivated via a button on the dash.

In terms of running costs, the new MX-5 is the most economical version ever built. With a lower Co2 emissions output, annual motor tax comes in at €280 and we easily managed 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres in fuel economy (48MPG) during our test drive. In Ireland, there are just two different specifications to choose from, with the base ‘Roadster’ model and higher specification ‘Roadster GT’. For €27,995, the base version is very well specced, with cruise control, keyless entry, LED headlights, a tyre pressure monitoring system and an automatic dimming rear view mirror as standard. The highest specification ‘Roadster GT’ which retails for €30,195 adds adaptive headlights, rear parking sensors, auto-sensing wipers, upgraded BOSE speaker system, upgraded door mirrors and most importantly for Irish buyers who commute in the winter time, heated seats.

Carzone verdict: 5/5

Few new cars circa €30,000 can make you smile like the new Mazda MX-5 can, and for that reason, we’d purchase one in a heartbeat. Everything about the way it looks, the way it drives and feels means the MX-5 a true driver’s car,  and it makes daily commutes incredibly fun and brings weekend journeys in the sunshine to a whole other level. With a tiny 130 litres of boot space, the MX-5 is far from practical, but that’s a small price to pay for the fun on offer and buyers in this segment don’t expect it anyway. We’d recommend investing in the higher specification ‘Roadster GT’ model for its Ireland-relevant extras. There are currently over 30 MX-5s for sale on Carzone right now, so, what are you waiting for!

Test Car Details:

Model driven: Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT

Prices from: €27,995

Price as tested: €30,195

Annual Road Tax: €280

Engine: 1496cc four-cylinder petrol

Power/Torque: 129bhp, 150Nm

Top Speed: 204 km/h

0-100km/h: 8.3 seconds

Transmission: Manual

Body style: Roadster

Boot Space: 130 litres

Euro NCAP Safety Rating: 4 Stars