Mazda MX-5 Review & Prices

The Mazda MX-5 has become a sanctuary for anyone that savours cheap and simple, but hugely rewarding motoring

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RRP £28,015 - £34,835 Avg. Carwow saving £2,155 off RRP
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Reviewed by Carwow after extensive testing of the vehicle.

What's good

  • Wonderful handling
  • Peppy, efficient engines
  • Great value

What's not so good

  • Hot hatchbacks are faster
  • Only a two-seater
  • No turbocharged engine

Find out more about the Mazda MX-5

Is the Mazda MX-5 a good car?

While previous generations of the Mazda MX-5 had alternatives to worry about, this latest car really is in a class of one, undercutting sports cars such as the Audi TT Roadster and BMW Z4 on price.

It’s available with a cloth roof that folds down manually, or with a metal roof that does so electrically – a version called the Mazda MX-5 RF. Here we’re focusing on the former.

This is the smallest Mazda MX-5 ever built – it’s 100kgs lighter than the car it replaces, almost unheard of as technology, safety and equipment demands increase year after year. Mazda’s attention to detail (when it comes to weight) makes its presence felt both on the straights and in the corners. It means the MX-5 doesn’t need super-stiff suspension to contain its lean in corners, making it more comfortable on the UK’s bumpy broken roads.

That’s also helped by its 132hp 1.5-litre engine that’s slightly smaller than the entry-level engine in the old car – allowing Mazda to sit it further behind the front wheels.

The Mazda MX-5 is a brilliant sports car. The fact it's the best-selling sports car only reinforces that claim

The larger 184hp 2.0-litre petrol offers more power and torque and doesn’t weigh a huge amount more. Both are non-turbocharged so need to be revved hard for maximum performance, but that’s no hardship in a car that’s so enjoyable to drive quickly.

Despite its very reasonable price, the Mazda MX-5 comes well equipped – even base models get LED headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, electric windows, remote central locking, heated wing mirrors, traction control, stability control and a multitude of airbags.

This kind of simple driving enjoyment that the Mazda MX-5 provides is hard to match at any price, but the fact that it should be reliable and economical too only makes it more tempting. Assuming you only need two seats, and luggage space isn’t a priority, it seems rather difficult to find any weaknesses.

Before you commit to putting a deposit down for a new Mazda MX-5, check out the latest Mazda MX-5 deals to find out how much you could save when buying through carwow.

How much is the Mazda MX-5?

The Mazda MX-5 has a RRP range of £28,015 to £34,835. However, with Carwow you can save on average £2,155. Prices start at £26,077 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £345. The price of a used Mazda MX-5 on Carwow starts at £9,190.

Our most popular versions of the Mazda MX-5 are:

Model version Carwow price from
1.5 [132] Prime-Line 2dr £26,077 Compare offers

In some ways it’s hard to say if the MX-5 is good value, given the shortage of direct competitors. Go back a couple of generations and we could have compared it to a Fiat Barchetta or Toyota MR2, but these cars haven't been available new for years.

While affordable roadsters are now few and far between, some premium brands still offer sporty convertibles. The MX-5 massively undercuts the likes of the Audi TT Roadster and the BMW Z4. So while it’s tough to name a direct competitor, compare the Mazda to a premium-badged roadster and it’s great value, especially if you go for the 1.5-litre car in one of the lower trim levels.

Performance and drive comfort

A superb driver’s car, although plenty of hot hatches are quicker

In town

Driving the MX-5 around town is easy, thanks to light controls and the car’s small size and nippy performance. You can make the most of any gap in traffic, and being so compact the Mazda will squeeze into tight parking spaces. You’ll need to step up from the entry-level SE-L car to Sport spec if you want rear parking sensors, and front parking sensors aren’t available.

The light clutch and crisp gear change make life easy in stop-start traffic, but if you’d rather have an automatic gearbox you’ll need the Mazda MX-5 RF with its folding-metal hardtop – there’s no auto ’box in the regular MX-5.

Another possible black mark against the MX-5 in town driving is how low you sit. That really goes with the territory in a sports car, but SUVs, vans and lorries dwarf the Mazda, which can be a bit intimidating and means you won’t be able to see far beyond the car in front in a traffic jam.

Unsure whether to choose the 1.5 or the 2.0? If you’re going to spend a lot of time around town we’d go for the 1.5 for its better economy and slightly better comfort due to it being lighter.

On the motorway

Covering lots of motorway miles in a MX-5 is like buying a high-end stereo and only using one speaker. The Mazda will do the job but you won’t be getting the most out of it.

As with town driving, you do notice how much lower you are sitting than just about any other driver. Some won’t like having their head at the level of an HGV’s axles, others won’t be bothered at all.

If you’re not fussed, you’ll find the Mazda copes well enough with motorway journeys. Keep the roof up and you’ll stay warm and dry, and although there’s some road noise it’s not enough to become really annoying.

On a twisty road

Now you’re talking. Driving on a twisty country road is what the MX-5 is all about. It’s just so much fun, with steering as sharp as a sushi knife and suspension that just flows over bumps.

The 1.5 is a little lighter than the 2.0 and drives with a wonderful delicacy. The 2.0-litre is quicker in a straight line and leans less in bends thanks to its sports suspension. You enjoy the purest driving experience in the 1.5, but the 2.0 has higher limits and is more thrilling in a straight line. Either way, you can’t go wrong – the MX-5 is one of the most rewarding cars you can drive at any price.

Just keep in mind that there are plenty of hot hatches that are quicker than the Mazda. But who cares? It’s the way the MX-5 steers and corners that makes it so enjoyable to drive,  not neck-snapping acceleration.

Space and practicality

Comfortable enough for two, but short of storage space

If space and practicality are your priorities, you have clicked on the wrong review.

Slide into the driver’s seat, and the chances are you’ll find a comfortable driving position. The steering adjusts for height and reach, but there’s no height adjustment for the seat. You can adjust the angle of the backrest and the base, but there’s not as much scope to fine-tune the driving position in most modern cars. You need to be happy sitting low to the ground – this is a sports car, remember.

Very tall drivers will be the ones who find it hardest to find a seating position that will be comfy for long days behind the wheel. They’ll wish for a few more centimetres of rearward travel for the seat, and to be able to bring the wheel just a little bit closer. Really lanky drivers will also find their head close to the fabric roof.

For people six-feet tall and under, the cabin is snug rather than cramped.

Storage is in short supply. There’s a small tray at the base of the dash, but there are no door bins or glovebox. There’s a small storage box between the front seats, and removable twin cupholders.

If you want to carry bottles of water or snacks in the car, you’re going to fill up the available storage space pretty quickly.

Space in the back seats

There are no back seats in the Mazda MX-5. This is a two-seater without even the tiny occasional rear seats you get in some convertibles.

If you need to carry more than two people think about a BMW 2 Series Convertible instead. Or buy your kids a train ticket.

Boot space

Some roadsters have luggage room for a toothbrush and a change of undies, but not much else. The MX-5 isn’t that bad, but you’re not going to be asked to help a mate move house.

The Mazda’s boot has a 130-litre capacity, which is smaller than the boots in many tiny hatchbacks. But it’s big enough for several bags of shopping or a couple of carry-on suitcases. The opening is an odd shape, though, so you have to lift bags up and drop them in.

On the plus side, boot space stays the same whether the roof is up or down.

Interior style, infotainment and accessories

It’s all sensible and modern inside, although not up with premium-brand levels of quality, and be aware of improved equipment levels up the range

Think classic sports car with a modern twist, and you get some idea of the vibe in the MX-5’s cabin.

Look straight ahead through the chunky three-spoke steering wheel and you’ll see a regular speedometer and rev counter rather than the digital dashboard common in many modern cars. Conventional dials do a good job of telling you what you need to know, so we don’t particularly miss a digital display.

You do get modern infotainment, though, with a 7.0-inch display mounted high on the dash where it’s easy to see without taking your eyes far from the road. It’s standard on all four grades; SE-L, Sport, Sport Tech, and GT Sport Tech.

As well as a touchscreen, you can scroll through menus and make selections with the rotary controller and shortcut buttons, which you’ll find just behind the gear lever. It makes the system straightforward to use, and less distracting than reaching for a small icon on the screen.

Every grade comes with satellite navigation with free mapping updates for three years, so you don’t have to rely on your smartphone. However, if you do want to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, both are standard across the range, with wireless connectivity.

Build quality is good, and the standard of finish is a big improvement over earlier generations of MX-5. It’s not in the same league as an Audi TT or BMW Z4, but then the Mazda isn’t in the same price bracket either. It’s only when you go looking on the lower doors that you find some scratchy plastics.

The SE-L model comes with cloth upholstery, but you only need to upgrade to Sport for leather upholstery. Entry-level cars come with a six-speaker stereo, but the other three models have a powerful nine-speaker Bose system that’s a worthwhile upgrade in case you ever get bored of the MX-5’s exhaust note.

MPG, emissions and tax

There’s no electric MX-5, or even a mild hybrid. Instead, the Mazda achieves very respectable emissions and economy through low weight and engine efficiency.

Unsurprisingly, the 1.5-litre is the more economical of the two engines. It returns an official figure of 44.8mpg and emits 142g/km of carbon dioxide. The 2.0-litre isn’t too far behind, achieving 40.9mpg and returning 155g/km. You can buy plenty of cars that burn less fuel, but in the world of sporty two-seat roadsters these are impressive figures.

Take the BMW Z4 as a comparison. The most efficient model returns a best of 39.8mpg, so it drinks more fuel than the thirstiest MX-5.

A Mazda MX-5 isn’t the most obvious company car, but if it does appear on your user-chooser list it sits in a high-ish tax bracket. That’s offset to a large extent by Mazda’s keen pricing.

Private buyers will be more concerned with car tax costs. Since no Mazda MX-5 is priced at over £40,000, you won’t have to pay the car-tax surcharge for cars costing over this amount. Instead, you’ll pay a modest £165 per year after the first year at 2022 rates.

By sports car standards this is a frugal and efficient car, so fuel and tax costs are far more affordable than those of most sports cars.

Safety and security

When the Mazda MX-5 was crash-tested by the safety experts at Euro NCAP in 2015, it received an overall score of four out of five. That’s good rather than great, especially as the tests have become tougher since.

Every MX-5 gets driver, passenger, and side airbags, as well as stability control, emergency stop signalling, tyre-pressure monitoring, and a pop-up bonnet to help protect pedestrians. Step up to Sport spec and above for a lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking.

ISOFIX anchor points in the passenger seat are standard on all MX-5 models, so you can fit a child seat.

All cars have an alarm and immobiliser. From Sport spec upwards the MX-5 comes with keyless entry.

Reliability and problems

Mazda in general and the MX-5 in particular have very strong reputations for reliability. The MX-5 rarely goes wrong, and if it does the problems are usually much cheaper to fix than if you’re running a more expensive performance car.

It looks like today’s MX-5 is building on the excellent reliability of earlier generations, so you can buy with confidence.

If the odd problem does crop up, Mazda’s new car warranty lasts for three years and 60,000 miles.

Buy or lease the Mazda MX-5 at a price you’ll love
We take the hassle and haggle out of car buying by finding you great deals from local and national dealers
RRP £28,015 - £34,835 Avg. Carwow saving £2,155 off RRP
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