Most of us view vehicles as a way to get from Point A to Point B while forgetting about the simple, pure joy of driving. However, that’s what the Mazda MX-5 does – put the joy back into the everyday driving experience. The all-new Mazda MX-5 now gives potential buyers the option of the 2.0L petrol engine for both the Roadster and Roadster GT models. Over the past few weeks, we have tested both the 1.5L Roadster GT automatic ($44,028*) and 2.0L Roadster manual ($38,363*) variants and hopefully can help shed some light on the question most MX-5’s buyers have right now – “which option suits me best”?
The whole philosophy behind the creation of the MX-5 is to develop a car that provides true driving pleasure. The 1.5L petrol engine produces 96kW of power at 7,000rpm and 150Nm of torque @ 4,800rpm. The 2.0L petrol engine produces 118kW of power at 6,000rpm and 200Nm of torque @ 4,600rpm.While these numbers may seem small on paper, what you need to remember is that the Mazda MX-5 weighs next to nothing (just over 1,000kg for all variants) and therefore this translates into a zippy drive. The Mazda MX-5 is in its happy place when being pushed around bends and corners, staying perfectly balanced and providing a bit of a fun ‘go-kart’ feeling for the driver thanks to its rear-drive configuration. No doubt my pick is the 2.0L engine that is unsurprisingly livelier – however that’s not to say the 1.5L isn’t more than adequate – it is – it’s just clearly in comparison the larger engine comes out on top.
Our 1.5L automatic test vehicle averaged around 7.5L/100km – slightly higher than the advertised rate. Yet our 2.0L manual variant came in lower – at 6.4L/100km. The more powerful engine and ability to match the gears yourself meant we weren’t pushing the vehicle as hard. The road noise is inevitable being so low to the ground and the wind noise with the soft top is also noticeable – however for most potential buyers this will be appealing – being more connected with the driving experience. I just wouldn’t recommend long portions on the freeway! The six-speed automatic gearbox provides quick and smooth gear-shifts and switching it into Sports mode allows you a little extra control in holding the gears and using the paddle shifters. The pick of the bunch with a little sports car such as this is clearly the six-speed manual – which truly is a joy to drive with a fantastic clutch and shift combination that is communicative and easy. You also feel a lot cooler – which is always a bonus!
The word to describe the Mazda MX-5 driving experience is: fun. There is tactile feedback through the steering wheel, a low centre of gravity which makes it impossible to upset on just about any corner and a real thrill as you shift through the gears on the manual variant. I describe it as feeling like you’re driving a go-kart everywhere. Mazda describes this feeling as Jinba-ittai – a Japanese phrase meaning ‘one-ness’ between the driver and vehicle. I think we can see who has the more sophisticated expression.
There have been some compromises with the interior design due to practicality – most noticeably with the thin, hard plastic sun-visors. I understand the need for this compromise, but that doesn’t make them anymore visually appealing or tactile. What hasn’t been compromised is interior storage – with a large, deep storage box between the seats. Both variants have push-button start but only the Roadster GT gets the keyless entry function. In similar fashion it is only the Roadster GT that gets climate control as a function of the air-conditioning, the auto-dimming function on the rear-view mirror, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, heated external mirrors, automatic headlights and heated leather seats.
Both variants we tested had the 7” colour touchscreen infotainment system that’s equipped with Satellite Navigation, but it does not have a reverse camera. Now this is something I think is vital – because visibility over your shoulder and out the back is rather limited, especially since the B-pillar morphs directly into the roof with no little window creating a rather annoying blind spot. Even some rear parking sensors wouldn’t have gone astray. Back to the infotainment system however, both our 1.5L Roadster GT and 2.0L Roadster feature AUX/USB input, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, app integration with Pandora, Stitcher and Aha, a Premium Bose 9 speaker system on the Roadster GT and the simple 6 speaker system in the Roadster. What the Mazda MX-5 has over the likes of the Toyota 86 is that the steering wheel has all the controls you need to ensure the vehicle is not only providing an authentic driving experience, but is practical for everyday use – answering the phone, changing the radio station etc.
The all-new Mazda MX-5 is clearly popular for a reason with the experts agreeing – making it the first vehicle to ever be awarded both the 2016 World Car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year. As for which of the four variants is the best option – it really is a personal choice – however for me the 2.0L Roadster GT manual is the one I would want sitting in my driveway!
*prices are drive away for postcode 2000 and are subject to change