Just as I have never met a politician I would trust or an SUV I would consider owning, neither have I ever – in just on three decades – driven a Mazda MX-5 I haven’t liked. Loved, even.
This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2019
And nothing looks like changing there, because even in its latest, most sophisticated guise, the wee roadster with the big reputation still has what it takes to give a big, hairy, V8-lovin’ galoot like me a Serious Jones for same.
Perhaps even more significantly, the Mazda also has the chops and the windscreen sticker to make it to fifth place at a gig like BFYB.
I’m never going to try to convince you that the MX-5 formula is perfect. Nope, even in today’s version there’s still nowhere to stash anything much more than a phone or prop a coffee. At least the steering column is now finally reach-adjustable, but trust me, with two grown-ups on board, the Mazda is full.
Meantime, the moderate power, super-linear delivery, skinny tyres, soft springs and built-in body roll (for some very handy weight transfer during the big wet of 2019) meant that the Mazda could be driven a lot closer to its potential than anything with 300kW and starched underdacks.
So the MX-5 was huge gobs of wet-track fun and it’s fair to speculate that this is the car whose wet and dry lap-times would feature the smallest difference.
Celebrating driver's cars: MX-5 1.5
The steering can feel a little heavy at first, but before you’ve let it twirl itself back to on-centre the first time, you’re aware of just how tactile and responsive that front end is.
It’s not uncommon to throw an MX-5 into a group test and discover that the Mazda has the highest-fi when it comes to front-end feel and feedback, and BFYB 2019 doesn’t seem to me to have been any different there.
That degree of accuracy allows you to place the car exactly where you want it and, once you’ve calibrated yourself to its body-roll, you can push harder in the Mazda than just about anything else here.
That philosophy of offering you a simple machine with which to go berko is carried through to the brakes, too.
MOTOR comparison: MX-5 RF Limited Edition v BRZ tS v 86 Performance Pack
As well as being arranged by somebody within Mazda who can obviously heel-and-toe instinctively, the pedal is weighted just so and the feedback through your leg as crisp and accurate as I would be if you used your hand. Modulation? No problem, not even on the soaking surface we were using.
Okay, so the limits are lower and the actual lap time won’t be as sharp, but as a car that you can use more – more of the time – the Mazda is a glittering example. Which, I know, has always been the car’s schtick, but it doesn’t make it any less joyous just because you knew it would be.
More go for your dough at Bang For Your Bucks 2019
Mazda MX-5 GT BFYB 2019 Results - 5th place
Bang Index: 98.1
Bucks Index: 124.2
BFYB Index: 111.1
Bang For Your Bucks 2019 Judges' Comments
Campbell - 8th
“If fun is the only measure, a stock ND MX-5 is a seriously underrated track car.”
Cordony - 6th
“This, people, is what driving’s about.”
Morley - 7th
“Do you value purity and front-end feel? You’ll love this car.”
Scott Newman - 5th
“The ultimate tool for learning to drive properly. A bit sketchy in the wet.”
Luffy - =4th
“The MX-5 is always a great car to drive and it’s good to see that as the model gets older, it still hasn’t grown up. It is still a playful, lively, fun car to drive on the limit and it rewards driver ability. You feel like you have a lot of control over what is going on underneath you. It hasn’t been dumbed down by electronics.”
2019 MAZDA MX-5 GT SPECS
BODY: 2-door, 2-seat convertible
ENGINE: 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v
BORE/STROKE: 74.5 x 85.8mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 13.0:1
POWER: 135kW @ 7000rpm
TORQUE: 205Nm @ 4000rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
SUSPENSION: A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 280mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f/r)
WHEELS: 17.0 x 7.0-inch (f/r)
TYRES: Bridgestone Potenza S001, 205/45 R17 (f/r)
Bang For Your Bucks 2019
The Contenders, Judges & Criteria
11 of the hottest new fast cars under $100K roll up to take on our famous value-for-money formula. Which will be number 1?