RE: Mazda MX-5 1.5 (ND): PH Fleet

RE: Mazda MX-5 1.5 (ND): PH Fleet

Tuesday 19th March

Mazda MX-5 1.5 (ND): PH Fleet

The 2.0 is gone, replaced by a 1.5-litre MX-5 - might it actually be the one to have?



It would be fair to say that the 2.0-litre MX-5 RF, run on the PH Fleet towards the end of 2018, won most of us over. Really it didn't do much beyond what the MX-5 has always done - combine affordable rear-drive roadster entertainment with a Japanese knack for packaging - but it was the latest engine tweaks that really brought it alive. It was, and remains, a much missed car.

On the face of it, the 1.5-litre model that we've replaced it with appears to be a less significant update of the ND range. Where the power of the larger engine climbed pretty noticeably, just a solitary horsepower has been found from old car to new. So that's 132hp, and an extra pound foot of torque as well, for 112 in total. Still, this is the first time we've had an opportunity to drive the smaller-engined MX-5 for an extended period, and those who've driven both - before the facelift, that is - have had nothing but praise for the dinkier engine. The talk is often of a freer, keener, more exciting unit, one that perfectly matches the MX-5's lightweight ethos despite its deficit in performance compared to the 2.0.


For our long-term car, the 1.5-litre engine is combined with the traditional soft top and SE-L Nav trim. That means it's one of the lightest MX-5s you can buy (the larger engine and more complex roof obviously adding kilos), but is still decently equipped. The most notable absentees from the option list are the leather interior, the Apple CarPlay (a £350 tick) and the active safety tech such as Lane Assist and City Braking Assist. Are they missed? The leather not especially, the CarPlay quite a bit, and the safety tech was noticeable really for how little it felt the need to do anything - must have been the standard of the driving(!).

None of the 1.5-litre cars are available with the limited-slip diff that is standard on the 2.0-litre MX-5s in Sport trim and above (and which contributes to them being such a giggle) - but it's early days so we'll leave the handling analysis for another time. Early impressions are of a car that steers with less inertia (presumably thanks to the reduced mass over the nose), is more willing to change direction (because it weighs less overall) and might rev even more enthusiastically. On a nerdy hunch, that could well be because the stroke of the 1.5 is shorter at 85.8mm against 91.2.


As for the rest of the car, it won't be a surprise to learn that there's a lot to like, chiefly because plenty that is good is found in all MX-5s. It's compact, wieldy and nimble, squeezing into spaces even ostensibly small cars now struggle with (which is of even greater benefit when your commute includes the London Congestion Zone). The manual gearbox is a dream, the simple and intuitive HVAC controls make every other system seem needlessly complex and, speaking personally, the MX-5 looks great in the signature Soul Red paint. Just a shame about the black wheels.

So the baby MX-5 is off to a good start with us, a refreshingly simple antidote to an increasingly complicated contemporary performance car zeitgeist. With the weather now on the turn, we expect it to get more entertaining still.


FACT SHEET
Car:
2018 Mazda MX-5 1.5 Skyactiv-G SE-L Nav +
On fleet since: February 2019
Run by: Matt
Mileage: 2,321
List price new: £20,795 (as standard; price as tested £21,585 comprised of £790 for Soul Red Crystal Metallic)
Last month at a glance: Does a less powerful MX-5 mean a less enjoyable MX-5?








Photos: Dafydd Wood

Author
Discussion

Nerdherder

Original Poster:

965 posts

40 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Really looking forward to the ongoing adventures with this one. Would be good if PH can to look into the rust allegations against the ND..

..ND still is a head turner for me.

sideways man

659 posts

80 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
When these first came out, lots of people rated the 1.5 as a better option. Really looking forward to an unbiased verdict on this matter.

Onehp

1,059 posts

226 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Good friend of mine has one (ND 1.5 mk1), to me it is really one of the sweetest drives right out of the box. Really enjoyable car without the need to even exceed any speed limit.
Really proves to me that more power isn't always more fun. To the contrary almost. Simlar things about tyres. Narrowish 16" are just right for the job, too.
And it doesn't cost a fortune. It's even frugal.

Almost perfect car. Only thing it misses are a rear seat and 600l of luggage space wink and perhaps a LSD for ultimate winter/gravel fun?

dme123

4,826 posts

132 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
This fashion for black wheels just needs to die already. I get that they are lower maintenance and easier to fit than diamond cut, but they look bloody awful 99.9% of the time!

clowesy

216 posts

64 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
My girlfriend has a 1.5 pre-facelift. The engine is really sweet; much nicer nicer and more free revving than the 2.0 litre (pre-facelift anyway). It also sips fuel, which is an added bonus. It's a great car, shame I can't fit in it.
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Water Fairy

2,913 posts

98 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
dme123 said:
This fashion for black wheels just needs to die already. I get that they are lower maintenance and easier to fit than diamond cut, but they look bloody awful 99.9% of the time!
In your opinion.

greenarrow

1,678 posts

60 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
The 1.5 MX-5, the only car on sale today I think, that is lighter than its predecessor from 20 years ago.....

Makes you wonder why so many other performance cars are so lardy these days.

ash73

16,173 posts

164 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Having seen pictures of bare metal on the underside I can't understand why they don't add some rust protection, even if it means a modest price increase.

Why don't UK dealers offer it as an optional extra?

MajorMantra

830 posts

55 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
I think it's a real shame Mazda doesn't offer the 1.5 with an LSD as standard. Still love the look of these though, and will likely have one at some point.

threespires

3,195 posts

154 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Amazing value. This car is just £1795 more than an MX-5 BBR cost new in 1991. The new car comes with A/C and ABS and SatNav, so in real terms is cheaper now than it was 28 years ago.
Well done Mazda.

poing

8,517 posts

143 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Drop it off at BBR for the day and hand them some money. Go for the 20bhp increase if you want to retain the character and not spend too much.
If you want something more extreme get the turbo kit for 210bhp but they don't seem good value on the 1.5 to me.

bmv6197

22 posts

46 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Water Fairy said:
dme123 said:
This fashion for black wheels just needs to die already. I get that they are lower maintenance and easier to fit than diamond cut, but they look bloody awful 99.9% of the time!
In your opinion.
And mine... I appreciate that everyone has their own views and preferences, but it does seem a shame the “regular” silver coloured 16” wheels seem to have disappeared from the MX5 range post-facelift (they still show in the configurator but my local Mazda dealer only has black wheels on lower spec 1.5s).

I assume more people like the black wheels if that’s what manufacturers are moving towards...

Wheels aside, having driven both, the 1.5 would be my choice (if I were to replace my NA). It’s a cracking car!

Edited by bmv6197 on Tuesday 19th March 15:42


Edited by bmv6197 on Tuesday 19th March 15:44

cptsideways

13,005 posts

195 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Always rated this engine variant from the off, you can have much more fun with it which is what these are all about. Best part is the 1.5 avoids the too stiff Bilstein's, so you get lovely compliant suspension which is great for the twisties, the lumpy bumpy B roads & its much kinder on your back. Genuinely one of the best riding modern cars out there!

Mazda please offer a diff as an option like they do in Japan, even if its a aftersales part people would buy them wink

There is another bonus to these, you can, if you try... easily get 60 plus mpg out of one of these, which makes the man maths add up for a dual purpose city/commuter/trackday car, should you need one smile

dollyboy

112 posts

117 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
poing said:
Drop it off at BBR for the day and hand them some money. Go for the 20bhp increase if you want to retain the character and not spend too much.
If you want something more extreme get the turbo kit for 210bhp but they don't seem good value on the 1.5 to me.
I do like the idea of the BBR turbo conversion on the 1.5, as it still revs well with the conversion, peak power above 7k and over 200bhp to the limiter at 7.75k. Also a nice spread of mid range torque from 3.5k - 6k. If their claims are correct. Should make for a very fun car with plenty of useable performance.

They had a converted car for sale on their website, still shown now but sold, and it states it's the only 1.5 BBR turbo in the UK. So if you got one it would be an extremely rare car, whether that's a good or a bad thing you decide smile

mrbarnett

361 posts

36 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
dme123 said:
This fashion for black wheels just needs to die already. I get that they are lower maintenance and easier to fit than diamond cut, but they look bloody awful 99.9% of the time!
As do diamond cut. What's wrong with painted silver all of a sudden?

FamousPheasant

78 posts

59 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
I have had one for 2 years now and I still love it. The 1.5 is plenty quick enough; costs very little to run and even managed to cram a weeks worth of holiday gear for our honeymoon around the NC500. I honestly can't fault it.

My wife - who was not a fan of driving - has really warmed to it and actually enjoys driving it - which is as a strong endorsement as they come.

Whenever I consider replacing it I always ask myself, why need more?

It's just a fantastic car.

mooseracer

527 posts

113 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Ah yes, the 1.5 is the better car. Just like the 205 1.6 was better than the 1.9 and the 8v Golf better than the 16 wink



I've driven neither btw, before 1.5 owners get all arsey.

TWPC

628 posts

104 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Looking forward to the updates on this one very much. Love the looks, size, the effort Mazda have put into it to make it so light etc. etc. More info about the rust proofing situation would be helpful. Do they not use galvanised steel?

Appreciate your comments about the heating and ventilation controls. I presume that dials have been replaced by soft buttons integrated into infotainment screens because it is a cheaper solution for the manufacturers. Can anyone verify that or provide a better reason??

Onehp

1,059 posts

226 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
Ref. black wheels, not a fan. Anthracite or silver please. Black only works imho with thin spokes and something interesting inside the wheel, i.e. nice brakes that preferably fill out the rim somewhat...

jonspectre

60 posts

16 months

Tuesday 19th March
quotequote all
I really, really want to like the new MX5. Especially the 1.5.

I can't, however, get over the 'iPad stuck on the dash' look at it and many other cars have these days. Always looks like a half-arsed attempt rather than properly integrating the Nav into the dash. Surely I can't be the only one to think this.

With the 1.5, I also struggle with the concept that for only £1,500 more, I could have 50+ additional Japanese ponies.