PistonHeads likes the Mazda MX-5. It has for a very long time, it probably will for a very long time. Why? Well, not only is it an entertaining and fairly affordable sports car when new, it becomes ever more affordable as the years pass. All the way down to Shed level, there's an MX-5 to suit any budget. Combine that with the plethora of tuning options and it's easy to see how affection grows for the little Mazda roadster: it's cheap, honest, wind-in-the-hair fun. Like all the most successful models, its fundamentals haven't changed either, despite now being on sale for nearly three decades. Turns out people, particularly those in the UK, love a small, drop-top sports car.
Now, full disclosure from the start: I was never the biggest fan of the Mk4 MX-5. I found the driving position awkward, the handling a bit too roly poly, the engine willing if not all that potent and the styling a bit odd. Perhaps it was just the tippy-toe stance. Whatever the case, I was not as enamoured with it as so many others were.
However, this time last year we ran an Abarth 124 - which of course shares a great deal with the Mazda - and I grew to really enjoy it. Now there's the facelifted MX-5, a car which has already surpassed the Toyota GT86. This RF 2.0 Skyactiv-G GT Sport Nav+ - easy for you to say - is now 'ours' to use and hopefully enjoy for three months, before being swapped for a 1.5 Roadster for the same period of time.
Why? Well, we like to be thorough if nothing else, so assessing both bodystyles and engines should give a good idea of what makes for the best version of MX-5. And if you're thinking it may well be a 2.0 Roadster, then you aren't the first... More than that, the next few months will proffer opportunity to see if this facelift really has been the making of the Mk4 MX-5, and if the preexisting irks have really been ironed out.
To this car, first off. VX68 HFO is a top of the range GT Sport Nav+ RF, which means it wants for very little in terms of standard equipment: there's heated leather, automatic wipers and lights, sat-nav... and, er, a limited-slip diff, strut brace and sports suspension with Bilstein dampers. In actual fact those last bits come as standard on the cheaper Sport Nav+, but GT brings with it a reversing camera (handy with my parking skills) and LED lights, which are already proving worthwhile on dank autumnal evenings.
Rather cheekily, Mazda only offers one colour - Arctic White - as a no-cost option. The other six paint choices - Snowflake White, Soul Red, Jet Black, Eternal Blue, Ceramic and Machine Grey - all cost between £550 and £790. This car is Machine Grey, which you might argue isn't very exciting for a sports car; however, it's paired very nicely to some dark red leather for a more exotic vibe, and I think there's something to be said for a slightly more subdued sports car. (Promise we'll ask for the soft top in something jazzier.) Beyond colour there's just the one option for GT Sport Nav+ customers, that being whether they want CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility. For £350, it feels like something of a no-brainer.
So that's how you end up with £28,815 of Mazda MX-5. Insert 'you could have an M135i for that' into the comments... now. Or two Up GTIs. Or a Fiesta ST and however much left over. Just some ideas for when the thread invariably turns to that. But besides list prices not really counting for all that much in 2018, there are already cars in the classifieds, like this GT Sport Nav+ Roadster, at less than list price.
So then, wossit like? Really very good actually, as can probably be surmised from the mileage already accrued since taking delivery at our Silverstone Sunday Service a few weeks back. I'll detail exactly what those miles have involved next time, but the initial impressions are very positive: the new steering adjustment noticeably improves the driving position, the engine now has some proper punch to it (even with relatively few miles), and the refinement of a metal roof on motorway slogs has already been appreciated. The fact the roof only moves at walking speed is less endearing, but you can't have everything...
So the signs are good, the facelifted MX-5 appearing to move the perennial Mazda on in convincing fashion. Naturally we'll aim to investigate this further over the coming weeks, pair it up with some rivals and probably pay BBR a visit as well. The MX-5 will be kept busy, that's for sure!
Car: 2018 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Skyactiv-G RF GT Sport Nav+
On fleet since: November 2018
Run by: Matt
Mileage: 2,465 (delivered on 1,721)
List price new: £27,795 (as standard; price as tested £28,815 comprised of £350 for Apple CarPlay and £670 for Machine Grey Metallic paint)
Last month at a glance: MX-5 makes its mark on the PH Fleet