Mazda MX-5 1.5 (ND): PH Fleet

Typically the point of these long-term tests is to discover the kind of irks or annoyances that might make a new car awkward or tricky to live with. The sort of issues that wouldn't usually crop up in a week-long test drive, and yet are the ones that are hopefully of some use to a prospective customer. That's what we aim to do, at least...

Our MX-5 though has been turning that idea rather on its head, chiefly by becoming ever more and more likeable as time passes. More and more miles with it only has only proved the point more convincingly that light, simple, clever cars really are the best thing for the future of motoring. Much as they were in its past.

Now that pared back nature does have its drawbacks. In the recent windy weather, the little Mazda did feel a little precarious at motorway speed, and noisier than most people would think ideal. Truth told 112lb ft into a headwind didn't really feel sufficient, either. Furthermore, the 1.5 does lose out on a few bits compared to our previous 2.0-litre - CarPlay is certainly an option box worth ticking (especially as the Mazda nav seems to miss a few things, like roundabouts), the keyless entry was so good it's now much missed and there's been the odd occasion when the limited-slip diff would be handy. Nowhere near as many as you might think, though.

By and large, however, what's coming through from living with an MX-5 is how well sorted it is as a 975kg car out of the box. Of course there will be tuning options, but the fact that it works so sweetly as standard is a mark of its development and tuning. Moreover, it does nothing that rankles or irritates in everyday use. Some cars will have a seat that's a bit too high, controls in illogical places or sub-par contact points that taint what's often a very good overall product; not so in the MX-5. It's all just methodically, thoroughly, near-perfectly done.

Nothing is hidden behind a veil of high-adrenaline mode options, either. The MX-5 just works in damn near every situation because it's been so cleverly engineered; there isn't a button for a sharper throttle, or weightier steering, or a different sound from the speakers - and it's never felt like needing one. Many if not most of the sports car benchmarks that Mazda always hoped to emulate made it without modes, and hopefully the MX-5 can continue in that vein - because there's simply no need when the car is this well sorted.

And, as has been discussed previously, the benefits of reducing weight and complexity produces better results everywhere. Petrol in this 1.5-litre car seems to last forever (and it's not used any oil despite how it's driven), the brakes and tyres show barely any signs of wear and they'll be cheaper to replace when the time comes because they're so small to start with.

It's a philosophy employed by the Alpine A110, albeit with a little more technology, to similarly captivating effect. Sure, the A110 is turbocharged, automatic and features a Sport mode, but that seem feeling of low-mass, low-inertia energy courses through the whole car as it does in the MX-5. And it feels absolutely fantastic. Let's hope a few more manufacturers will catch on soon.

2018 Mazda MX-5 1.5 Skyactiv-G SE-L Nav +
On fleet since: February 2019
Run by: Matt
Mileage: 3,404
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: Back to basics is best!

Previous reports:
Does less power equal less fun?

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (71) Join the discussion on the forum

  • kultsch88 05 Apr 2019

    Nice read. Would love to see a comparison between this and the BBR Super 160 map.

  • aka_kerrly 05 Apr 2019

    Nice little read.

    This MX5 shares a similar power to weight ratio to the 80s hot hatches that provide (in my opinion) a great balance of fast enough for thrills without feeling that every time you mash the throttle for more than a few seconds you are into >100mph ban territory even if it does mean that once in every umpteen journeys someone in a diesel family car will get in your way & you wish you had an extra 100Hp.

  • rb_89 05 Apr 2019

    It's all about power/weight! Can see myself owning one of these in the future as a second car / weekend toy. Glad to hear the 1.5 is good fun for every day (not about to lose my license) driving.

  • mal999 05 Apr 2019

    I've a A110 and one of the last Toyota MR2s - does that count! Couldn't agree more, in this time of change the simple rewarding cars with feed back and feel are the gems.

  • Gandahar 05 Apr 2019

    I'm not sure if I am getting old ( now 51) but for me this sort of car harkens back to when I was young and youthful and the XR2 with it's wide 185 Pirelli P6 tyres found a massive amount of grip to go with it's 96bhp! It was light as well of course. Highly chuckable.

    The best roads are the twisty ones. A narrow light small car like the MX5 is ideally suited to those still. Use the NA engine, rev it out, don't be scared by silly grip levels or acceleration, just have fun.

    As people get cars ever bigger size and weight wise I am sure this Lotus ethos for the MX5 will get more people buying it, taking the red pill rather than the blue pill.

    The success of the Alpine A110 shows people are still not totally besotted with bhp and acceleration times.

    My only gripe with the ND MX5 is they went to EPAS. Should have kept it as it was.

    BBR did a turbo version for the 1.5 but I am not sure it has proved too popular. Shame as the 1.5 is a lighter car and a good way to fill out the performance without going over the top. Remove the aircon and move the battery to the boot and the front to back weight balance would still be fine with the added turbo weight.

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