Most fun per pound? Try an MX-5

Is this the most cost-effective car when it comes to putting a smile on your face?

By Steve Teale
Friday, 5th August 2022, 7:21 pm
Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5

I’m sure it is. No-one ever gets in or out of an MX-5 with a frown. It looks, rides and handles like a car should.

And while it might not be practical for many people, it is actually easier to live with than you might imagine.

That’s why it is still going strong more than 30 years after it was launched when Mazda bravely decided that sports coupes did have a future, despite MG, Triumph and others pulling out of the market.

The MX-5 is a sharp handler but the cabin is comfortable

They are surprisingly common. Mazda might prefer to say popular, for you see models of all ages and specifcations.

Tested here is a hi-tech modern version which will set you back £33,320 but the range starts at £24,755.

This version is RF, which stands for retractable fastback. It means that rather than have a traditional canvas roof it has a metal affair which folds at the touch of a button. You don’t have any latches to unclip – simply hit the button and a few seconds later it is neatly folded away.

It is compact and getting in and out isn’t the easiest task for anyone bigger than average or less agile, but once you’re in it is remarkably comfortable. Yes, the ride is firm and sporty and you feel every jolt but that means it has astonishing road-holding.

Power is great. It zooms to 60mph in well under eight seconds and because of the size of the car your closeness to the ground it feels faster. It is essentially a simple car which accounts for its popularity. And while 1990 might not seem vintage, it has a heritage which Mazda rightly don’t tinker around with too much.

But the test model had a reversing camera – not that you really need one in a car which you wear rather than get in – plus the splendid motorised hood. No wonder more than 1.1m have been sold so far.

Repeatedly labelled the most fun for the money on four wheels, it is the world’s favourite roadster has evolved over the years, yet always remained true to its ethos that puts driver and car in perfect harmony.

It is a former world car of the year and this version comes with nappa leather upholstery plus 17in BBS wheels. Mazda also includes the convenience of standard wireless support for Apple CarPlay for both the soft-top and RF versions.

It retains its energetic style, blurring the boundaries between exterior and interior while highlighting its perfectly balanced proportions and bringing the car’s low centre of gravity to the fore. The two-seater's unmatched handling and lightweight construction are unmistakable.

The fully automatic three-piece hardtop offers customers the best of both sports car worlds: Namely, open-air motoring with the added security of a fixed-roof coupe. The RF boasts the fastest retractable hardtop on the market with an exceptionally clever and narrow mechanism that opens or closes in only 13 seconds – even on the move at low speeds.

Thanks to the solid roof and thorough sound insulation, the Mazda MX-5 RF ensures unprecedented comfort. The soft-top is also better insulated than previous generations. Inside, the driver and passenger sit lower than in previous MX-5 generations and enjoy better all-round visibility as well as easier seat adjustment and door operation.

The 2.0 litre engine is sublime. It has a throaty roar yet is well mannered around town. The current Mazda MX-5 is the lightest model since the first edition launched in 1989 and, despite the increase in comfort, steers through curves as agilely and crisply as ever.

This is possible due to clever modifications to the chassis and body structure, a significantly higher proportion of highstrength steel and aluminium, and perfect weight distribution between the front and rear axles. The space-saving electric power steering delivers even more precise and direct feedback on steering wheel movements than its predecessor.

The two high-compression, high-revving Skyactiv-G direct-injection petrol engines in are the ideal for the car's handling characteristics.

The two-litre Skyactiv-G is even more responsive and direct across the engine’s range, responding quickly to throttle commands and sounding more powerful while retaining its efficiency.

MX-5 offers LED headlights with automatic headlamp levelling, electrically adjustable outside mirrors and an automatic climate control system as standard as well as the elegant doorsills with stainless steel insert. Another equipment highlight is Mazda’s MZD Connect infotainment system with 7in colour touchscreen and Rotary Commander, digital radio (DAB) and six speakers.

Also standard is smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay – now with a wireless connection – and Android Auto, which allows apps installed on a smartphone to be displayed on the MZD Connect display of the vehicle and used safely.

It offers a Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) and full-LED headlights with automatic range adjustment to ensure optimal illumination of the road at all times.

The enhanced City Emergency Brake Assist (SCBS - Smart City Brake Support) detects vehicles and pedestrians in front of the car and triggers automatic braking if necessary, and City Emergency Brake Assist Plus (SCBS R - Smart City Brake Support Reverse) detects vehicles and obstacles behind the car. The systems join Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), Driver Attention Alert (DAA) and a rear-view camera.

No other car for the money offers as much fun. The MX-5 remains a timeless delight.

Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 litre GT Sport

Price: £33,320. Price starts at £24,755

Engine: a 2.0 litre 164ps

Performance: Top speed 136mph and 0 to 60mph in 6.8 seconds

Costs: 40.9mpg

Emissions: 156g/km

Insurance: Group 30

Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles