The Car

The 2016 MX5, Analogue Awesomeness in a Digital World

Click the photo to sit in the cockpit!

We live in a world where driverless cars will be a reality soon, where hoverboards and drones fulfil our childhood sci-fi fantasies, where we need never again get lost thanks to constant connectivity and Google Maps. That’s all well and good, but welcome to the antithesis: Mazda’s fourth-generation MX5 roadster. It has sat nav and a touchscreen interface, Bose speakers built into the headrests, and a blind-spot warning system. But none of that really matters because this diminutive roadster is the antidote to the sofa-bed experience of modern driving, with all its electronic aids.

Today, car companies strategically tread a path that sees each new model carefully build upon the qualities and design hallmarks of the last one. The MX5 is Mazda’s most iconic car – and represents the world’s best-selling roadster – which has always had its own look. However, the new one gets dressed in the family Kodo design language and this has fundamentally changed the appearance of the MX5. The fourth-generation car features a sharp  new front-end which has shades of the Honda S2000 and the most aggressive “face” ever seen on an MX5. At the rear, the new lamps and the boot deck call to mind the last BMW Z4.

Beyond the aesthetics, Mazda has gone back to the basic goodness of the first car. Therefore it’s lightweight, affordable and fun to drive. The latest MX5 weighs just over a ton with a driver on board, which is less than any MX5 before it, except the first-generation model. The new model uses the smallest engine of any MX5 too (the first-generation car started with a 1.6L, the new car kicks off with a 1.5L) and its footprint , rather than ballooning like every other new car, is small at less than 4m long, 1.25m high and with a shorter wheelbase than before.

If you like driving, you’ll love the new MX5.  The car sits on a unique, lightweight rear-wheel drive platform which is optimised for its type, and ultimately for driving pleasure,  the MX5 is a proper sports car and you can feel that within half a mile of taking it out for its first spin. What we love is how smile-inducing the MX5 is; whether you choose the 1.5L or the more muscular 2.0L  we really don’t think you can lose.

Click the photo for a closer look!

The hood takes about four seconds to put up and down, as it always has in any MX5. Simply unlatch the central clip, push the roof up and back with you arm and then give it a good press down until it clicks into its down position behind your head. Simply perform the reverse to put it back up. The net result is you end up driving with the roof down more often, even while dodging showers!

Jump inside the  cockpit and you couldn’t be anywhere except in an MX5: the snug accommodation; those big round dials; the thin-rimmed, slightly too large steering wheel; the bulls-eye air vents; and that hand-brake sprouting up next to the stubby gear lever. It’s all simple, pared back, functional – even with the futuristic impact of the MZD-connect floating screen and its centre console controller – and very much Mazda MX5.

It’s also a more modern, brighter experience than before, you can have tan leather if you like, and Mazda has neatly twisted some colour into the cabin by visually running the exterior paint on to the door tops. The curve as it comes into the cabin at the windscreen, keying through to the top of the wing is a nice touch and makes the MX5’s cabin feel like it’s part of the outside elements, which when the roof’s down is absolutely the case. Top-down motoring is very refined though, and you will be impressed by the lack of wind noise and freedom from buffeting.

There is more to play with than you might expect in a back-to-basics sort of roadster. All models have two USB ports, AUX port, music streaming,  DAB radio, and LED lamps. If you go for the Sport or Sport Nav spec, then Bose sound with speakers built into the headrests, parking sensors, heated leather seats, lane departure warning and keyless entry all come as part of the package.

The 1.5L has less low down torque than the 2.0L, but the gear change is so slick, you will love using the free revving engine  to keep it on the boil. On their Bilstein dampers and bigger wheels, the 2.0 Sport and Sport Nav cars have a firmer, less settled ride. It’s the price you pay for a sharper, more precise drive through corners when you’re really pressing on. On balance, at just £850 more model-to-model, we’d take the 160bhp 2.0L for the extra grunt. But the 1.5L will be fine for many and is a really sweet little sports car.

On a sunny day, hopping in, slapping the roof back, firing up the rorty little engine and then heading off down your favourite road in an MX5 is still one of life’s great automotive pleasures. The MX5 remains one of the most accessible, affordable and visceral ways to put a smile on your face the auto industry offers. If you are sick of the daily grind and think all modern cars are dull, then this is the tonic – a car to charm, a car to romance you and to help you fall in love with the simple pleasure of driving again. Ultimately, the MX5 proves the ongoing relevance of an analogue experience in a digital world. Long may that continue.

With grateful thanks to Pocket Lint.

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