Costs & verdict
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The MX-5 is the only two-seat sports car you can buy at this price level; all its bigger and more powerful rivals cost vast amounts more. However, the 1.5-litre models are certainly more temptingly priced than the more powerful 2.0-litre versions, which have less of a price advantage over the Toyota GT86: a rival that doesn’t offer a soft top but does have two tight rear seats.
Whichever engine you go for, the MX-5 is very cheap to run by sports car standard, thanks to being relatively light and having fairly efficient engines. Indeed, both the 1.5 and 2.0-litre promise to return more than 40mpg under WLTP testing, and we've regularly experienced similar results in real-world testing. In fact, in our True MPG tests, the 2.0-litre returned an impressive 45.1mpg – exceeding the official figures.
PCP deals can prove tempting and Mazda often offers interest-free finance and cheap monthly payments, but these can be dependent on you making a hefty initial deposit.
Servicing is due every year or 12,500 miles, whichever comes first, and, while Mazda’s fixed-price service plan isn’t the cheapest around, it can be paid in monthly instalments and makes it easy to budget for routine maintenance.
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level SE-L trim comes fairly well equipped, with goodies such as climate and cruise control, LED daytime running lights and 16in alloy wheels. There are also heated seats and a leather wrapped steering wheel. Sport trim throws in extras such as automatic headlights and wipers, keyless entry and rear parking sensors, as well as those important safety features mentioned earlier. For this reason, it’s our pick of the lineup. These two trims are only available with the 1.5-litre engine.
For the 2.0-litre, you have a choice of another two trims. Sport Tech adds a reversing camera, 17in wheels, sports suspension and a limited-slip differential. We'd say top-spec GT Sport Tech models aren't worth the extra, though, because they only add a few cosmetic tweaks. Meanwhile, the 100th Anniversary Special Edition celebrates Mazda's centenary in 2020 and features bespoke white and burgundy paintwork and burgundy interior trim, alongside bespoke badging on the floor mats, key fob and alloy wheels. Just 100 examples will be sold in the UK, but its high price makes it difficult to recommend.
The MX-5 was rated the most reliable sports car in the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey. Mazda as a brand, though, finished mid-table, coming 17th out of 31 manufacturers. This puts it ahead of rivals such as Audi, but behind Mini and Toyota.
The MX-5 gives you a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, with three years of European roadside assistance included.
Safety and security
Euro NCAP gave the MX-5 a four-star safety rating back in 2015. To not achieve the full five-star rating is disappointing, especially as the tests in 2015 were less stringent than they are today.
Part of the reason is that automatic emergency braking (AEB) isn’t standard across the range, but it’s only SE-L trim that goes without it – everything else gets AEB along with lane-departure warning and traffic sign monitoring. Versions with the 2.0-litre engine add blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The latter system keeps an electronic eye out for traffic when you're reversing into a road, alerting you if a vehicle is about to cross your path.
Additional standard safety equipment on all models includes roll bars, stability control and four airbags and an Isofix child seat mounting point, along with a bonnet that springs up to help reduce the severity of pedestrian injuries in an impact – the effectiveness of this made pedestrian protection one area in which the MX-5 scored very highly in the safety tests.
There’s an alarm and engine immobiliser as standard, and Thatcham Research gave the MX-5 a maximum five stars for resisting being stolen, with a four-stars for resistance to being broken into.
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