What's the used Mazda MX-5 sports like?
Fun. That would be the best way to describe the Mazda MX-5. It exists as an enthusiast’s car, but an enthusiast’s car with concessions to the real world, where fuel prices are high, parking spaces are tight and road space is limited. None of these challenges hold the MX-5 back; it’s an entertaining car for all situations and with used prices for early ones similar to those of a base-spec new small car, it makes for a great secondhand buy too.
A 1.5-litre engine opens the range, with a modest 129bhp, but even this is enough for acceleration that feels enjoyably brisk. There is also a 2.0-litre engine with 158bhp, and this was upgraded to produce 181bhp from mid-2018 onwards, helping the MX-5 to feel slightly swifter than the heavier Toyota GT86. If you want a bit more performance, the BMW Z4 – especially earlier cars with a six-cylinder engine – is a strong alternative.
Sport Nav gets you firmer sports suspension with Bilstein dampers, auto lights and wipers, leather seats, Bose premium audio, rear parking sensors and lane-departure warning. A safety pack was an option on this trim level; it included Blindspot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. Alternatively, go for the GT Sport Nav+, which included that pack and also gave you keyless entry and a reversing camera.
Weight – or a lack of it – is key to the MX-5 being as good as it is to drive. You see, being relatively light, the car doesn’t need stiff dampers, springs and anti-roll bars to control body movement in corners. This means you can have a nimble car – especially important on winding country B-roads – without compromising its ride quality. It might be a little firmer than the original MX-5, but this latest generation is still very supple, especially on the smallest 16in alloy wheels available with the 1.5-litre engine.
Inside the MX-5, you get two snug seats, a stubby gearlever (there’s an auto, too, if you want it) and a hood that can be neatly folded away in a single arm movement. It’s not the most spacious two-seat convertible, though, and some owners have criticised the lack of storage space. With only a small cubby in the centre console and a shallow tray in front of the gearlever, you can understand their point.
The good news is that boot space is unaffected by the roof being up or down. Bad news is that, while you can fit a couple of overnight bags in there, the opening is rather narrow. How narrow? Well, a set of golf clubs will not fit. If you need more practicality, the Mini Convertible, with two extra seats, might be worth considering.