2015 Mazda MX-5 1.5 review

Is the entry-level Mazda MX-5 as good on UK roads as the outstanding higher-powered, 2.0-litre car?...

2015 Mazda MX-5 1.5 review
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Vicky Parrott
13 Aug 2015 16:25

The question we need to answer here isn’t so much "is the 1.5-litre MX-5 any good?" as it is "should I buy this over the 2.0-litre MX-5?" That’s because we’ve already driven the MX-5 and know it to be outstandingly good, and also because it has next to no direct rivals.

Even the Toyota GT86 we’ve tested it against is hard-top only and substantially more expensive, so if you want a sub-£20k, fun, new soft-top sports car, you’re looking at your only option.

This base 1.5-litre car starts at £18,495 or around £230 per month on finance, and with its lightweight, two-seat body, manual fabric hood, rear-wheel-drive chassis and slick six-speed gearbox, it looks like a great blend of fun and affordability.

What's the 2015 Mazda MX-5 1.5 like to drive? 

The 1.5 engine isn’t very powerful, but it revs happily all the way to 7000rpm, and serves up a progressive build of pace that works wonderfully on UK roads. It never feels outright fast, but it's pretty swift if you work it hard.

The handling is no less well-suited to UK roads. Over damp, uneven rural roads, this entry-level Mazda feels responsive and light-footed, willing to let the rear end slip a little bit to aid turn-in should you wish, but grippy enough to make you feel secure even during fast direction changes.

Having said that, the fact that the 1.5 model rides on smaller wheels and does without the strut brace (which adds rigidity) and limited-slip diff that all 2.0-litre models get, does make it feel comparatively less precise and adjustable in very hard cornering. It’s just a touch more vague in general, despite well-weighted steering. Even so, it's small criticism for this charismatic, everyday roadster

What's the 2015 Mazda MX-5 like inside? 

The only niggling irritations in the MX-5 are that its pedals are offset to the right, the snug seat could be a bit narrow for some drivers, particularly around the shoulders, and there's little space to store items, given that there aren't any door bins.

Otherwise, for most drivers it will offer a good range of adjustment (the standard tilt adjustment is particularly welcome, although the seat height is fixed), and the gearlever and dash switches are well placed. The boot is big enough for a couple of cabin bags and is unaffected if you drop the roof, so it'll be fine for a weekend away.

Interior quality is good, with a well-judged blend of tactile materials and generally solid build quality. Range-topping Sport trim feels particularly plush, with leather upholstery, Bose sound system and keyless entry and go, among other features.

SE-L trim is our pick, because it’s much cheaper, and still gets climate control, the 7.0in colour touchscreen, Bluetooth, digital radio, two USB inputs, LED headlights and a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel, and you can add nav for £600. Base SE is cheap, but with no colour screen, DAB or Bluetooth, it’ll feel sparse.

Should I buy one? 

Ultimately the MX-5 is a joyous car, even in its cheapest guise and in all kinds of driving. It's a great option if you want something really fun and accessible, and not too expensive to buy or run (we saw over 40mpg even with hard use).

However, given that the 2.0-litre costs only £600-£800 extra and has more involving handling and performance without being any more intimidating, we’d say it’s worth the extra to step up to the bigger motor.  

What Car? says... 

The rivals 

Audi TT Roadster

Toyota GT86

Mazda MX-5 1.5 131 SE

Engine size 1.5-litre petrol 

Price from £18,495

Power 129bhp

Torque 111lb ft

0-62mph 8.3 seconds

Top speed 127mph

Fuel economy 47.1mpg

CO2 139g/km