2016 Mazda MX-5 Sport Recaro review

We sample the new range-topper of Mazda's MX-5 range, the limited edition Sport Recaro. Is it worth more than £24,000?...

22 February 2016

2016 Mazda MX-5 Sport Recaro review

We’re big fans of the Mazda MX-5 here at What Car? So much so, the little roadster won Convertible of the Year in our 2016 awards. While our current pick of the range is the mid-spec SE-L model, here we’re testing a new limited edition flagship model, the Sport Recaro.

Based on the current range-topper, the Sport Nav, it’s only available with the 2.0-litre engine – no bad thing as it’s our favourite powerplant.

Like the Sport Nav, you get climate control, a leather steering wheel, LED headlights, stiffer suspension and a limited slip differential that gives more traction when cornering. On top of this, you get Alcantara trimmed Recaro sports seats, a gloss black bodykit and spoiler, metallic paint and unique 17in alloy wheels.

However, all this equipment comes at a price; at £24,295, the Recaro is a full £1000 more expensive than the Sport Nav. Exclusivity is on your side, though, because Mazda will only make 600 examples of the Sport Recaro. So is it worth the extra cash?

What is the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Sport Recaro like to drive?

Although the Sport Recaro may look different from the outside, the mechanicals are unchanged from the Sport Nav that sits beneath it in the range. That means there’s a 2.0-litre engine with 158bhp up front driving the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox.

A weight of just under 1100kg with a driver on board means it’s quick, but not as rapid as many hot hatches. The 0-62mph sprint is covered in 7.3sec and you’ll need to rev the engine hard to make it feel that brisk. This is no chore as the motor makes a throaty roar and enjoys approaching its redline.

Keeping it there is great fun too. The manual gearbox is precise and has a short throw. In fact, it’s so good that you’ll soon be looking for excuses to change gear. However, if you’re not in the mood, the engine will happily pull from low rpm at which point you’ll be returning surprisingly good economy. A long motorway cruise saw our test car return an indicated 42mpg.

But it’s through the corners where the MX-5 is most at home. The steering is precise, fast to react to your inputs and gives a good idea of what the front tyres are doing. Initial turn-in is sharp, but there is more body roll than you might expect.

You soon get used to this and start to enjoy the balance of the chassis. Driven within its limits, it always feels neutral and is great fun to drive briskly down a B road. The upshot of the relatively soft suspension is surprisingly good ride comfort, too. 

What is the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Sport Recaro like inside?

The biggest change to the interior comes from the Recaro seats that give this model its name. Trimmed in Alcantara, they prove exceedingly supportive even under hard cornering. Not only do they hold you well, they’re also very comfortable even after a few hours behind the wheel.

There’s a matching Alcantara trim panel on the dash, some red stitching and alloy pedals to further set the scene. You also get a Bose stereo as part of this trim, handy for drowning out the wind and road noise you experience at motorway speeds. 

While the interior is attractive and feels well made, it’s a shame the steering wheel still only adjusts for rake and not reach as well. There's no getting away from the fact that the MX-5's cabin is pretty cramped for tall passengers too, particularly when it comes to head room. The boot is also on the small side, although you could squeeze a couple of squishy bags in for a weekend away. 

Should I buy one?

At £24,295, this version of the MX-5 is £4200 more expensive than our pick, the 2.0-litre SE-L. While that is a lot of money, you do get a more focused mechanical package and plenty of extra equipment.

Although this is tempting, especially with the exclusive body styling and seats, we feel that the essential character of the MX-5 still shines brightly in the cheaper SE-L trim. For the vast majority of customers, this is still the best option.

What Car says...

The rivals

Toyota GT86


Mazda MX-5 2.0Engine size 2.0-litre petrolPrice from £24,295Power 158bhpTorque 148lb ft0-62mph 7.3 secondsTop speed 133mphFuel economy 40.9mpgCO2 161g/km