Driven: Mazda MX-5 facelift

* It's business as usual for MX-5 * Subtle handling and styling tweaks * On sale in April, from £16,345...

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What Car? Staff
19 February 2009

Driven: Mazda MX-5 facelift

The formula for Mazda's MX-5 has always been gloriously simple: cute looks, rear-wheel drive and a low price. If you're worried that the face-lifted version has complicated things, don't. Yes, there's a new automatic option and some subtle upgrades, but otherwise it's business as usual.

Looks familiar?

So what's new? Well, keen eyes looking over the photo on the right will have spotted the new bumpers, lights and side sills, all of which give a more angular look that's in line with Mazda's latest models. Roadster Coupe versions which have a metal rather than cloth folding roof have extra chrome trim to distinguish them from the cheaper rag-top versions.

Drop into the cosy cabin and you might just notice that some new materials and an auxiliary input socket have been added. You could fill the rest of this page with the other subtle interior upgrades: they're small things, but you get the impression that Mazda's engineers have listened to owners' gripes and sorted out the few niggles they had.

Few of those owners would have been likely to complain about the MX-5's handling, but Mazda has tweaked the suspension to sharpen things up and improve ride comfort. In truth, it's hard to tell the difference; the MX-5 is as enjoyable but undemanding as ever.


The 1.8- and 2.0-litre petrol engines have been tweaked slightly; both use less fuel and produce less carbon dioxide, while the 2.0 now revs harder. Mazda says it has tuned both for a sportier sound, but they're still disappointingly gruff. If sportiness isn't a prioirity, the 2.0-litre is now available with a six-speed automatic gearbox that comes with steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Prices have gone up a fraction and basic versions still do without air-conditioning. Every version now has alloy wheels, however, and in terms of pounds-per-smile, the MX-5 remains very hard to beat.

Mazda MX- Price from: £16,345
On sale: April
You'll like: A lot of fun for the money
You won't: Gruff engines; 1.8-litre models miss some safety kit
Our verdict: Great, as ever. Was the facelift really worth the effort?