Used Mazda MX-5 long-term test: report 5

The Mazda MX-5 is a firm favourite with those who want fun in the sun, but what’s a used one like as your only car? We have four months to find out...

Long term Mazda MX-5 side

The car 2019 Mazda MX-5 2.0 184ps GT Sport Nav+ Run by Max Adams, used cars reporter

Why it’s here To find out if a two-seat sports car is a help or hindrance in everyday life

Needs to Provide maximum smiles per mile without breaking the bank

Mileage 3403 List price new (2019) £26,095 Price new with options £26,885 Value now £19,488 Test economy 39.2mpg

20 October 2020 – Standout sports car

Most reviews for the book 'Kafka on the Shore' talk at great length about magical realism, or its deeper meaning in relation to popular culture, but I’m focusing on chapter 13 and specifically the drive to the Kochi prefecture that Kafka and Oshima make in a Mazda MX-5, because I feel it accurately matches the experiences I’ve had with my Mazda.  

Used Mazda MX-5 with an idiot behind the wheel

"Oshima changes lanes smoothly, slipping in between other cars, effortlessly shifting gears. Each time the hum of the engine changes slightly," read a passage in said chapter. It’s true that the diminutive size of the MX-5 does indeed allow you to cheekily nip into gaps. Plus, visibility is excellent with the roof down, because there’s an unimpeded rear view over your shoulder. 

The gearbox is another delight, because the shift action is one of the best around. It’s so direct that I’m convinced I can feel the teeth of each gear meshing together every time I move between ratios. It’s also apt that the book mentions the engine’s tone only changes slightly; the gearing is fairly short in the MX-5 to make sure the engine revs remain high enough so that you’re always in the sweet spot for power. Put your foot down and it’ll accelerate without fuss as a result, accompanied by that subtle shift in tone.

Later in the book, the two characters leave the motorways and start climbing the twisting mountain roads: "Oshima flips the lights to full beam and races ahead, braking, accelerating, shifting from second to third and back."

I've found myself doing much the same thing along country roads; the LED headlights allow me to safely spot what’s ahead, while the car gives me plenty of warning about how much grip is left in corners as I ease back onto the accelerator. The MX-5 has lost some steering feel compared with older examples due to its switch to electric assistance, but the weighting is practically perfect and the car always goes where you point it, so that’s only a minor quibble.

Used Mazda MX-5 lightly soiled

Indeed, the only major downside with the MX-5 is the small boot, which means I'm often tempted to carry items in the passenger footwell. I tried transporting a pot plant, and after a slightly enthusiastic turn around a roundabout, it inevitably fell over and transferred a load of soil onto the carpet. It was a shame I didn’t have a protagonist next to me to hold it in place, as in Kafka's adventure, but fortunately it all hoovered out.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

More from our long-term Mazda MX-5 >

Read our Mazda MX-5 used review >

Also consider