Three months ago, I convinced Mazda to lend me an ND MX-5 for a few months of ‘living with’ testing. The car I opted for was a 1.5-litre SE-L Nav which costs £20,385. The reason why I chose the 128bhp 1.5 and not the 158bhp 2.0 was to get as balanced a comparison as possible with this new car and the car that it’s most closely related to in the four MX-5 generations, the 1.8-litre Mk1, which also happens to have around 128bhp - although many of you will know that the 1.8 Mk1 pictured above has a little more power now thanks to the addition of a TD04 turbo.
So with 2000 miles now under the ND’s belt, what have I learnt about the little roadster? I’ve already written about the obvious things - like being able to carry a Christmas tree, and bitching about leg room and cupholders - so here are the things that only extended periods of time behind the wheel have revealed:
It flows nicely and is a great long-distance cruiser
Okay, if I were to put this thing next to an S-class and tell you that it’s a “great long-distance cruiser” then I’d be broken-hearted if you didn’t slap my face and tell me to “get real”. The MX-5 has nothing on luxury cars for wafting, but for a lightweight sports car, it’s refined, quiet, simple to drive and easy to fall asleep in (my girlfriend loves a cheeky power nap).
The pedal weights are light, as is the steering, and the tight gearbox is dead easy to work with. The thing that I’ve enjoyed most about my time with the ND, however, is how nicely it flows. To give you an example, the area in which I live is littered with speed bumps, roundabouts and vacuous drivers (you know, the kind of people who drive so badly that you always think ‘how in the hell have they made it this far without suffocating because they forgot to breathe for a few minutes?’). Despite these things, I always get the car into a satisfying flow where I don’t need to brake hard for speed bumps (the car easily sits high enough to clear everything), steer hard or accelerate hard, which keeps my stress levels down and the car moving gracefully. I guess this was the thinking behind Mazda’s Jinba Ittai - horse and rider as one - maxim.
My biggest bugbear about our ND was the Mica Blue colour that did nothing for the ND’s lines. I mean, c’mon, this is one of the most exciting Mazda cars in recent times and nobody looks twice at it when the colour doesn’t reflect that.
That’s why I went ahead and gave Junior an orange makeover. You can see how the liquid wrap process was carried out by the guys at DipMyVehicle in the video above, and the conspicuous transformation has done the car the world of good (this is obviously subjective, but most of you guys who have seen it on Instagram have loved the change). Now, the ND’s lines stand out and the car gets the attention that it deserves.
It's the little things that I like...
There are loads of little things about the MX-5 ND that I like. These include the speed and ease in which the manual roof can be put up and put back down with the pull of one central clip (it’s quicker to operate than any other generation), the sat-nav, cruise control, xenon lights and the ease of parking.
The 1.5-litre engine also sounds pretty strong, and people I’ve taken out for a drive (including Mr. Engineering Explained) actually thought that this was the 2.0-litre model, which is pretty cool. What’s more, the little engine is very frugal. Over 2000 miles of driving (including motorway, city and being thrashed for our forthcoming MX-5 Generations video), it’s averaged 38.2mpg, which is damn good going!
Speaking of the little things, the boot is tiny (easily the smallest of all the generations), which has been frustrating, as has the lack of a glovebox for all my hairdressing equipment.
Inside on the whole, though, it’s comfortable and looks pretty smart. Just don’t try to thumb the interior plastics, as you’ll end up with a broken digit because all you’ll find are hard/cheap materials. Still, weight reduction…
Would I actually buy one?
If I were to lay down cash on a fun and new £20k+ car then yes, I would buy an ND MX-5. But it wouldn’t be the same car that you see here. It’d be the 2.0 Sport trim MX-5 that I’d buy for the added power, Bilstein dampers and sports suspension and, crucially, the limited-slip differential.
The reason for this choice is simple: the ND’s chassis is so good that it deserves to have the power upgrade and the better suspension. And if you’re going to have a lightweight, rear-wheel drive sports car without an LSD, then that’s as good as visiting a street pharmacist and asking for cough medicine, when what you really need is the hard, addictive stuff that makes your whole body tingle in ecstasy: drifting.
If you have any obscure questions about the ND MX-5 and my time with it, then I’ll do my best to answer them all below.