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Mazda MX-5 2014 Review

EXPERT RATING
8
Peter Anderson road tests and the reviews the Mazda MX-5 25th Anniversary edition with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

It's hard to believe that in 25 years we've had just three iterations of the MX-5. You could say that it's just the Japanese manufacturer resting on its laurels, pointing to healthy sales as reason enough to leave it alone.

This third generation MX-5 is about to bow out, and just in time for its 25th anniversary to be appropriately and tastefully milked by its maker.

VALUE

At $48,380 for the six-speed manual or $49,990 for the six-speed auto, things start fairly expensively. The 25th Anniversary does come with a little identifier plate to tell you what number it is in the limited series, truly beautiful paintwork (in our case the colour of an old-school toffee apple) and a set of very pretty black alloy wheels.

And that's basically your lot over the standard hardtop MX-5. It has the same slightly reedy AM/FM/CD six-stacker from the mid-2000s, air-conditioning, leather trim, central locking, cruise control and power windows.

It seems like a lot of money, mostly because it is.

But Mazda probably has that covered - what else are you going to buy? Well, exactly.

DESIGN

The third generation is a true design classic - sleek and low, it harks back to the original but without the pop-up headlights. It's a design with no unnecessary detail but plenty of lovely ones - flared wheel arches, racy twin-roll hoops and classic bucket seats.

The interior is really nothing to write home about. It could have come out of an old Mazda2, but look closely and you'll see its simplicity is part of Mazda's weight loss strategy. The sun visors are thin blades of plastic, the rear vision mirror the lightest you could imagine.

Despite its advancing years, the MX-5 still manages to be a breath of fresh air

Of course, that lightweight strategy is instantly destroyed by the heavy folding hard top, but even that is lighter than it could be - plastic rather than metal, meaning the machinery to operate it is lighter than it would be if it were metal.

You sit low and snug in an MX-5. Too much over 180cm and you might have a problem with your head, but your legs won't be too long.

The boot is a pretty decent size considering the car's compact dimensions - there's enough space to squeeze in the weekly shop. The cabin has a good size lockable bin between the seatbacks, a roll-top cover for the drink holders and a tiny glove box.

SAFETY

Four airbags, roll hoops, ABS, traction and stability control add up to four stars from ANCAP.

FEATURES

As basic as you can get in this age of touch screens and USB-connectivity. You get none of that - a 12V plug will charge your phone and you can connect up with Bluetooth but don't expect fireworks from the stereo or its very simple dot matrix LCD display.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

Hooked up to a six-speed manual and sending power to the rear wheels is a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder producing 118kW at 7000 rpm and 188Nm at 5000 rpm. This pushes the MX-5 to 100km/h in under eight seconds.

DRIVING

Despite its advancing years, the MX-5 still manages to be a breath of fresh air. When it was born, this car was surrounded by heavy, thirsty cars. It has come through with flying colours and remains some of the best fun you can lay your hands on.

Skinny tyres, a lively, playful chassis and brilliant, communicative steering make it a joy to drive in almost any circumstance. The traction control seems to be a sop to the regulators because with small outputs and an excellent chassis, you've got a fantastically balanced and progressive experience.

You drop the roof by reaching up at the centre of the windscreen, unlatch the leading edge of the roof and then holding down a dashboard button. Within seconds the roof is folded away beneath the boot lid, then you can drop the windows and get to work.

The best environment for the Mazda MX-5 is a forested, winding road with plenty of cool, fresh air to keep your head in check as you dance through the corners. The MX-5 turns in with a bit of body roll, but that roll is entirely within the car's intent and character.

The roll is gentle and loads up the outside tyres. As you build up speed, the tyres will start to let you know how hard they're working. The first to go is the outside rear and it is entirely controllable and progressive.

Shifting through the gears is never less than a delight - the stubby gearlever, the short throw, the oiled precision of the slightly notchy gate to let you know which gear you're in.

The engine is the same as everything else - as the revs rise, the power feeds in - cool, calm, progressive. It's wonderful and the limited-slip differential can take much of the credit for its handling manners.

What all this lets you do is find your limits while knowing you don't have to have the reflexes of an A-League keeper. It rides so well, you even forget you're in a sports car. Until you look at the semi-trailer next to you and realise you could probably drive underneath without ruining your hair.

And that's the thing about the MX-5 - it can be transport because there's nothing in it that makes doing the boring stuff any more of a chore than a Corolla. The engine isn't pernickety or peaky, the ride is good, the controls are all simple and straightforward and there's so little in it, nothing much to go wrong.

Pricing Guides

$23,980
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$18,810
Highest Price
$29,150

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
25th Anniversary L.E. 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $21,450 – 27,170 2014 Mazda MX-5 2014 25th Anniversary L.E. Pricing and Specs
Coupe 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $22,440 – 27,720 2014 Mazda MX-5 2014 Coupe Pricing and Specs
Coupe Sports 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $23,650 – 29,150 2014 Mazda MX-5 2014 Coupe Sports Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$21,450

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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