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Mazda MX-5 2015 1.5 litre review

Peter Barnwell road tests and reviews the Mazda MX-5 Roadster 1.5-litre with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Shedding weight adds to the attraction of Mazda's sports car.

A new Mazda MX-5 is a hard act to follow.

As the proud owner of a second-generation MX-5, I've driven my little Mazda relentlessly in all forms including track days, driver training, pleasure cruising and commuting.

It is a bulletproof car engineered for hard driving. The third-generation 2.0-litre model is better again — a benchmark, robust roadster in every sense.

In "sports car" terms, it might not win outright acceleration competitions but come to some corners that demand steering finesse, strong brakes, sure grip, chassis stability and rear-wheel drive predictability and it's all over.


The latest MX-5 is a step up in many ways over the previous model. Mazda engineers went to great lengths to trim grams from the car, reducing seat weight and downsizing disc rotors to get the car down to about 1000kg in 1.5-litre form.

It's still roughly 100kg heavier than the original but that's an impressive effort in these days of flabby over-featured cars.

The essentials are the same right down to the clever frame that links the engine at the front to the differential at the rear for exceptional chassis rigidity at minimal weight penalty.

From an owner's (and purist's) point of view, I think they could have gone further and deleted the push-button start and also the gear read-out along with the engine noise pipe fitted for a driver's aural pleasure. Does it need an information readout screen? Probably not if you are going down the "purist" road.

About town

The previous model had a complicated and heavy folding metal roof, but Mazda has gone back to the soft top. It works well, too. Rather than having to wait for the roof to do its thing, the driver can easily pop the roof up at the lights should it start to rain. It's faster than any automated set-up by a long shot.

For $31,990 it is reasonably equipped. It gets Bluetooth connectivity for the first time, while there are steering-wheel mounted audio controls, as well as a leather wrapped wheel and gear shifter. Tyre pressure monitoring and LED headlights are also standard.

Interior styling is a progression from the earlier models and is attractive and functional, with better quality plastics.

The car is easy to live with in the city, fitting into tight parking spots and zipping through the traffic, although a reversing camera or parking sensors would be handy. It's tighter in the cockpit and the boot is deep but smallish.

On the road

The MX-5's body and chassis engineering came in for a round of weight loss including a reduction in size to the powertrain chassis. Thankfully it has had no ill-effects on the way it rides, handles and brakes.

The only question is did they go too far with smaller brakes, the thinner plastics, and a high-compression engine which may prove problematic for future owners, many of whom love modifying their MX-5s for extra performance.

The 1.5-litre — a 2.0-litre arrives late this month — should have 17-inch wheels fitted as standard not skinny 16s. The 2.0-litre gets 17-inch tyres with wider rubber. The optional stiffer front sway bar should also be standard.

Those qualms aside, the MX-5 remains great fun to drive along a winding road.

It projects the aura of a much more expensive set of wheels

It sounds good — especially with the soft top down — and cornering is sharp and predictable. As with all MX-5s before it, the front stabiliser bar doesn't hold it flat enough through corners. That's why it needs the optional stiffer bar.

Though the brakes are smaller diameter, the car's reduced weight and stronger master cylinder gives the same level of stopping power that previous models enjoyed. And they can take a hammering.

The super sharp steering gives precision not found this side of $100,000. The manual gets a limited slip diff, which should be on the auto too.

On the road it projects the aura of a much more expensive set of wheels.


Mazda leveraged its extensive parts inventory to create the 1.5-litre. The direct injection, naturally aspirated engine is a breathed-on version of that in the Mazda2 turned to a longitudinal position in the engine bay and with appropriate engine hardware changes.

Its entire mass is located behind the front axle for perfect weight distribution.

The 1.5-litre may have modest outputs — 96kW and 150Nm — but it loves to rev, spinning out willingly to 7000rpm.

Performance is good from low in the rev range to red-line, with more shove higher up.

The power is well harnessed by a sweet shifting six-speed manual. Fuel economy is 6.1L/100km.


Love it, would go for the 2.0 litre though.

What it's got

Great looks, Bluetooth for the first time, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob.

What it hasn't

Reversing camera, hardtop roof, rear parking sensors, satnav, 7-inch multimedia screen (it's optional), a five-star crash rating (it's likely only to get four).


Three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is average. Roadside assistance is available for $68 a year. Servicing is every 10,000km, with a choice of nine-monthly or yearly services. The first four services cost $1351.

Pricing guides

Based on 15 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

(base) 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $23,990 – 24,990 2015 Mazda MX-5 2015 (base) Pricing and Specs
25th Anniversary L.E. 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $25,410 – 31,350 2015 Mazda MX-5 2015 25th Anniversary L.E. Pricing and Specs
Coupe 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $24,200 – 29,920 2015 Mazda MX-5 2015 Coupe Pricing and Specs
GT 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $24,000 – 25,990 2015 Mazda MX-5 2015 GT Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 7 car listings in the last 6 months

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