Menu

Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

Mazda MX-5, Holden Cascada and BMW 2 Series Convertible 2015 review


Spring is in the air and it's time to get our tops off. Conditions are perfect for convertibles; summer's too hot and winter is too cold.

As we come out of hibernation there are three new arrivals to tempt us: the new Mazda MX-5, Holden Cascada and the cheapest BMW drop top ever sold in Australia.

While these cars are not direct rivals they demonstrate what's available in the $30,000, $40,000 and $50,000 price brackets.

Mazda MX-5

Starting at $31,990 plus on-road costs this is currently the cheapest ticket to open top motoring. It also happens to be the most fun to drive.

That's because Mazda has gone back to basics and made the new MX-5 almost as small as the original 25 years ago.

  • 2015 Mazda MX-5 2015 Mazda MX-5
  • 2015 Mazda MX-5 2015 Mazda MX-5
  • 2015 Mazda MX-5 2015 Mazda MX-5
  • 2015 Mazda MX-5 2015 Mazda MX-5
  • 2015 Mazda MX-5 2015 Mazda MX-5

Mazda was so obsessed with weight loss there are only four nuts holding the wheels on (instead of five) and there's no 12V power socket or even a glovebox (there's one USB port and a small cubby between the seats).

Cabin space was such a premium the cup holders are an add-on (demanded by the American market). They can take a bottle of water, until you take a corner. They end up being a handy place to stow a phone.

The folding metal roof is gone, replaced by a fabric top which you can raise or lower as fast as your flexibility allows. We did it without instruction in less than 20 seconds. With familiarity, owners would trim that time considerably.

On the road the MX-5 reminds you that motoring can still be fun at modest speeds.

Because you're sitting so close to the ground (it feels like you can reach out and touch the road, let alone the sky) the sensation of speed is increased.

To be honest, you can also feel vulnerable depending on what type of vehicle you're alongside. At the lights you're staring SUVs in their wheel nuts. There's not much metal around you should someone decide to run a red light but at least the MX-5 has four airbags (two front, two side).

Don't be put off by the tiny 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, it's a sweety. It revs cleany and is more than adequate for its 1009kg frame.

The manual gearshift is relatively sharp (although not as precise as the original MX-5 if we're being picky) and there's the option of a six-speed auto if you prefer to pose.

A 2.0-litre engine (which has more power and torque although it doesn't rev as freely as the 1.5) will join the MX-5 line-up later in the year; borrowed from the Mazda3 it was added to the range at the request of the US market.

The purists and the pundits are divided on engines: some say more power is always better but others point out the 1.5 was designed specifically for the new MX-5 and is a better match for the character of the car.

This is the automotive equivalent of the contentious iPhone 6 versus iPhone 6 Plus debate. Our take? The 1.5 is fine. Pocket the change.

Holden Cascada

  • 2015 Holden Cascada 2015 Holden Cascada
  • 2015 Holden Cascada 2015 Holden Cascada
  • 2015 Holden Cascada 2015 Holden Cascada
  • 2015 Holden Cascada 2015 Holden Cascada
  • 2015 Holden Cascada 2015 Holden Cascada
  • 2015 Holden Cascada 2015 Holden Cascada

This is the successor to the Astra convertible but with a new name and a more attractive price, starting at $41,990 plus on-road costs.

The Cascada, Spanish for waterfall (an unusual choice for a car that's supposed to prevent leaks) comes to Holden dealers via General Motors' European division Opel.

In many respects it's the opposite to the light and nimble Mazda MX-5 but it still oozes appeal.

Designed to fit four in comfort the Cascada is about cruising and posing.

It's more suited to soaking up bumps on beachside boulevards rather than setting any lap records on a race track.

The Cascada is quite big to manouvre, and not just because we had an MX-5 with us. It's almost as long as a Commodore.

We also parked the Cascada alongside a previous Astra convertible owned by a friend and were stunned to find the boot (although generously proportioned) is significantly smaller than the old model.

At least the back seats flip open to stow larger loads.

The other thing that was apparent was the length and weight of the Cascada's doors. They can make parking in tight spots tricky.

The 1.6-litre turbo engine is a bit noisy but has enough oomph for this type of transport.

The large audio display in the middle of the dash is not a touchscreen and the buttons are fiddly. At least a rear camera is standard (it's optional on the MX-5).

Open top motoring is yours (while travelling up to 50km/h) in 17 automated seconds, beating the BMW's time of 21 seconds (by our stopwatch).

BMW 2 Series

  • 2015 BMW 220i Sport Line 2015 BMW 220i Sport Line
  • 2015 BMW 220i Luxury Line 2015 BMW 220i Luxury Line
  • 2015 BMW 220i Luxury Line 2015 BMW 220i Luxury Line
  • Room for weekend luggage for two with the roof folded, plus a few dozen bottles of wine. Room for weekend luggage for two with the roof folded, plus a few dozen bottles of wine.
  • 2015 BMW 220i Luxury Line 2015 BMW 220i Luxury Line
  • 2015 BMW 228i convertible 2015 BMW 228i convertible
  • 2015 BMW 228i convertible 2015 BMW 228i convertible
  • 2015 BMW 228i convertible 2015 BMW 228i convertible
  • 2015 BMW 228i convertible 2015 BMW 228i convertible
  • 2015 BMW 228i convertible 2015 BMW 228i convertible

If the Mazda MX-5 is about hugging corners and the Holden Cascada is about cruising beach suburbs then the BMW 2 Series convertible is the best of both worlds.

Starting from $54,900 plus on-road costs you pay for the privilege of having two cars in one, but it's also worth repeating that this is the cheapest ever ticket into a BMW drop top in Australia. And that's even including a rear camera as standard.

The sharp price explains why there is already an orderly queue. Having driven it we can see the appeal. If you're in line, be patient, this car is worth the wait.

It's as roomy inside as the Holden Cascada but has more efficient use of space, starting with the massive door pockets and larger console and glovebox.

The boot is also generously sized even though the BMW 2 Series convertible can fit into a smaller parking space than the Holden.

As the most expensive car here it should also come as no surprise that the BMW is the nicest to live with day-to-day while still offering driver enjoyment.

The 2.0-litre turbo has more than enough power to get you into and out of trouble. Combined with an eight-speed auto, it gets off the line smartly.

BMWs have previously been criticised for being too sharp over bumps, in part due to the stiffer runflat tyres.

Improvements in tyre technology mean that is no longer a trade-off. But these tyres are about 50 per cent dearer than normal tyres to replace and cannot legally be repaired with a plug if punctured.

The cost of metallic paint is obscene: $1142. Fortunately it looks good in white.

Verdict

As this is not a back-to-back test we can declare each of these cars a winner in their own right.

The Mazda MX-5 is the cheapest way to combine genuine driver enjoyment with open top motoring and is a favourite to take out the numerous Car of the Year awards.

The Cascada is the most affordable ticket into a pose chariot, but if the budget stretches far enough the BMW aces the lot due to its unique ability to combine comfort, style and driving fun.

 

2015 Mazda MX-5
Price from: $31,990 plus on-road costs
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Servicing: $1351 over 3 years
Service interval: 10,000km/9 months
Safety: 4 airbags, not ANCAP rated
Engine: 1.5-litre, 4-cyl, 96kW/150Nm
Transmission: 6-speed man or 6-speed auto; RWD
Thirst: 6.1L/100km (man), 6.4L/100km (auto)
Dimensions: 3915mm (L), 1735mm (W), 1225mm (H), 2310mm (WB)
Weight: 1009kg
Spare: None, inflation kit

Holden Cascada
Price from: $41,990 plus on-road costs
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Servicing: $916 over 3 years
Service interval: 9 months/15,000km
Safety: 4 airbags, not ANCAP rated
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 125kW/260Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; FWD
Thirst: 7.5L/100km
Dimensions: 4696mm (L), 2020mm (W), 1443mm (H), 2695mm (WB)
Weight: 1744kg
Spare: Space-saver

BMW 2 Series Convertible
Price from: $54,900 plus on-road costs
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Servicing: $806 for 3 years basic service or $2383 including brake pads, discs and wipers
Service interval: Condition-based
Safety: 4 airbags, not ANCAP rated
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 135kW/270Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; RWD
Thirst: 6.3L/100km
Dimensions: 4432mm (L), 1774mm (W), 1413mm (H), 2690mm (WB)
Weight: 1530kg
Spare: None, run-flats

View cars for sale