Mazda MX-5 1.5-litre automatic 2015 review
Richard Berry road tests and reviews the Mazda MX-5 1.5-litre automatic with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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For the first time in Australia the brilliant little Mazda MX-5 is offered with two different engines. That's chiefly to permit the importer to have a price leader (at $31,990) to tackle the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. However, some drivers relish using their driving skills to get the best from small engines so the 1.5 has been selling well.
A few weeks back we tested an MX-5 with the 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine that produces a relatively modest 96kW and 150Nm. Now we have just spent a very enjoyable week in the 2.0-litre MX-5. It has a pretty respectable 118kW of power and 200Nm of torque. Our test car was a Roadster GT 2.0 with a six-speed manual gearbox.
The 2.0-litre has a starting price of $34,490 and comes with 17-inch alloys, Mazda's MZD Connect system and LED daylight running lamps as standard.
While the second and third generations (1997 and 2005) were evolutions of the original 1989 NA series, the gen-four designers have given us a modern shape based on the ‘Kodo' design as seen in the rest of the Mazda range. To our eyes the rear is rather generic, following the current global theme of round units tapering outwards into slim horizontal areas.
Paddles behind the wheel of the auto do provide sort-of manual driving, but it's not the same thing
The MX-5 comes as a Roadster and an upmarket Roadster GT. The GT stands out visually in that the body colour continues over onto the tops of the doors into the cabin. It has black door-mirror housings. Automatic lights and wipers, climate control on the air conditioning, and keyless entry and start are standard in the GT.
A 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, internet radio, Mazda's MZD Connect multimedia system has a 7.0-inch touchscreen and is operated by a ‘Commander Control' between the seats.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine used in the MX-5 we reviewed has 118 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque. Six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions are offered. Paddles behind the wheel of the auto do provide sort-of manual driving, but it's not the same thing. Give us the manual any day.
The MX-5 received five stars for passive safety, but only a four-star rating in safety assist. A spokesperson for Mazda Australia points out that, "There has never been a sports car that has received a five star rating in the past."
Again in the interests of chassis balance the seats are lower than before. Getting in and out will be a challenge if your body has a few extra years on the clock, or your belly has gained some extra inches. Try before you buy…
Once settled into the low seats you will find they provide good support without being overly aggressive in their side bolsters.
Having 33 per cent more displacement than the 1.5 engine instantly endeared us to the MX-5 2.0. And 'instantly' is the right word to describe this sports powerplant - because the moment you hit the pedal on the right you get instant action.
Sure, turbocharged hot hatches produce even more oomph than a naturally aspirated unit like the Mazda. But not until the irritating lag has finally let you get the power you demanded seemingly an age back.
Even better, the little Mazda roadster sounds great as there's no turbo to muffle the exhaust note. A little more volume would be appreciated, but there are tough regulations about this sort of thing.
Keep the engine in the 4000 to 6000 range - it's happy to get up to 7000 - on your favourite stretch of winding mountain road and your smile will grow by the minute.
You really do get the feeling you can 'think' the car around corners rather than having to give it orders by way of the steering and throttle.
The six-speed manual gearshift has short throws, is ultra smooth and is perhaps even better than in previous MX-5s. Brilliant.
Operation of the soft-top roof is ultra simple. Undo a single catch in the centre of the windscreen header, fold the roof back and it clips down into the open position. You can do it in three seconds if you're into setting speed records for opening up the sky.
The MX-5 is front-mid engined, meaning the complete drivetrain is within the wheelbase for exceptional chassis balance. Note that the engine in the new ND series is even further back than in the NC Series, it superseded a few months ago.
Boot space is surprisingly good for such a small car, particularly in its depth. We had no trouble fitting a week's worth of shopping for a couple in there.
Handling is what the Mazda MX-5 is all about. Always good in the first three generations it's even better now. There's a huge amount of road grip thanks to the near-perfect front to rear balance and the aforementioned low centre of gravity. You really do get the feeling you can 'think' the car around corners rather than having to give it orders by way of the steering and throttle.
The ride is surprisingly comfortable for a car with the sort of dynamic balance and superb road grip the MX-5 provides.
Concrete surfaced roads are not a MX-5's forte, they create a lot of tyre noise, that and wind noise at 110 km/h makes life not particularly pleasant to sit in for extended periods.
Mazda MX-5 is the biggest selling roadster of all time. We have had the pleasure of road testing every model since day one, sometimes over many thousands of kilometres on holiday trips. Good as the MX-5 NA, NB and NC series were, the all-new ND is even better. If you want to put a bit of fun - no, a lot of fun - into your driving life pop down to your favourite Mazda dealer asap.
|(base)||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$23,888 – 26,000||2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|GT||1.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$25,888 – 29,990||2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 GT Pricing and Specs|
|RF||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$25,300 – 31,240||2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 RF Pricing and Specs|
|RF GT||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$26,510 – 32,780||2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 RF GT Pricing and Specs|