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Mazda MX-5 GT 2.0-litre 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Richard Blackburn road tests and reviews the Mazda MX-5 GT 2.0-litre with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Driving enthusiasts are spoiled for choice with the latest generation of the world's biggest selling roadster.

Two-litre or not two-litre? That is the question on the lips of most buyers when they head into a Mazda showroom to look at the latest version world's most popular two-seat roadster.

Many respected judges — including the CarsGuide Car of the Year panel that made it a finalist — argue the 1.5-litre engine that powers the cheapest version of the fourth-generation MX-5 is more than enough.

It's more in keeping with the design philosophy of the 1989 original, which focused on lightweight, affordable motoring thrills.

But there's a strong argument for optioning the bigger engine.

For a start, the bigger engine has a compelling bang-for-your-buck equation.

The 2.0-litre costs $2500 more but gives you roughly 20 per cent more power and a third more torque. That gets you to 100km/h a second quicker, in a claimed 7.3 secs. Option that engine and you also get bigger 17-inch wheels with lower-profile tyres and LED daytime running lights.

On the downside it is 24kg heavier and uses about 13 per cent more fuel.

Design

The MX-5 is a handsome car. It exudes sportiness from every crease and panel and the fabric roof doesn't detract from the design when it's up, although it looks better with the top down.

The cabin is minimalist and in the base model it lacks the centre screen people have come to expect in even the most basic hatches.

There's no conventional glovebox but there's a handy space between the seats to store gear and the boot is a cosy 135L.

For a sports model, the seats aren't as body-hugging as you'd expect but there's enough support for enthusiastic cornering. The thin rimmed steering wheel feels sporty.

It's a sports car and it's still safer than a Harley if you plan to come out the other side of that midlife crisis

Manual operation of the folding roof — the mechanism is a triumph of simplicity — means you can have it up or down roughly as quick as a pair of trousers.

Gripes? Headroom will be tight for taller drivers and the cabin feels a little cramped. The cupholder also intrudes awkwardly into the passenger's legroom.

Our test car was the manual GT, which starts at just under $40,000 plus on-roads. Over the base car it adds auto headlights and wipers, LED daytime running lights, leather trim, climate control aircon, 7-inch touchscreen, satnav, premium audio and keyless entry.

Unlike most car makers Mazda doesn't charge extra for most of its metallic paints. There are six colours to choose from and only the hero colour, Soul Red, adds a reasonable $200.

About town

You can't help but feel a little exposed in traffic in the MX-5. You sit with your bum only inches off the ground and when you're surrounded by trucks, you find yourself hoping you're not in their blind spot.

Mazda seems resigned to a four-star rating in crash testing and the car doesn't have a reversing camera, so safety isn't a strong point. But hey, it's a sports car and it's still safer than a Harley if you plan to come out the other side of that midlife crisis.

The satnav is handy around town. Rearward vision isn't great so parking sensors would have been a welcome addition.

The extra urge of the 2.0-litre is welcome, particularly if hills are part of the scenery

Apart from that, the Mazda is reasonably relaxed and refined on the urban crawl.

The ride is firm without being too crashy and the 2.0-litre is noticeably livelier off the mark than the 1.5, which makes the car a little more fun in the city. The only thing missing is a bit of burble and popping exhaust.

On the road

The little Mazda is as happy as a pig in mud on a tight, twisting bit of tarmac. It feels superbly balanced when changing direction and the pin-sharp steering makes it easy to point exactly where you want it to go.

The rear-drive setup means it will carry a bit of go-kart style attitude through corners, which adds to the fun factor.

Mid-corner bumps and corrugations fail to upset the suspension, which is firm but not bone-jarring.

In 1.5-litre guise, the engine is adequate for shifting the MX-5 along at a brisk pace. However the extra urge of the 2.0-litre is welcome, particularly if hills are part of the scenery.

Road and wind noise are unavoidable when you're this close to the ground with a fabric roof over your head and it would become tiresome on a long freeway haul.

Verdict

The latest MX-5 proves that you don't need a V8 to have fun. It's the kind of car that puts a smile on your face every time you get in.

And you'll find the smile is wider with the 2.0-litre engine.

What it's got

Satnav, leather trim, climate control, Bluetooth audio, daytime running lights, auto headlights and wipers.

What it hasn't

Reversing camera, parking sensors, folding metal roof, CD player.

Ownership

Mazda's three-year/100,000km warranty isn't the most generous in the industry, while services are more frequent than some, coming every 10,000km and costing about $1350 over three years.

Do you think the MX-5 2.0L would tempt you away from an 86 or a BRZ? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Mazda MX-5 pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$26,990
Based on 60 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$21,480
Highest Price
$36,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $22,890 – 34,000 2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 (base) Pricing and Specs
GT 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $24,280 – 29,990 2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 GT Pricing and Specs
RF 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $26,180 – 32,340 2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 RF Pricing and Specs
RF GT 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $28,160 – 33,990 2016 Mazda MX-5 2016 RF GT Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Pricing Guide

$24,280

Lowest price, based on 15 car listings in the last 6 months

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