Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Mazda MX-5 Series Review

Celebrating its twentieth birthday this year the MX-5 is universally lauded for its design, performance and sales success.

The MX-5 story began in 1979 when the then Chief of the Mazda Research Department; Kenichi Yamamoto reportedly asked US automotive journalist Rob Hall what sort of car Mazda should be building for the American market. Hall responded with - a classic simple British style roadster. In affect a modenised MGB or Lotus Elan.

In 1981 Bob Hall obtained a role in planning with Mazda US by which time Yamamoto had become Chairman of Mazda, Yamamoto was also a key player in the development of the Mazda Rotary engine, so this is a story filled with success.


The car was designed around 5 key criteria;

1. the car needed to be compact and light while meeting all global safety requirements

2. the cockpit had to be comfortable for two large adults but have no wasted space.

3. a classic configuration of front engined rear wheel drive with a 50-50 weight distribution

4. Fully independent suspension

5. a stressed frame connecting engine to rear mounted diff TRANSAXLE to ensure the optimum weight distribution.

Launched on the 10th of February 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show, it received an enthusiastic response and great press coverage. That high profile coverage continued through to the initial road tests with the result that demand outstripped supply for quite sometime.


The MX-5 model timeline

1st Generation – 1989-1997 - Pop-up Headlights

  • First sold with a 1.6L straight-4 engine which remained until 1993,
  • 1.8 L from late ’93 to ‘97

2nd Generation – 1998 -2005

  • introduced in 1998 with a slight increase in engine power
  • more streamlined and less rounded design
  • fixed headlights
  • Glass rear window.
  • Variable intake control system

3rd Generation

Interestingly Pixar based the star of their movie “Cars”; Lightning McQueen on the MX-5 as well as Lightning’s twin fans Mia and Tia who are also MX-5s.

The MX-5 is the most successful two seater of all time and a worthy addition to the Carsguide Car of the Week.

Related stories

First drive: 2009 Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe: nice!

Find your very own Mazda MX-5

Check out our MX-5 Hub here

Pricing guides

Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
Highest Price

Range and Specs

(base) 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $3,600 – 5,830 2003 Mazda MX-5 2003 (base) Pricing and Specs
SP 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $5,100 – 7,920 2003 Mazda MX-5 2003 SP Pricing and Specs
Classic 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $3,800 – 6,160 2003 Mazda MX-5 2003 Classic Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

View cars for sale
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.