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Mazda MX-5
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Mazda MX-5 VS Audi A3

Mazda MX-5


Audi A3

Summary

Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 convertible is arguably the best new mainstream sports car available today, but the fourth-generation, ‘ND' model was released in Australia all the way back in August 2015, meaning it's now nearly seven years old.

So, how does Mazda go about making the ND MX-5 even better, especially in the face of the new Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ coupes? Well, the MY22 version on test here isn't a late-life facelift - its face is exactly the same -  but it does introduce something called Kinetic Posture Control, which promises an improved drive.

Oh, and the MY22 MX-5 also spells the end of the enthusiast-friendly 1.5-litre engine option, with the 2.0-litre alternative now standard range-wide,  alongside the full safety package. That said, has Mazda managed to improve the breed? Let's find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.1L/100km
Seating2 seats

Audi A3

If it was the original BMW 3-Series that invented the compact luxury car market segment all those years ago, then it’s probably fair to claim it was Audi’s A3 franchise that gave rise to the luxury small-hatch category.

On that basis, any new Audi A3 is news but, in the face of the SUV onslaught (including its own stablemate the Q3) the new small Audi has its work cut out for it.

With this update, there’s refreshed styling, a new interior layout and, for the launch of the new cars, two body styles, a conventionally styled sedan and what Audi calls the Sportback; fundamentally a five-door hatchback but with the German brand’s own flair plastered all over it.

As well as new connectivity and safety tech, the big news is the availability of a mild-hybrid driveline as well as a second powertrain option with more performance from a more conventional layout.

Interestingly, it’s that (mild) hybrid version of the A3 that represents the entry-level variant of the A3. A sign of the times? Perhaps.

As well as the two powertrains, there are two distinct chassis layouts, starting with a front-drive set-up and extending to the option of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) system.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency4.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mazda MX-58/10

Well, Mazda has gone and done it again – it's managed to make the MX-5 even better.

It's easy to be cynical about the real-world impact of Kinetic Posture Control, but it does actually make a meaningful difference, building upon an already class-leading drive experience.

Needless to say, if you're in the market for a new mainstream sports car, the MX-5 is still the default option. I'll take a manual RF GT, thanks.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with meals provided.


Audi A37/10

Producing a car that takes the end result beyond appliance status is no given in a world car-park dominated by SUVs. But Audi has, over the last few decades, shown it is very good at doing just that and the latest incarnation of its A3 stalwart backs that up.

While it might take a bit of mental gymnastics to understand why the base model gets the hybrid driveline, or why the more expensive variant costs more to option with adaptive cruise-control, the fact remains these are driver’s cars from a company that understands that concept.

Yes, the A3 is a relatively expensive way to arrive at a compact hatch or sedan, but if you value the journey as much as the destination, it will all make sense.

While the technical aspects of the 35 TFSI are interesting, the extra power and all-weather grip of the AWD 40 TFSI seem to be worth the additional dollars to us. The A3 has always been a sporty alternative, meaning the sportiest version is the one for us.

CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with meals provided.

Design

Mazda MX-58/10

I'll be honest, when the ND MX-5 was unveiled, I did not love it. In fact, I had question marks over whether it had an angle that looked good. But over time, I've realised that it was me who was off the mark.

Yep, the fourth-generation model's exterior design is ageing gracefully, with those pinched headlights and that gaping grille looking fabulous. And the front end is made  stronger by the pronounced fenders, a design flourish also seen at the rear.

Speaking of the back end, it's still not my favourite angle, but  the correct paintwork selection can make it pop in all the right ways. Yes, those wedge-circle-combination tail-lights are not for everyone, but they are an undeniable signature.

As mentioned, the MX-5 range is available in two body-styles: the traditional, manually operated soft-top Roadster and the more modern power-operated hardtop RF. Of course, the former is quicker to use, while the latter is more secure.

Either way, the ND is starting to show its age inside, where its basic design (including physical climate controls) is headlined by a ‘floating' 7.0-inch central touchscreen – which can be operated via a rotary controller – and a small, multifunction display next to the traditional tachometer and speedometer.

Again, there's not a lot to it, but leather upholstery adorns the steering wheel, gear selector, manual handbrake and dashboard insert, and there are body-colour accents on the door shoulders. The GT and GT RS also get cow hide on the seats, and that's your lot. I must admit, I actually love the ‘back to basics' interior approach.


Audi A36/10

It’s actually refreshing in 2022 to see a carmaker putting such an effort into something that isn’t an SUV.

That Audi has bothered with two distinct bodies and two equally distinct drivelines is also one for the books, really.

Technically, the mild-hybrid driveline as seen in larger Audis in recent years is probably the highlight of the new A3, and even though it doesn’t compare with a conventional petrol-electric hybrid, it demonstrates Audi’s attention to detail.

The same goes for the digital instruments which allows the driver to tailor the information displayed at any given time. Need a city map more than you need a tachometer at a particular point in you journey? That’s where this technology comes into its own.

Practicality

Mazda MX-56/10

Measuring 3915mm long (with a 2310mm wheelbase), 1735mm wide and 1230-1235mm tall, the MX-5 is a petite sports car, so needless to say, practicality is not one of its strengths.

For example, the Roadster version's boot has a tiny cargo capacity of 130L, while its RF sibling has 127L. Either way, once you put two soft bags or a small suitcase in it, there's not much room left. And let's not forget the very tall load lip that you need to contend with.

The MX-5 doesn't exactly offer more inside, as the central storage bin is puny, and the glovebox is basically non-existent, alongside tiny door bins. Aside from the decently sized ‘ski port', it's not great news for in-cabin storage.

That said, two removable but shallow cupholders are located between the seats, but they're propped by flimsy arms, which can cause anxiety, especially with hot coffees and the like.

Connectivity-wise, there's a single USB-A port and one 12V power outlet – that's it. Both are found in the centre stack, near a cubby that's appropriate for smartphones.

It's  worth mentioning the MX-5 doesn't have anchorage points for child seats, be they top-tether or ISOFIX, so it's a sports car for adults – obviously.

For that reason, you expect some shortcomings on the practicality front, and these ones are not dealbreakers when driving alone.


Audi A36/10

Although it’s a compact car externally, clever packaging means there’s ample space inside. Even a tall-ish rear-seat passenger can sit behind a tall-ish driver, and the sculpted rear seat-backs help make that possible.

The only complaint would be that the dark headlining material makes the interior a bit of a cave at times.

Paying more for the 40 TFSI gets you extra cargo nets on the front seat backrests and luggage area, 12-volt sockets in the rear seat and boot. Both versions get floor mats and a centre arm-rest front and rear.

 

The rear seat in either is split 40/20/40 for a range of possibilities, with the Sportback offering 325 litres (VDA) for the Sportback quattro models, and 380L (VDA) for the 2WD models and its boot capacity is increased to 1145L (VDA) with the rear seat folded flat. The luggage space in the sedan is 390L (VDA) for the quattro AWD version, and a more capacious 425L (VDA) for the FWD model.

 

Price and features

Mazda MX-58/10

For MY22, the MX-5 is still available in two body-styles: the soft-top Roadster and the hardtop RF. It also keeps its three grades, including the unnamed entry-level offering, mid-range GT and flagship GT RS, but pricing is up by $400-1700 for every variant.

2022 Mazda MX-5 pricing before on-road costs
VariantTransmissionCost
RoadsterManual$37,790 (+$1700)
RoadsterAutomatic$39,790 (+$1700)
Roadster GTManual$44,420 (+$400)
Roadster GTAutomatic$46,420 (+$400)
Roadster GT RSManual$47,420 (+$400)
RFManual$42,100 (+$700)
RFAutomatic$44,100 (+$700)
RF GTManual$48,500 (+$400)
RF GTAutomatic$50,500 (+$400)
RF GT RSManual$51,500 (+$400)

In terms of specification changes, Platinum Quartz is a new metallic paintwork option, while the RF GT can now be had with Terracotta Nappa leather upholstery. Aside from Kinetic Posture Control and some key safety upgrades for the unnamed entry-level grade – which we'll explore in later sections of this review – that's the extent of the MY22 adjustments to the MX-5 line-up.

Standard equipment in the  entry-level grade, therefore, includes dusk-sensing LED lights, rain-sensing wipers, black 17-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system, satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto support, digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, single-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and black cloth upholstery.

The GT adds adaptive headlights, silver 17-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, keyless entry, a 203W Bose sound system with nine speakers, heated seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, black leather upholstery and stainless-steel scuff plates.

For $1020, a Black Roof package can be added to the two RF GT variants, which bundles in – you guessed it – a black roof and Pure White or Terracotta Nappa leather upholstery.

The GT RS gets several performance-focused upgrades over the GT, including Gunmetal Grey 17-inch BBS forged alloy wheels, Brembo front brakes package (four-piston calipers and high-performance pads), Bilstein gas-pressurised dampers and a solid alloy strut tower brace.

When it comes to similarly priced rivals, the MX-5 doesn't have many, with the Mini Cooper S Convertible (from $51,530) coming the closest, while the just-launched Subaru BRZ (from $38,990) and yet-to-be-priced Toyota GR86 twins aren't far off.


Audi A37/10

These are not bargain basement cars, and with a kick-off price of $46,900 for the A3 35 TFSI Sportback (the hatch version) and $49,400 for the sedan in the same specification, that much is obvious.

The fact is, both the new A3 variants represent a fair mark-up on the previous model. But if you look at the post-Covid car market in a macro sense, you can see the same trend across a lot of brands and a lot of previously entry-level models.

Ante up to the 40 TFSI, and the news is no different with an asking price of $53,500 (Sportback) and $56,000 (sedan).

If the price sounds steep on a per-kilo basis, you need to remember this is an Audi we’re talking about and that price premium is part and parcel of a prestige badge. Don’t like it? Go and buy a VW Golf. That’d be Audi’s advice, anyway.

To justify that viewpoint, the A3 is loaded with some impressive standard kit. The 35 TFSI starts things off with Audi’s vaunted 'Virtual Cockpit', wireless phone charging, voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote central locking, paddle shifters, park-assist, sat-nav, a 10.1-inch touchscreen, LED headlights, a multi-function steering wheel, automatic lights and wipers, digital radio, cruise-control and dual-zone climate control.

The 40 TFSI adds a range of aluminium trim pieces and garnishes, Audi’s 'Drive Select' system which allows the driver to choose the characteristic of the dampers, steering response, exhaust sound, throttle response and transmission shift points.

The 40 TFSI also adds sportier front seats, a rear spoiler, body kit, extra courtesy lights around the car and details such as a 12-volt socket in the luggage area.

Options on the base model include a 'Comfort Pack' consisting of adaptive cruise-control, electric front seats, heated front seats, auto dimming headlights, heated and folding mirrors, four-way electric lumbar control and 'Adaptive Drive Assist', including 'Emergency Assist.'

That will set you back $2600, while the 40 TFSI can be enhanced with Audi’s 'Premium Package' which adds those same items as well as aluminium-look trim pieces, a better sound system, head-up instrument display and a memory function for the driver’s seat. That adds $4500 to either the 40 TFSI Sportback or sedan.

Engine & trans

Mazda MX-58/10

Prior to MY22, the Roadster's entry-level grade was motivated by a delightful 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder engine that produced a modest 97kW of power at 7000rpm and 152Nm of torque at 4500rpm – but that option is no more, due to slow sales.

That's right; pour one out for the enthusiasts, as all MX-5 variants now use the familiar 2.0-litre unit that develops a more formidable 135kW at 7000rpm and 205Nm at 4000rpm.

That said, drive is still sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual with a rear limited-slip differential, or a six-speed torque-converter automatic with paddle-shifters. However, the GT RS is the only grade that exclusively comes with the former.


Audi A37/10

While both versions of the A3 use a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (no manual gearbox will be offered) there’s not a lot of commonality beyond that.

So let’s start with the 35 TFSI’s mild-hybrid running gear. To begin with, mild-hybrid in this sense refers to a starter motor/alternator unit that is linked to a 48-volt battery (the car also has a conventional 12-volt electrical system).

When coasting, the engine can shut off and the starter switches to alternator mode and harvests the otherwise lost energy to charge the 48-volt battery. This 48-volt system also powers the car’s functions when the engine is switched off.

When the car needs to restart (when the traffic-light goes green) the starter kicks in, using that harvested voltage. There’s also a regenerative braking function, saving the car’s actual brakes for more severe stops.

Unlike a 'normal' hybrid system, there’s no electric motor to help drive the car, but Audi claims a potential fuel saving of 0.4 litres per 100km from the set-up. Any benefit will be most noticeable in urban running where the car is speeding up and slowing down regularly.

The rest of the 35 TFSI is technically interesting, too, with the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine featuring cylinder-on-demand where it can shut down individual cylinders during cruise conditions to save fuel.

When firing on all four, however, the engine is good for 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque, figures which have become almost an industry standard in this sized vehicle.

The 40 TFSI, meanwhile, ditches the hybrid gear for a conventional 2.0-litre powerplant with a turbocharger and 140kW of power. Torque is a handy 320Nm and is developed over a wide range of engine speeds (anywhere from 1500 to 4100rpm).

The other big difference is in the driveline. The 35 TFSI is a front-wheel drive platform while the 40 TFSI uses Audi’s Quattro AWD as it applies to Audis with an east-west engine layout.

That means the car behaves as a front-drive vehicle until the electronics decides more power should be sent to the rear wheels. At that point, anything up to 99 per cent of the available torque can be transferred rearwards via an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch housed at the rear of the car, just in front of the rear axle.

Fuel consumption

Mazda MX-59/10

The MX-5's fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) varies from variant to variant, with manual Roadsters managing 6.8L/100km, while their automatic counterparts require 7.0L/100km. Three-pedal RFs need 6.9L/100km, while two-pedal versions drink 7.2L/100km.

That's a strong set of claims for a sports car, and while I wasn't able to get a real-world result for the MY22 version due to the nature of its launch program, my previous experience with a MY21 manual Roadster saw an average around its claim, which is impressive stuff.

For reference, the MX-5 has a 45L fuel tank that takes more expensive 95 RON premium petrol at minimum, with claimed driving range, therefore, in the 625-662km region.


Audi A37/10

With all its cylinder shut-off, hybrid tricks and small capacity, the 1.5-litre engine boasts a 5.0 litres per 100km combined cycle fuel economy figure.

Combined with its 50-litre tank, that’s a potential for 1000km between service-station visits. It’s also commendably close to the numbers you’d expect from a similarly sized vehicle with a turbo-diesel engine.

The more conventional 2.0-litre A3 variant, meanwhile, boasts a still-credible 6.7 litres per 100km for the same test. To counter its greater thirst, Audi has fitted a slightly bigger, 55-litre fuel tank.

The headline act, of course, is the base-model’s highway figure which, thanks to the small capacity engine and its reduced pumping losses at small throttle-openings, can get right down into the low-fives (5.0 litres per 100km) in the real world at real highway speeds.

With a tail-wind, you might even see a number starting with four. This is why you don’t need a diesel engine any longer.

Expect the 40 TFSI to use roughly a litre more across every 100km travelled. And in either case, you are stuck with paying for 95-RON premium unleaded.

Driving

Mazda MX-59/10

Let's get straight to the elephant in the room: Kinetic Posture Control. What is KPC? Well, put simply, it uses its electronic smarts to apply brake pressure to the inside rear wheel – when necessary – while cornering, all in the name of improved body control.

So, does KPC actually make a meaningful difference? We tested MY22 MX-5s back-to-back with MY21 versions on-track and on-road to find out, and the short answer is yes.

The GT RS makes better use of KPC due to its sporty chassis upgrades, delivering a more confident drive when cornering hard, but the softer unnamed entry-level grade and GT still benefit from its influence.

Either way, the upshot is how these upgrades make the MX-5 even flatter through the corners. It almost doesn't matter how hard you turn in; it will remain relatively locked down. And given the already graceful way in which it pivots, there are next to no handling issues.

Otherwise, this is the same MX-5 we've come to know and love, which is great news for drivers that, you know, like to drive.

The electric power steering defies convention with its well-judged weighting and high level of feel. It's not the hydraulic system of previous generation, but it's great in its own right.

And the MX-5's suspension set-up (double-wishbone front and multi-link rear axles) still delivers a ride that's not for everyone, especially the jittery GT RS that, again, has Bilstein gas-pressurised dampers and a solid alloy strut tower brace.

The 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine is still very enjoyable, with its free-revving nature egging the driver on to push towards the redline with every upshift, and with peak power (135kW) produced at a scintillating 7000rpm, you feel obliged to.

This unit is naturally short on torque, particularly down low, and its maximum (205Nm) is developed at 4000rpm, so the driver has to work the right pedal hard, which they'll be willing to do because of the fun factor.

Of course, the key to this memorable experience is the six-speed manual. It ticks nearly all the boxes with its perfectly weighted clutch, short throw and well-judged ratios.

The six-speed torque-converter automatic also does the trick with its smooth shifts, but it doesn't seem that keen to hit the redline, even when the Sport drive mode is engaged and the accelerator pedal is buried. I would pick the three-pedal set-up without hesitation.

Critically, braking performance is strong alongside pedal feel, but the GT RS makes both better with its aforementioned Brembo  brakes package.

Now, it'd be remiss of me to not touch on the MX-5's noise levels, as it's not the most peaceful sports car on the market. Naturally, the Roadster is the most disruptive body-style, with the RF providing better insulation. Keep that in mind if it's important to you.


Audi A38/10

Let’s start with the less powerful 35 TFSI, if only because - even though we know better in 2022 - there’s a temptation to think a 1.5-litre engine will be underdone. The reality, however, is that you’re not going to drive this car and judge it as anything other than very resolved.

While it’s true the peak power of 110kW isn’t startling, it’s the way it’s delivered (along with the 250Nm of torque) that sets the mood here.

Like many late-model Audis, this one has an engine with a fizzy, zingy feel that makes you want to rev it just to hear and feel it. And when you do, it pays off with plenty of flexibility and a sophisticated, refined feel.

Whether the mild hybrid driveline is adding anything to the formula is debatable, because the technology is so seamless you won’t pick what it’s doing other than the engine stop-start function, which is one of the better ones we’ve sampled.

Move from the 35 into the 40 TFSI and you immediately notice the extra power and torque on tap. And although it’s still not a hot-hatch by modern standards, there’s always enough urge to make the 40 TFSI a convincing driver’s car.

Again, the power delivery is the key to it all, making more of what the engine has to offer by actively encouraging you to use it. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is your friend here.

The extra driveline functionality of the 40 (namely the AWD system) actually means less than you might imagine in day-to-day life. We didn’t get to drive the car in the wet, but it’s fair to say that those conditions (or a loose, gravel road) are really the only ones likely to make a difference to the way the basic platform feels.

That’s for two reasons; the first being the all-wheel-drive is fundamentally on demand anyway and, secondly, the basic platform is so composed and balanced in the first place, that the Quattro system will spend a lot of its time hiding in the background.

The 40 TFSI also get the selectable drive modes which break with tradition by actually making a difference to the way the car feels.

But the reality is that if you took the best bits of every other setting (Comfort, Dynamic and Efficiency) and loaded them into the Individual button, you’d probably wind up with something very close to what the non-adjustable 35 TFSI offers in the first place.

You have to admire the way Audi has made a front-drive car in the A3 steer, handle and talk to the driver in such a clear, precise way.

Yes, the 40’s selectable modes add another layer to that, but only if you can be bothered. Even more than that, the A3 in either form feels like its ultra-stable and safe, while the levels of feel and feedback give the impression they were decided upon by people who enjoy driving.

Safety

Mazda MX-58/10

While Australia's independent automotive safety authority, ANCAP, awarded the MX-5 its maximum five-star safety rating in 2016, the game has changed significantly in the past six years, so keep that in mind if it's on your shopping list.

Either way, advanced driver-assist systems in the MX-5 extend to front autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, cruise control, traffic-sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera and tyre-pressure monitoring.

In a good move, new to the unnamed entry-level grade for MY22 – but already standard in the GT and GT RS – are lane-departure warning, driver-attention alert, rear AEB, and rear parking sensors.

That said, lane-keep and steering assist should also be part of the range-wide package alongside adaptive cruise control, but they're looking like they won't be a factor until the next-generation MX-5 – if there is one.

Other range-wide standard safety equipment includes four airbags (dual front and side), anti-skid brakes (ABS) and the usual electronic traction and stability-control systems.


Audi A38/10

Possibly the headline (no pun intended) act here is the inclusion of a centre-front airbag. This is something we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future, particularly in compact cars, where the proximity of the front-seat passengers can lead to head clashes in a side-impact crash.

Beyond that, the Audi has six airbags including side-curtain airbags.

In terms of driver aids, the A3 sets a high bar for its competitors, and with autonomous emergency braking including pedestrian and cyclist recognition, rear-cross-traffic alert, lane-departure assist and a rear-view camera, most bases are covered.

The major omissions are adaptive cruise-control, but that’s available in the 35 TFSI as part of the $2600 Comfort Package, and in the 40 TFSI as part of the $4500 Premium Package.

Yes, the Premium Package also includes heated, memory front seats, a head-up display, improved stereo and the multi-coloured ambient interior lighting (and more) but it does seem strange that it costs more to option up to adaptive cruise in the 40 TFSI than in the base-model.

The A3 scored the full five stars in ANCAP crash testing in 2020.

Ownership

Mazda MX-58/10

Like all Mazda Australia models, the MX-5 comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and five years of roadside assistance, both of which are average when compared to Kia's market-leading seven-year terms with ‘no strings attached'.

Service intervals for the MX-5 are 12 months or 10,000km (whichever comes first), with the distance on the shorter side. But capped-price servicing is available for the first five visits, costing $1755 in total, or an average of $351, which is not too bad.


Audi A37/10

Audi recently improved its factory warranty from three years to five years and unlimited kilometres. Any new Audi (including this one) sold after January 1 this year is the beneficiary of that change.

Audi specifies service intervals of 15,000km or 13 months.

There’s also the option of a fixed-price servicing program for the first five years of A3 ownership, and that will cost you $2250, for an annual average of $450.