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Mazda MX-5
$34,890 - $50,420
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Mazda MX-5 VS Jeep Wrangler

Mazda MX-5


Jeep Wrangler

Summary

Mazda MX-5

Buying a car for fun, rather than just transport, is an unimaginable luxury for most of us, because most vehicles that are genuinely joyous - the kind that make you smile like a four-year-old in a bath full of gelato - are almost unobtainably expensive.

And that's what makes Mazda's MX-5, a car quite accurately described by the company's spokes folk as the "icon" of the brand, so special. Because it is hugely fun, and it is far more of a toy than a tool, and yet, with a price starting at just $34,190, it's the kind of dream car that's actually within touching distance of reality.

Mazda has just unveiled yet another facelift for the venerable roadster (and retractable hardtop) as part of its goal of "continually seeking new ways to make it even more thrilling and satisfying to drive".

It has aimed to kick this goal by redesigning the cupholders, giving it black wheels instead of silver ones and, for the first time, offering a steering wheel with telescopic adjustment (people have only been wanting that since its first version, back in 1989). There's also a new reversing camera tucked into its taut behind.

Rather more importantly, the 2.0-litre engine has also been given a proper going over and now creates more power, more torque, and revs higher, for an even better aural experience. Which sounds pretty fabulous. Prices are up $750 across the range to pay for all that, which sounds like a reasonable deal. Let's find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.2L/100km
Seating2 seats

Jeep Wrangler

A fast-setting sun, the temperature poised to plunge from 10 degrees, zero phone reception, we were halfway up the remote west coast of Tasmania at least an hour away from our destination and there was a Jeep Wrangler bogged up to the axles halting us in our tracks.

If we were in a LandCruiser, Patrol or Defender, this would signal an opportunity to score some brand brownie points by saving the day with a snatch strap. But given this was our first taste of the new JL Wrangler on Australian soil and we were among almost a dozen other Wranglers queued up behind the bogged lead car, you’d forgive our hosting Jeep executives for feeling a tad nervous at this point. This sort of thing seldom happens on media events thanks to impeccable planning of every possible contingency.

But reality couldn’t have been more contrary, with smiles all round as snatch straps, Maxtrax and a shovel were mobilised and all hands hit the deck to get us out of there.

This is the thrill of off-roading and Jeeping at its very core, adhering to the popular mantra that you’re not going properly off-road until you get stuck.

It probably sounds mad to 95 per cent of the car-buying public, but the anxiety of apparent failure followed by the elation of extrication can be one hell of a buzz.

The longer this recovery takes, the greater the thrill, and this one took the best part of an hour, in professional hands, so we’d been pretty damn stuck.

Given the new Wrangler had proven itself as arguably the most capable off-road vehicle straight out of the box at it’s international launch on the infamous Rubicon Trail in the US last year, we should also take pride in the fact that it took Aussie soil to halt it.

But how does it go on Aussie bitumen, in local spec? Read on.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.6L/100km
Seating4 seats

Verdict

Mazda MX-58.1/10

This latest face lift for the fabulous Mazda MX-5 may not be revolutionary, and indeed some if it is just fiddling at the edges, but the improved safety, rear-view camera and nice black wheels may impress a few buyers, while the extra zest and reviness from the engine will most certainly attract fans of this car's core ingredient - fun motoring.

Do you dream of having an MX-5 in your garage, just for sunny days, tell us in the comments section below.


Jeep Wrangler7.8/10

The new Wrangler is a rare example of a new product that's been designed from the start to be exactly what it is, without outright sales as the number one priority.

Yes it brings some compromises for everyday use, like the on-road ride and handling and that question mark over its safety.

But this is all so it can be uncompromised off the road, and there isn't anything else on the market so capable, straight out of the box.

It's impossible to nominate a sweet spot of the range without having driven two-thirds of it, but it's hard to imagine the Rubicon not being it. 

Could the new Wrangler tempt you into the world of Jeeping? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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

Design

Mazda MX-59/10

Changes to the look of the MX-5 would best be described as singular, because there is only one - a swap from silver wheels to metallic black ones, in a bid to "emphasise the car's visual impact".

Even the base model roadster gets the new black look, albeit 15-inch versions, while the RF gets 17-inch alloys. the range-topping GT, strangely, gets 17-inch silver wheels.

Other than that, the looks of the MX-5 remain the same, and that's a very good thing, because this is, far and away, the angriest and sexiest looking version of the classic two-seater ever to roll out of the Hiroshima factory.

Apparently there are people who find the latest look too sharp, too Japanese and too anime, and would prefer a look to the rounded, happy-puppy looks of old. But those people are simply wrong. This is a fantastic looking vehicle, no matter which colour wheels it has.

When it comes to paint colours the same six remain on offer - 'Soul Red Crystal Metallic', 'Machine Grey Metallic', 'Snow' aka 'White Pearl Mica', 'Ceramic Mica', 'Eternal Blue Mica' and 'Jet Black Mica'. So no green, yellow, orange or gold. Soul Red is clearly the choice here.

There is a body kit available as part of the optional Kuroi sports pack ($4220), which also includes a rear diffuser. Roof racks are not an option. Floor mats will also cost you $166.23 extra. Ouch.


Jeep Wrangler9/10

More than 13 years after the previous JK first appeared, you’d certainly hope the new model brought improvements across the board.

And it has, with more off-road cred, better fuel efficiency, power, tech, refinement, and a few kilos off its beltline. What’s most impressive though is how it’s stayed true to its core values after what's arguably the most comprehensive redesign in its 77-year evolution.

Key to this core is the continuation of solid axles and coil springs front and rear to maximise off-road articulation.

This combo is notoriously difficult to tune for on-road handling, and even the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has given up the ghost for an independent front end.

The Wrangler’s classic removable doors and folding windscreen also remain, even though both are illegal to use on Australian roads because each makes the driver’s mirrors redundant.  

The all-new ladder chassis have scored longer wheelbases mainly to allow room for the new eight-speed auto, with the two-door growing 35mm to 2459mm and the four-door by 61mm to 3008mm.

To lower the kilo count, the JL uses aluminium for the bonnet, doors, hinges, fenders, windscreen frame, and tailgate skin, with the latter also boasting a magnesium frame. Australian Wranglers were tipped to use a steel bonnet for pedestrian safety reasons, but clearly the lighter bonnet ended up passing ADR certification anyway.

Other weight-reduction steps include hollow suspension bars, aluminium engine mounts and steering gear and a lighter brake master cylinder. Net savings are up to 90kg, with tare weights ranging from 1762kg for the two-door models, to 1900kg for the four-door Sport S and Overlands, to 1992kg for the petrol Rubicon and 2160kg for the diesel.

The external bonnet latches have been moved closer to the front of the car to meet pedestrian safety requirements and now feature a winch cable retention slot to keep it tidy during off-road recoveries.

The windscreen has been slightly laid back to improve aerodynamics, which may sound futile for a car of this shape but among numerous other detail changes they’ve resulted in a nine per cent improvement to a still brick-like 0.54 Cd.

Passenger visibility has also been improved through enlarged glass openings and the lowering of the tailgate-mounted full-size spare tyre.

You probably wouldn’t expect Star Wars to influence Wrangler design, but the LED headlight internals on the Overland and Rubicon have been styled to reference the electrobinoculars from the original trilogy.

The new vents behind the front wheels are functional, with the role of reducing under-bonnet air pressure at speed. The Rubicon’s bonnet vents are also designed to extract heat during lengthy low-speed off-road climbs.

Overall clearance has also been improved, with all variants boasting a 34.8-degree approach angle, 26.2-degree breakover (for the two door Overland, 20.8 for the Rubicon) and 29-degree departure angle, with 252mm of ground clearance (Rubicon). All versions also carry a competitive 760mm wading depth rating.

Clearance levels:

 Sport S 2dr Overland 2drSport S 4drOverland 4drRubicon
Running clearance235mm260mm232mm242mm252mm
Approach34.8 deg34.8 deg 19.2 deg 34.8 deg34.8 deg
Breakover23.9 deg26.2 deg19.2 deg20 deg20.8 deg
Departure 29.2 deg29.2 deg29.2 deg29.2 deg29.2 deg

Roof options have now grown to three, with the soft top and hard top to be joined later this year by the Sky One-Touch powertop, which folds its soft centre section back to open the whole roof turret at the touch of a button.

Previous Wrangler interiors have felt like a bit of an afterthought, stripped back for simplicity, but every inch of this new one has been considered to pack in all of the modern conveniences while still being tough as nails and able to hose it out if you need to.

The material quality seems to be excellent for a Jeep product, and there's some nice touches like the rubberised surround for the multimedia screen.

Another Jeep design tradition that continues with fervour are the design ‘Easter eggs.’ With JL, the Torx bit size required to remove the doors is embossed into each door hinge, there’s three little notches on the steering wheel centre that refer to the tri-spoke wheel of the original Willys, there’s a little climbing Willys printed on the base of the windscreen, another Willy’s on the gearknob, and info plaques in the tailgate that mimic the Willys.

One you may not heard of though is the tiny pair of thongs (or flip flops) subtly etched into the left-hand side of the windscreen surround as a nod to notorious Jeep tragic and hot rodding legend David Freiburger’s preferred footwear.

Payload ratings are about average for an SUV of this size, with two-door models able to carry 551kg, while four-door Sport S and Overlands step up to 560kg, the petrol Rubicon notes 570kg, but the heavier drivetrain of the diesel Rubicon drops its payload down to 570kg.

Two-door Wranglers carry a braked tow rating of 1497kg, while four-doors step up to 2495kg.

Practicality

Mazda MX-57/10

Once again, the changes inside the MX-5 are not huge, but one of them - the addition of telescopic adjustment for the steering column - will be very welcome to fans who have long wondered why they couldn't be just that bit more comfortable at the wheel.

This Mazda already had a fantastic, low-slung driving position that made you feel like part of the car, but it's even better now that you can have the wheel exactly where you want it.

There's also been a slight tweak to the design of the sun visors, for better coverage, and the gaps between the detachable cupholders - of which there are two - have been optimised to allow easier attachment and removal. They've also been made more rigid, "to suppress wobble", because no one likes a wobbly drink, particularly around fast bends.

In yet another example of paying attention to every detail, the levers you use to adjust the seats have also been made slightly thicker and more rigid, just so they feel better.

In terms of practicality, of course, it's not really a key selling point of any MX-5, nor has it ever been. There's limited oddment storage behind the gear lever and a tiny kind of lunch box behind your left shoulder, and a very small glove box as well, with no room for bottles, or anything else, in the doors.

There's not a lot of room, generally, in the MX-5's tight and glove-like cabin, but that's just the way it's supposed to feel. Small and perfectly snug.

The boot is deep-ish, but narrow, and it's overnight bags only in its 130-litre space (boot capacity in the RF is an even smaller 127 litres).

While shoulder and elbow room are limited, headroom is quite good, even in the hard-topped RF version.


Jeep Wrangler8/10

As I found at the Wrangler’s international launch, the JL has taken big strides in terms of passenger comfort and practicality.

One highlight up front is the rubberised gap between the cupholders to hold your mobile phone, which comes in very handy when you’re rock hopping.

Instead of bottle holders in the doors, there’s flexible nets to grasp all sorts of things. Similar nets can be found on the back of the front seats.

The back seat has plenty of room for my 172cm height behind my seating position, although the backrest is a bit upright for an SUV. Taller drivers might also get a bit nervous about the overhead speakers poking out of the roof.

All versions score directional air vents in the back of the centre console, along with twin USB and USB-C connections, and the 230V inverter plug of the Overland and Rubicon is bound to come in very handy for all sorts of power needs.  

There's the usual two ISOFIX and three top-tether child-seat anchorage points on the back seat, regardless of whether you’re in the four-seat two door or five-seat four door.

The back, the four-door’s boot is quite a decent size at 897-litres with the rear seats up and 2050 with the seats folded almost flat, with nice and squared off edges for cramming as many eskies and camping chairs in there as possible. Jeep Australia is yet to specify cargo capacities for the two-door versions.

Price and features

Mazda MX-58/10

Prices have risen $750 across the entire range for this new update to the MX-5, but Mazda Australia claims that's more than made up for by the extra new safety kit, plus the reversing camera, the new wheels and, in the case of the 2.0-litre models that 95 per cent of people will buy, more power, torque and revs on offer.

The base model Roadster, at a very temping $34,190, will still appeal to some purists who hate the idea of big, heavy roofs (70 per cent of buyers will go for the RF) and big, powerful engines.

Standard kit at that level includes that new reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels (now black metallic for extra visual menace), a cloth soft top, LED headlamps, power mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, climate-control air (but who needs that, with a convertible!), black cloth seats, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with 'MZD Connect', an audio system with six speakers and DAB+ (but no CD player), Bluetooth streaming, internet radio integration, satellite navigation, 'Smart City Brake Support', or AEB, in both forward and reverse, 'Traffic Sign Recognition', 'Driver Attention Alert' and reverse parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring.

Step up through the trim levels to the GT Roadster with the 2.0L and you're quickly over $40K at $41,960 (add another $2000 for the auto, if you must), and you'll score 17-inch alloys, adaptive LEDs headlights and DRLs, black or tan leather on your seats, which are now heated, a 'Premium' Bose stereo with nine speakers, 'Advanced keyless entry' and lane-departure warning.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto gadgets are not available yet, but a dealer-fit fix is expected very soon, at some extra cost.

If you want the folding hard-top RF version, and most people do, then the basic spec will set you back $39,400, the GT $45,960 or the RF GT with the optional black roof $46,960.

It's still a lot of car, or at least a lot of fun in a little car for the money, but you'd have to consider whether you'd could be just as happy in a car that's almost as more fun but has five doors and a decent boot, like VW's Golf GTI.

What price, though, a roof-down drive on a summer evening? On its day, the Mazda makes a compelling argument against buying a Porsche Boxster. Which is high praise indeed.


Jeep Wrangler8/10

Jeep announced local price and spec in January, and while prices have risen from the previous $38,990-$53,990 MSRP spread to now span $48,950-$68,950, there’s a whole lot every new Wrangler gets that wasn’t available in the past.

For Australia, the range is split into three trim levels and a choice between short-wheelbase two-door, and long-wheelbase four door bodystyles, as with the previous JK-generation.

This time around, the base model has been renamed Sport S, and kicks off at $48,950 for the two-door and steps up to the four-door for $53,450.

The rough and ready Sport S makes do with cloth seats and a soft roof with plastic windows, but does have a leather steering wheel, carpet on the floor and alloy wheels, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the first time, albeit in the smaller 7.0-inch multimedia screen. It’s also got auto headlights and rear parking sensors.

Note that the Sport S won’t get auto emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring until closer to the end of 2019.  

Sport S options include $745 for premium paint, the ($2250 2dr, $2750 4dr) Sport S Group and the $1950 Off-Road Pack.

The Sport S Group includes a black hard top with removable freedom panels up front, Alpine premium audio, tinted windows and remote start functionality.

The Off-Road Pack brings an upgraded Dana M220 rear axle with LSD, specific 17-inch alloys and all-weather floormats.

The more luxurious Overland is also available in either bodystyle, with the two-door costing $58,450 and the four-door follows the same $4500 premium to total $62,950.

It brings details like leather seats, colour-coded removable hardtop and wheelarches, 18-inch wheels, active cruise control, LED lights all round, proximity keys, nine-speaker Alpine audio, a bigger 8.4-inch multimedia screen with built-in sat nav, a 230V inverter in the back of the centre console and front parking sensors.

The Overland also comes with AEB and blind-spot monitoring straight out of the box.

Premium paint is still optional, but you can also add the $350 Trail Rail cargo management system to four-door models.

The top of the range and more rugged Rubicon is four-door only and the only trim level to offer the option of the new 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine. List pricing for the V6 petrol version is $63,950, but the diesel adds a full $5000 to cost $68,950.

The Rubicon scores hardcore off-road gear like BF Goodrich mud-terrain tyres, shorter 77.2:1 low range gearing, front and rear diff locks with stronger axles and a swaybar disconnect system and chunky mud-terrain tyres. It also comes with a winch-ready steel front bumper not seen on the early-build examples pictured here.

The Rubicon reverts to cloth seats, but comes with Rubicon bonnet, sturdy rock slider sidesteps, specific 17-inch alloys, black hardtop and wheelarches but retains the Overland’s AEB, bind-spot monitoring, active cruise control, Nine-speaker audio, LED lights, 230V inverter, bigger multimedia screen with sat nav, but adds off-road pages.

Premium paint continues as an option alongside the Trail Rail system, but you can also add the $1950 Rubicon Luxury Package, $750 Electrical Group, and an alternative Rubicon set of wheels for $950.

The Rubicon Luxury Package brings back leather seats, gearknob and handbrake handle, heated front seats and steering wheel, plus colour-coded wheelarches.

The Electrical Group brings integrated AUX switches for four extra aftermarket electrical accessories like driving lights or a winch, upgraded 240 Amp alternator and 700 Amp maintenance battery.

On top of these options, there’s 100 other MOPAR accessories available.

As with the international launch, we’ve only been given access to the Rubicon so far, but we’ll follow up with tests of the Sport S and Overland ASAP.

Engine & trans

Mazda MX-58/10

So, let's start with the engine that almost no one - other than rusted-on purists apparently - will opt for; the 1.5-litre engine lurking in the base-model roadster, which is still seen as "the ultimate expression of the MX-5", by the marque's hardcore, old-school fans.

Small tweaks to this engine - which will make up just 5 per cent of total sales - have seen power rise by a single kilowatt to 97kW, and torque bumped from 150Nm to 152Nm.

The bigger and more exciting changes have been made to the 2.0-litre engine, which is the only choice you have anyway if you're opting for the RF - which 70 per cent of buyers will - but in the case of both engines the control units have been revised to give a feeling of more direct acceleration, a sensation further exacerbated by tweaks to both the automatic and manual transmissions to offer quicker response times, and less "jerk" during acceleration.

Yes, you can have your MX-5 with a six-speed automatic transmission, and a shocking 43 per cent of buyers are tipped to make that choice, even though it is the wrong one. The six-speed manual goes with this car the way tomato sauce goes with a pie, or soy sauce with sushi.

Revisions to the 2.0-litre power plant, including the use of a new, dual-mass flywheel, have increased power significantly from 118kW to 135kW, while the redline has also soared to 7500rpm from 6800rpm. Overall torque is up from 200Nm to 205Nm.

The engineers claim to have a delivered a sensation of "urgent, limitless acceleration", with linear responses all the way up to that new rev ceiling. Against the stop watch, that means a 0-100km/h time for the 2.0 of 6.5 seconds in the Roadster or 6.8 in the RF, against 8.3 seconds for the 1.5-litre Roadster.

Mazda says there's also more torque available across the whole rev range, while tweaks to the exhaust system, including a new inner silencer structure, also provide a more resonant, exciting sound to go with the extra power and revs.

The engine uses a timing chain rather than a timing belt. Oil capacity is 4.1 litres.


Jeep Wrangler7/10

The default Wrangler engine is a revised version of the 3.6-litre Pentastar petrol V6 we’ve seen before, which now produces a healthy 209kW and 347Nm. However, the only revision seems to be the incorporation of a stop/start system in the name of efficiency.

The Rubicon is finally available with a diesel option, but this time it’s the only trim level to offer it.

The new unit is a 2.2-litre unit, which is significantly smaller than the 2.8 it replaces, but also much quieter and more refined and generates the same 147kW of power but 10 fewer Newton metres at 450Nm. The latter is available from a useful 2000rpm though.

The 2.0-litre turbo petrol four available internationally isn’t on the cards for Australia for now, but could be added if there’s sufficient demand.

The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 also available overseas is a definite no-go though, as it’s only been engineered for left-hand drive.

All Australian Wranglers have stepped up to the familiar ZF-designed eight-speed torque converter auto found in the Grand Cherokee. The transfer case is still controlled by a stubby lever next to the auto selector.

Fuel consumption

Mazda MX-58/10

Fuel economy for the little 1.5-litre engine is 6.2 litres per 100km for the manual or 6.4L/100km for the auto, while the 2.0-litre version - which is naturally aspirated rather than turbocharged or supercharged and thus wonderfully old-school, returns 6.8 and 7.0L/100km respectively in the roadster, rising to 6.9 and 7.2 in the RF.

All of these figures reflect an ideal world, rather than the real one, where you will regularly push it all the way through the rev range in several gears and get nowhere near those numbers.


Jeep Wrangler7/10

This is another area of net improvement, with the petrol Rubicon dropping from the previous model’s 11.9L/100km to 10.3.

The diesel Rubicon is rated at an impressive 7.5L/100km, while the rest of the petrol V6 line-up spans 9.6L/100km for the two-door Sport S and Overland, and 9.7L/100km for the four-door Sport S and Overland.

Driving

Mazda MX-59/10

Almost every time you drive an MX-5, of any generation, you find yourself doing a little glee face. There's something innocent, old-school and almost childish about how much fun they are.

The magic is in the simplest of set-ups - light weight, rear-wheel drive, short wheelbase, sharp steering, slick gearbox - and it's one that has only gotten better over the years with the addition of better technology. And, vitally, more power.

Every time you drive one, however, it's hard not to wonder how much more enjoyable it could be with just a few more herbs under the bonnet. The current iteration of the car, with its sharp, sleek lines and mean, take-me-seriously face, has been offered with a 2.0-litre engine for a while now, and it did make the MX-5 feel more potent than ever before… and yet you had to wonder if there was still a bit more lurking under the bonnet, waiting to be unleashed.

And now, finally and wonderfully, it has been. The upgraded version of the power plant produces more of its 205Nm of torque (up 5Nm) throughout the rev range, which now stretches all the way to 7500pm (up from 6800rpm), and power has taken a serious step up from 118kW to 135kW.

It's still not a huge number, but in a car that weighs just 1035kg (1087kg for the RF), it's enough to produce more than just the sprightly performance we've come to expect from this zippy Mazda.

The power now on tap means you can really up your pace if you want to, and go-to-jail speeds are now most assuredly an option for the keen/crazy driver.

What has always made the MX-5 one of the great sports cars, however, is that it's so much fun to drive even at lower, legal speeds, and that remains the case here. The way the car corners, the connection it seems to have to your core, through your hips and via your finger tips, remains as visceral and vital as ever.

It is telling that the engineers made no changes at all to the chassis or handling of this version, because they realised it was damn close to perfect already.

This MX-5, then, is just as much of a huge hoot as the one it replaces, it's just that it's now faster, and perhaps even a tiny bit louder, than before, and that is a very good thing.


Jeep Wrangler9/10

It was always going to be hard to match the Rubicon Trail as a launch venue for the new Wrangler, but Jeep Australia did a mighty fine job by pitting us against 17km of the iconic Climies Track on the west coast of Tasmania. 

Starting at the southern end, the track builds in complexity from easy 2WD progress, through high-range 4WD and ultimately low-range 4WD and very much needing the swaybar disconnect system and both diff locks. All aids were certainly active by the time we got stuck, right near the end of the track.

The surface is largely granite, but there’s plenty of muddy rutted sections, wheel-deep creek crossings, steep climbs, and sharp dropoffs. Trust me, it’s good.

It sounds cliched, but the Wrangler felt right at home here. Having said that, the undercarriage kissed the ground on numerous occasions, which you’d expect with such a long wheelbase, but it’s all well tucked and protected in between the wheels.

One weak point is with the export-spec rear bumper, where the plastic number plate mount extends beyond the rest of the bumper and forms a scoop when dragged along the ground. I can see a lot of Rubicon buyers taking to it with a sawzall shortly after purchase.

The 4WD High goes a lot further than you might expect, but the ultra-low range gearing also helps you to plan your wheel placement and path over obstacles carefully and enables heaps of wheel torque for adjusting your speed on the fly.

Some may bemoan the lack of a manual for really technical off-roading, but the eight-speed auto does a great job of putting the power down and isolating drivetrain shock.

When needed, the swaybar disconnect and diff locks are easily activated via the centre console switches, and the former makes a particularly big difference to the Wrangler’s ability to keep all four wheels on the track and simply amble along.

I had a steer of both petrol and diesel versions on the track, and the diesel does a really good job for such a little unit.

It'd also no doubt be a lot more efficient when you're off road, but I'd personally prefer the linear power delivery you get with the V6, not to mention the extra power. Did I mention that it's also $5000 cheaper?

Then when you're on the road, which is admittedly where any four-wheel drive will spend most of its time, it's a significant leap ahead of any Wrangler of the past.

It's more refined, more comfortable and more stable, but ultimately there's no disguising its off-road focus.

In the US I said that it felt like it was on par with one of the better dual cab utes, but Australia's bumpier roads reveal it to be a bit more jiggly, particularly through the solid front axle.

I also reckon the chunky mud tyres take a bit of the edge off the handling too, but I am a sucker for the sound of mud tyres rolling down bitumen at speed, and these rough edges are all there for good reasons. 

Safety

Mazda MX-58/10

The standard safety offering is another area that's had the facelifting magic applied to it for this upgrade, with more 'i-ACTIVSENSE' technologies now coming as standard across the range, and, finally, a 'Rear Monitor', or reversing camera, now standard, tucked away in the centre of the rear bumper.

New safety features include 'Smart City Brake Support', or AEB,  forward only on the base but also in reverse on GT and above, 'Traffic Sign Recognition', 'Driver Attention Alert' (GT spec only) and reverse parking sensors. Blind-spot monitoring was already included.

If all that fails you'll be protected by four airbags, two each for driver and passenger. The MX-5 received a five-star ANCAP rating when it was most recently tested, back in 2016.


Jeep Wrangler6/10

The new JL scored a significant blow with the announcement of EuroNCAP’s one-star rating, but it’s worth noting that the European model tested lacked the AEB and blind-spot monitoring of the top-two Australian models, which will also be applied to the base Sport S from later in 2019.

At this point, Jeep Australia hopes ANCAP will award it a higher score, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for five stars.  

The fact is, it’s just not possible to make a car with a fold down windscreen and removable doors and still score the same safety rating as a Volvo SUV.

Aside from these active features, all Wranglers come with dual front and side airbags, if not curtain or any rear bags, while the top models get full-speed collision warning and rear cross-traffic alerts.

Ownership

Mazda MX-58/10

As well as being good value you can bet this car will have good resale value. Check out our problems pages to see if there any automatic transmission, clutch or engine problems, faults or issues.

The warranty is now five years/unlimited km, which is pretty good for a sports car, but you will have to service it every year/10,000km. The first service is $304, the second $347, then back to $304 for the third and fifth. You get the picture.


Jeep Wrangler8/10

The new Wrangler is the first Jeep to introduce the brand’s new capped price servicing program, which will be rolled out across the line-up with each model year update.

This caps servicing at $299 per service for petrol Wranglers and $499 per service for the diesel. Jeep claims the new pricing will bring savings of up to $850 over the five-year warranty period than the previous JK model.

Service intervals are now 12month/12,000km for the petrols and 12/20,000km for the diesel, which on one hand is a drop from the previous 24-month gaps, but the distance element has thankfully been extended from 10,000km.  

Jeep is in line with the new five-year warranty status quo among mainstream brands, with unlimited kilometres, five-year capped price servicing and lifetime roadside assistance when serviced through a Jeep dealer.