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Mazda MX-5
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Mazda MX-5 VS Nissan 370Z

Mazda MX-5


Nissan 370Z

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

Nissan 370Z

Road testing the Nissan 370Z in 2011, I noted it was getting on. Yes, the rear-wheel drive two-seater had been given a design freshen up and a bigger engine a couple of years prior, but the 350Z it was based on had hit the local market way back in 2003. And it wasn't unreasonable to expect replacement or retirement in the not-too-distant future.

Okay, so that was seven years ago, which means if you (like many) consider the 370Z to be an update of the 350Z (the transition happening in 2009), this car has been on sale for 15 years straight. Can you imagine Apple trying to sell any one product without entirely reinventing it for that long?

You might say that makes it a modern classic; so good it's only required an occasional touch up to keep it on the Sports Car Most Wanted list. And in recent years, a consistent average of 30 Aussies a month have slotted a shiny new 370Z in their driveway.

But a less-charitable type will tell you time waits for no car, and with arch rival Toyota about to lob a Supra-shaped hand grenade over the parapet, this enduring campaigner is under the pump.

So, Nissan's reached into its bag of tricks and given the 370Z yet another cosmetic tszuj-up and added a high-performance clutch to the manual version.

Is it enough to keep Nissan's eternal Z-car flame burning?

Safety rating
Engine Type3.7L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10.5L/100km
Seating2 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.


Nissan 370Z7/10

It's hard not to be ageist when it comes to the current Nissan Zed, because 15 years in market (nine if we're generous) is a lengthy stretch in anyone's book. But somehow the 370Z is more than the sum of its parts. It has fantastic front-engine/rear-drive balance, an increasingly rare atmo engine, and a beautiful manual 'box. The value equation is decent, and it's nicely put together. Just don't expect to be dazzled with the latest safety, driver-assist and multimedia technology.

Does the Nissan 370Z have what it takes to elevate your heart rate? Tell us in the comments below.

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.


Nissan 370Z7/10

If you want to go all the way back, the 370Z clearly takes its design direction from Datsun's star of the '70s, the original 240Z.

Inspired by Ferrari, and (along with the Toyota 2000GT) a sports-car breakthrough for the Japanese industry, the first Zed's front-engine, long-nose proportions have remained largely intact in successive iterations over the decades.

With a broad, flat nose, distinctively jagged headlights, and steeply raked rear profile, there's no mistaking the 370's signature stance, with pumped-up guards sitting over fat, 19-inch alloy rims.

Sharp-eyed car-spotters will notice the update's new design RAYS forged wheels, smoked front and rear lights, and a similar smoked finish on the exterior door handles.

A new colour, 'Cherry Red' also replaces 'Bordeaux Black' in an eight-shade colour palette. Our test example was finished in 'Gun Metallic'.

Inside, echoes of Zeds past abound, with a trio of hooded gauges (clock, voltmeter, oil temp) sitting in the centre of the dash top, and the tachometer in the middle of a cowled, three-instrument main cluster shaded by an exaggerated tube.

And aside from consciously retro design touches, some elements have been present inside the car for so long they're just... ancient.

For example, old-school orange graphics for the odometer, gear position and trip computer are dated, and the small (7.0-inch touchscreen) multimedia display has the feel of an early noughties edition of Tekken 6.

Forget a digital speedo or head-up display. A CD slot still sits proudly in the centre stack, and matt silver highlights scattered around the cabin are as on-trend as double denim.

And the steering wheel (joined with the instrument binnacle) adjusts for height, but annoyingly, not reach.

That said, friends and family who rode in the car during the week I had the keys all commented on the swoopy exterior and cozy cockpit feel of the interior. So, what do I know?

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.


Nissan 370Z6/10

Two seats means practicality is a relative term when applied to the 370Z. For example, getting in and out is an athletic exercise requiring gymnastic levels of flexibility and poise. As with most low-lying coupes, I found the outer hand on the A-pillar technique helps with swinging down into the car, or lurching up out of it.

Once ensconced behind the wheel, you're confronted with a relatively modest amount of storage space, running to a medium-size glove box, a lidded bin at the rear of the dividing console, a single cupholder, and door pockets incorporating recesses for small bottles only.

There are two lined recesses for soft bags or coats behind each seat, including a fold-out map pocket, but they're not exactly convenient for retrieving things when you're on the move. What's missing is a tray where you can easily stow things likes keys, coins or a phone.

There are also two 12-volt power outlets, a USB port and an aux-in audio connection.

Rear load space is limited to 195 litres, mainly due to the boot's shallow floor (an alloy space-saver spare sits underneath). It does incorporate a cargo blind and four tie-down hooks, but we only managed to squeeze in the largest (105-litre) suitcase from our three-piece hard set, or a combination of the two smaller ones (35 and 68 litres).

We also had a crack at stuffing in the CarsGuide pram (there is a top-tether hook provided for child seat fitment) and managed it with only a couple of beads of perspiration expended.

Forget the nappy-bag paraphernalia, though. The soft bags with all the baby stuff would have to go in the storage bays in the cabin behind the seats.

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.


Nissan 370Z7/10

The arrival of the tricked-up 370Z NISMO in August last year, offered Nissan Australia an opportunity to reposition the regular model, dropping the MSRP for the manual version from $56,930 to $49,990.

Aside from adjusting the car's value-for-money proposition (and pissing off those who'd bought one in July), that close to seven grand haircut delivered more pricing headroom up to the Roadster (starting at $60,990), and NISMO (from $61,490) versions.

For that money the standard equipment list includes, keyless entry and start, cruise control, climate control air, go-fast alloy finish pedals, 'HDD' (Hard Disc Drive) sat nav with 3D mapping, a 7.0-inch colour multimedia touchscreen, and Bose eight-speaker audio with 9.3GB 'Music Box' hard drive.

You'll also pick up sports seats with lots of features. First, they're 'leather accented', which is code for genuine hide in all the places you regularly contact, and a faux equivalent everywhere else. Not uncommon, and not necessarily unpleasant. Then they're heated and four-way power-adjustable, (with manual lumbar and height adjustment for the driver).

The steering wheel and gear knob also cop the 'leather accented' treatment, plus you can expect LED DRLs and tail-lights as well as auto headlights. It's worth noting that the headlights are garden-variety xenons, and things you might expect in a $50k coupe, like, rain-sensing wipers, dual zone climate, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity or tyre-pressure monitoring are 100 per cent absent.

Lining up direct competitors for the 370Z isn't easy, because there aren't any. But the closest is arguably a 2.3-litre EcoBoost version of Ford's Mustang at $45,990 for the manual. A further stretch of the imagination could haul in the Mazda MX-5 RF ($43,890) or the 86 GTS+ ($39,440) and Subaru BRZ tS ($39,894).

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.


Nissan 370Z7/10

The 370Z is powered by an all-alloy, 3.7-litre (VQ37VHR), naturally aspirated, quad-cam V6, producing 245kW at 7000rpm and 363Nm at 5200rpm.

Serving in a vast array of Nissan, Infiniti, Renault and Mitsubishi models, the VQ V6 engine series has been around in various displacements for over 20 years.

It features the 'Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System' (CVTCS) with 'Variable Valve Event and Lift' (VVEL) on the intake side. And while all that may sound new and ultra-high tech, it was actually introduced in 2007.

Transmission choice is between a seven-speed auto (with manual mode and paddles) or six-speed manual gearbox, as tested here. And this 2018 upgrade brings a high-performance clutch from Japanese specialist Exedy.

Drive goes to the rear wheels via a carbon-fibre composite drive shaft, connecting with a viscous limited slip differential (LSD).

Additional features that won't necessarily be music to purists' ears include 'Active Noise Cancellation', and 'Active Sound Enhancement'.

The former monitors and measures engine sounds, using the audio speakers to produce "acoustically opposing signals to cancel undesirable sounds". So, okay, maybe filtering out the messy noise is a good thing.

But at the same time Active Sound Enhancement employs "digital signal processing to enhance the engine note, using the vehicle's sound system to augment or modify the spectrum of select powertrain sounds in the cabin". Yuck.

I can cop a tube that channels a bit of genuine engine noise into the interior, but in this context, the phrase 'digital signal processing' is a turn-off.

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.


Nissan 370Z7/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 10.6L/100km, the 370Z emitting 249g/km of CO2 in the process.

Over roughly 250km of city, suburban and freeway running, we averaged 15.6L/100km, at the bowser. Far from miserly.

Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, although Nissan says "for optimum performance" you should stump up for 98 RON. And just to rub it in, you'll need 72 litres of it to fill the tank.

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.


Nissan 370Z8/10

The Nissan 370Z is actually the car many want the Toyobaru 86/BRZ to be. I can sense some of you spluttering out a sweary response to that notion. But hear me out.

If you, like many others, think the 86/BRZ would be perfect with an extra 50kW/80Nm, just bolt on a turbo or supercharger, and voila. You'll get that extra grunt, but remember, the 86/BRZ was conceived to be light, tactile, and, not least of all, affordable.

Up the outputs and you light the wick on an engineering arms race that should also lead to bigger brakes, an engine with more exotic pistons and a tougher bottom end, a stronger gearbox and clutch, a beefier diff, sturdier chassis, fatter rims and rubber... the list goes on, and on. Until you end up with something very much like the spec, weight, and price of the 370Z.

That's not to say this car isn't a fun drive. It is. Just don't expect the quick reflexes of an MX-5 or 86/BRZ.

Despite light-weighting tricks like an aluminium bonnet and all-alloy suspension, the 370Z weighs in at a not inconsiderable 1467kg. And although its 3.7-litre V6 develops a solid 245kW/363Nm, first impressions are dominated by its hollow mid-range.

Much as I love the free-revving nature of a naturally aspirated engine, there's no denying a modern turbo typically delivers lots of torque low down, with peak power also available within a useful rev range.

All the action here is at the top end, with maximum torque arriving way up at 5200rpm, and peak power taking over at a nose-bleed 7000rpm (the rev ceiling is 7500rpm). Not exactly an easily accessible sweet spot.

But there's still so much to like about this evergreen Zed. Its classic front engine/rear-drive layout results in a 53/47 front to rear weight distribution and the car feels balanced and beautifully predictable.

Suspension is double wishbone front, multi-link rear, and ride comfort, even over choppy bitumen surfaces is surprisingly good. On the flip-side, rumble coming up from the Bridgestone Potenza RE050A rubber (245/40 f / 275/35 r) is always noticeable, and often intrusive.

The steering is supported by old-school hydraulic power assist and while connection with the front wheels is impressive, overall feel is light. Hello 'Merica.

The gearbox is a sweet reminder of what a pleasure it is swap ratios in a top-notch close-ratio manual, and hats off to Exedy for producing a wonderfully progressive clutch. Personal preference was to turn off the standard 'SynchroRev Match' function, because I like having a go at the ol' heel 'n' toe tap dance myself.

Brakes are ventilated front and rear with almost equal size rotors (355mm f / 350mm r) clamped by four-piston calipers up front and two piston units at the rear. They are reassuringly powerful and consistent.

Age has not wearied the 370Z's ergonomics. Although the lack of a digital speedo and no reach adjustment for the steering column is annoying, the sports seats are snug and comfortable, the moderately chunky wheel feels great, and all the major controls are simple to use. Who needs slick screens and 'piano black' finishes?

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.


Nissan 370Z7/10

The 370Z must feel like a wall flower at the crash-test disco because it currently isn't rated for safety performance by ANCAP, its Euro NCAP affiliate, JNCAP in Japan, or the USA's NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) or IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).

That said, in terms of active safety features you'll find ABS, BA, EBD, traction control, 'Vehicle Dynamic Control' (stability control), and a rear-view camera with 'Predictive Path' guidance lines.

But if you're looking for more current active tech, look elsewhere, because things like AEB, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, active cruise, lane-keep assist, auto high beam or any kind of pedestrian detection are missing-in-action. They're not even available on the options list.

If all else fails and a crash is unavoidable, primary passive safety runs to active head restraints and eight airbags (driver and passenger front and side airbags, plus roof- and door-mounted curtain airbags).

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.


Nissan 370Z7/10

Nissan offers a three year/100,000km warranty, which isn't exactly ground-breaking in the age of Kia's seven year/unlimited km commitment.

But it does include 24-hour roadside assistance for three years, and Nissan's 'myNissan Service Certainty' capped-price servicing program applies for up to six years/120,000km.

The scheduled maintenance interval is six months/10,000km, with charges ranging from a low of $283, to a high of $831 (100,000km), averaging out to roughly $428 per service.