Mazda mx-5 (2019) on test: small car, big fun

Test Mazda MX-5 2019

Do we need to explain this car much more? The Mazda MX-5, the world’s best-selling roadster. In four generations, the open-top Japanese gnome has already rolled off the production line more than a million times. In Germany, around 130 cars have been built since 1990.000 units sold. An icon, which Mazda has now slightly upgraded in the course of the changeover to the Euro 6d emissions standard.

This is the roadster competition:

What’s new?

Die-hard MX-5 fans don’t have to prepare for "seppuku", the Japanese ritual suicide. Mazda has revised their favorite roadster very discreetly. The most important change is under the shapely hood: One horsepower and two Newton meters more for the small 1.5-liter gasoline engine and a whopping 24 horsepower and five Newton meters more for the two-liter unit. By the way, over 70 percent of German customers go for the big engine. Otherwise, there are a few more assistance systems (fortunately only optional for the top equipment) and finally a longitudinally adjustable steering column (fortunately for all models). The latter makes the entrance noticeably easier, yet the MX-5 remains tailor-made. You must try it on, dear reader. It is not possible to say in general terms from which body or dress size onwards the car is in trouble. Especially in the passenger footwell, the gearbox housing protrudes far into the cabin.

One thing has remained unchanged: There are not many storage compartments. And that includes the 130-liter trunk. In turn, the current Mazda MX-5 weighs only 986 kilograms at best without a driver. An anecdote on the side: Mazda Europe demanded a five centimeter longer interior during development. Answer from Mazda Japan: That would be 60 kilograms more. Rejected!

How it drives?

Jinba Ittai: This is what Mazda calls the fusion of driver and vehicle. Okay, with a 2 or 3, you have to smile about it. But in the case of the MX-5, "Jinba Ittai" captures the essence quite well. Especially if you can take a 117-kilometer-long curve paradise in Romania under the wheels. Its name: Transfogarasche High Road or Transfagarasan. In the landscape, somewhere between the Scottish Highlands and the Black Forest, the MX-5 is in its element. The roadster, which is only 3.91 meters long, steers precisely through the curves and sprints quickly around corners. Even with ESP switched on, it can be coaxed into a gentle tail swing. But wild drifts don’t really suit the MX-5, despite rear-wheel drive. Its recipe for success is accessible fun, both in terms of driving characteristics and price.

The Mazda MX-5 isn’t sneaky or rowdy. It feels like a precision surgical instrument in the hand, a foil rather than a cleaver. A kind of motorcycle on wheels. The linear high-revving two-liter naturally aspirated engine fits the bill. Its 205 Newton meters (we remember: five Newton meters more!) are now already from 4.000 revs, 600 revs lower than before. But the 24 more horsepower are not really noticeable. Who owns the "old" two-liter, can continue to sleep peacefully.

Softtop or rather RF?

Since recently the Mazda MX-5 RF with three-piece folding roof is also available as a 1.5-liter version. 2.600 euros more separate the RF from the classic fabric roof MX-5. The RF’s design, which is worth seeing in any condition, and less drafts inside speak for itself. This is ensured by a type of tare bar. But subjectively it worsens the feeling of space, you feel overbuilt. The soft top is airier in every respect, in my opinion the truer MX-5. Each solution has its charm, the RF is recommended for those who want to drive the MX-5 more often and even in winter.

Automatic in the MX-5: A Sacrilege?

I confess: I have sinned badly. At least from the point of view of all hardcore fans of the MX-5. Why? I drove it in six-speed automatic. It is available only in RF for the two-liter engine. A blasphemy, since the manual gearbox is considered the Holy Grail and the divine transmission. And indeed, flicking the gears with the very short pommel is a pleasurable process. With only two fingers on the stick, it slips through like the proverbial knife through butter.

"In fact, it is a pleasurable process to flick through the gears with the very short pommel."

But there may be people who, for good reasons, want 1.Sacrifice 900 Euro extra for the automatic. Left leg problems, decades of automatic love, or just plain comfort. I drove a good 80 kilometers in the self-shifting MX-5 and can say: a punishment is not. The automatic works smoothly most of the time and keeps the revs very low. In addition, more foot space due to the missing pedal. Only when accelerating out, the automatic MX-5 feels a bit more sluggish. Nicely, though, there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel and a sport mode that spins the gears out longer. But the bare numbers confirm my impression: at 7.9 seconds to 100 km/h, the automatic version is a good second slower. Conclusion: The automatic in the Mazda MX-5 is like vegan schnitzel. Tastes quite good and has a small target audience, but is not the real deal. And like the veggie schnitzel, the whole thing costs more too.

Should I buy it?

Absolutely, if you have a street similar to Transfagarasan on your doorstep. Beautiful passes and tight curves are the feel-good oasis of the Mazda MX-5. A highway trip from Hamburg to Munich rather less. In terms of price, the MX-5 remains an attractive second car: starting at 22.990 euros for the basic model with fabric roof and 132 hp, prices increase by 200 to 400 euros after the model update. But it’s not for nothing that over 70 percent of German customers opt for the top-of-the-range Sports Line. Whether automatic climate control, navi or rear parking aid, it’s all here. Extras worth considering: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (300 euros) and metallic paint (from 540 euros). My personal choice would be the MX-5 Sports-Line with 184 hp and soft top for 29.990 Euros, plus the onyx black metallic. Apart from "Magmarot" Mazda does not do it colorful. For this, the MX-5 provides a lot of color in life.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

+ extremely agile, powerful 2.0-liter engine, perfect shifting and steering
– Spaciousness is available elsewhere, color selection quite poor

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