2019 Mazda MX5 update, Road Test, launch Review
A shade under 30 years ago, Mazda released the first MX5.
It became a cult classic with some of those early cars fetching more now than they did then. Mazda just rolled out the second MX5 update this year, and it brings some of the features we have been wanting for oh so long.
First, a few interesting facts: Buyers continue to flock to SUVs, at the expense of passenger cars. Sports car sales are down 40%, and the top seller continues to be Ford’s Mustang by a considerable margin.
Despite this, MX5 has carved its own unique niche and its owners are equally unique.
57% of MX5 sales are manual, with most buyers preferring the retractable hard top over the soft top model. Australia and the USA are markets where automatic transmissions reign supreme. It seems MX5 buyers are of an ilk.
See the video review BELOW.
The bold bodywork looks like it was carved from a solid block of sexy gorgeousness.
Two body styles continue, the soft top, and RF (retractable Fastback). The latter has the faint whiff of 60’s Lotus with just a touch of 70’s Camaro and a spot of Triumph Stag. It gives the coupe silhouette extra security over a cloth roof. After all, you can’t cut your way through a solid top with a bottle opener can you?
As you move up through the range, the tasty treats mount and mount. Here are just a few:
- LED adaptive Headlights
- new wheels (16” on roadster, 17” on RF
- reversing camera concealed in the rear bumper
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- Blind Spot Monitoring
- auto lights and
- Auto wipers
You’ll need to bring your best OCD game to pick differences in the updated model though.
Having said that, the tech updates bring MX5 right up to date. It had started to lag behind just a smidge. In most cars I’d feel a bit shafted, but for some reason I forgave the Mazda all its little foibles.
There is a button to unlock the boot to the right above the number plate, and another button on the key fob. Smart entry on the upper models adds rubber buttons on the door handles so the key need never leave your pocket. The boot unlock picks up quite a lot of road grime, so keep an evening length rubber glove handy.
The soft top is manual.
It locks in to place with a single latch. Once unlocked it drops the windows around 10cm. it can then be pushed back and locked into the down position in a single graceful move. Another button unlocks the roof allowing it to jump 15cms where it can be grabbed and pulled forward. There is no need to stop completely.
You have to take your time raising it. In a rush for the loo, I left it ajar with a phone sitting on the front seat.
The RF allows fully automatic operation from a button on the console. The roof is in 3 parts. The rear section swings back allowing the front section and rear window to slide down into a cubby hole before lowering back. When lowered, the profile looks like those targa tops from the cool 70’s cars. The hard top takes a mere 13 seconds to go up or down.
Both models lower the windows 10cms or so while raising or lowering the roof. Windows flick down 1cm when the doors open.
I prefer the soft top and all the involvement it brings to a day’s motoring. It is a little noisier than the solid roof, but so much more romantic.
Although all models have auto LED headlamps, GT models gain an adaptive high beam function. Only the base model soft top 1.5L misses out on the nifty LED DTRLs.
Subtle touches include the addition 30mm of reach adjustment to the steering wheel. For the last 30 years, we’ve made do with 42mm worth of height adjustment.
The touch LCD will gain Apple CarPlay within the month. Carplay and Android auto can be retro-fitted for a small fee. We will let you know how much it costs as facts come to hand.
The cup holders are now easier to use, and more rigid. Previously, they got quite a wobble during brisk driving. They store in a cubby hole between the seats but rattle around so require a cloth to keep them quiet. There are no bottle holders, nor are there door pockets. There is a single cubby hole in front of the gear stick and a tiny bin in the centre console.
The doors have ridges in the hinges like most cars. It allows them to be held at two stages of open-ness so to speak. There were 3 stages previously.
Seat reclining has been improved too. You can option a rather tasty Nappa Leather seat in the RF GT. All GTs get seat heating which you’ll appreciate in a brisk day.
The rest of the changes in the cabin relate to technology.
For a full list of feature and other updates, see our list HERE
Here are a few highlights:
- Auto lights and wipers
- LED adaptive lights
- Reversing camera
- AEB front and rear (rear depending on model)
- Lane warning
- Traffic sign recognition
The list is far too long to go in to here, but the reversing camera the most welcome addition. AEB is required for a 5 star safety rating for cars tested from 2018.
Speed sign recognition is handy but we often found a line of dashes instead of a speed. It seemed a bit glitchy. Also glitchy was the LCD touch screen which seemed to get cranky and refuse to accept touch control. Some say it is a safety thing. It stops the touch function when you’re moving but surely that’s just daft.
There are times when the touch screen doesn’t respond.
Even on the coldest day, heating keeps the cabin toasty even with the roof down. Vents bathe passenger in wasp-breaths of gently heated air. Face level vents can be focused on the wheel to keep your fingers just so. There is no neck level vents a-la Mercedes Benz, but MX5 costs a fraction of a Merc.
Drive and Engine
When you lower yourself into an MX5, you step back in time.
You’re transported back to the 60’s British sports cars with their raspy engine notes, rear wheel drive, and a willing free-spinning engine. Sure, we now have nifty gadgets like power steering, power windows, and air conditioning, but with a roof down you are directly connected to the environment.
Both engines have had a tweak. The 1.5L accounts for only 5% of MX5 sales, and has had an accordingly small power increase of just 1kw and 2Nm, to 97kw @ 7,000rpm and 152Nm @ 4,500rpm.
The 2.0L received much more love. Power is up a huge 27kw to 135kw @ 7,000 with torque of 205Nm @ 4,500rpm.
Maximum engine speed increases from 6,500 to 7,500rpm before the rev limiter starts to spoil your fun.
A new fly wheel has changed the engine sound too. The old drone got a trifle wearing on the nerves after a few hours.
There is a choice of a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. Give the auto a miss though. An open top sports car with shift-em-yourself gears is the only way to go.
Steering and ride got a once over earlier in the year and remain sharp and precise. Even over nasty gravel and dirt roads, MX5 is light and nippy. A quick flick of the wrist sorts out the trickiest of corners without complaint.
Tarmac sees the Mazda sticking to the road like glue. It’s an over used term to be sure, but there is just enough give to make the drive thoroughly engaging. The electronic nannies watch over you without getting in the way.
Our drive in and around the Gold Coast was how this little drop top was meant to be used. My preference is for the soft top. MX5 enthusiasts double down on the soft top obsession by also preferring the 1.5L 4 cylinder. We only drove the 2.0L versions, and this is my favourite of the two.
MX5 is not about power and speed. It is about having the roof down to drink in the country atmosphere. As you round a corner and a new vista reveals itself, you get a hint of wisteria or jasmine.
Of course, there is lots of cow poo, but that only makes the experience seem real.
Ride is on the firm side, but never to the point of discomfort. Cornering in a rear-wheel-drive has its own unique feel. It is that little something that’s missing from many new front wheel drive cars.
Road surfaces varied, and there was a fair share of lumpy Queensland tarmac to be had. We steered clear of dirt roads for obvious reasons. It’s no fun when that country atmosphere gets glued to your face.
As it happens, I’ve got an MX5 in the garage this week too. I took a spin through the sandstone canyons just outside Sydney. The way through to St Albans is some of the most magnificent countryside the world has to offer.
St Albans is a tiny village settled in the earliest days of British occupation. The Settlers Arms is an inn dating from 1836. St Albans was a large inland port set on the edge of a wide deep river. Its fortunes changed as the river silted up more than 50 years ago.
The drive is an easy but interesting mix of gravel and twisting tarmac.
It brings back the old days of motoring when a drive was an event. It was something to be enjoyed for the sake of it, not merely a way to get from one place to another.
MX5 gets 5-stars from the 2016 ANCAP tests. With the addition of AEB, you could expect the same rating were it to be retested today.
Mazda calls their safety system “i-ACTIVSENSE technologies”. Some of the main features are:
- Emergency braking forward and in reverse
- Rear camera
- Parking sensors
- Driver attention alert
- Traffic sign recognition
- Sensational looks
- Nippy 2.0L engine
- Choice of soft top or retractable hard top
Not So Good Bits
- Cabin tight for fit
- Cup holders get in the way when in use
- Only one small cubby hole
MX5 is a joy from the first time you lay eyes on it.
You’ll hear talk about it not being practical, but that is a load of cobblers. It is 100% fit for purpose. MX5 was designed specifically for a couple to enjoy themselves. It wasn’t meant to cart a family, or kids, or dogs, or a load of Bunnings sale items.
The chassis is tight, and the 2.0L is leggy and responsive. The manual is an absolute joy. We didn’t drive the 6-speed auto. An automatic is a travesty and should be outlawed.
The addition of AEB and lane departure alert along with the upcoming Apple CarPlay/Android Auto upgrade have brought the Mazda up to date.
The cabin design is simple and carries the design language of other Mazdas. It is a shame they haven’t found a few more places to fit your bits and bobs though. You find yourself having to leave your bag in the boot so as not to crap your passenger.
MX5 appeals to buyers of all ages and genders, and has been awarded many times over the last three decades, and so it should too.
MX5 is made in japan.
2019 Mazda MX5
- Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder Fuel producing 135kW/205Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Warranty: 5/ unlimited km
- Safety: Five stars
- Origin: Japan
- Price: from $36,190