Mazda MX-5 1.5 (2024) review
Mazda further tweaks the superb fourth-gen MX-5, with predictably likeable results.
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

Published on April 25, 2024

Mazda, never known for being a company to avoid tinkering, has updated the superb MX-5 roadster once again, this time for the ‘2024 model year’. It’s the first time the carmaker has changed the exterior looks of this ‘ND’ generation since it launched in 2015, albeit they are very subtle aesthetic alterations, while the interior benefits from upgraded infotainment and instrument graphics. Great news elsewhere, though: the same jewel-like powertrains and chassis set-ups are available for the new MX-5, so this remains one of the all-time-great affordable sports cars.

In the metal

It’s getting on for ten years old now, the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5, and yet it still looks great. So much so that, believe it or not, this is the first time in this model’s lifecycle that the Japanese company has felt compelled to physically change the car’s exterior appearance. But good luck spotting the changes. They amount to the light clusters, which are now all-in-one LED units at the front (previously, the LED daytime running lamps were separate and lived in those outer air intakes low down in the front bumper) while the rears have a more defined ring-like detail in them. But that’s it, save for a new body colour (Aero Grey) and a fresh design of 17-inch alloy wheel.

Inside, it’s a similar story of ‘spot the difference’. So, we’ll save you the bother: the old 7.0-inch infotainment system, which was looking very dated, it must be said, has been replaced by a swisher 8.8-inch affair with the latest software and interfaces. It’s still controlled by the excellent MZ Connect rotary controller down on the transmission tunnel, thankfully, but with new USB-C ports and the continued inclusion of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, this more advanced system addresses the main weak point of the Mazda’s cosy (as in, very small) cabin. Beyond this, the instrument cluster gains some new graphics to keep things fresh. So, as long as you don’t need the most practical open-top car in the world - the MX-5’s boot remains titchy at 130 litres - nor are you anything much over six-foot tall, this sports car should suit you just fine.

Driving it

The major update for the 2024MY cars is the inclusion of a new ‘Track’ mode in the dynamic stability control (DSC). It’s a ‘halfway-house’ type of thing, which relaxes the DSC but doesn’t disengage it entirely. It is designed purely to allow less-confident drivers to better exploit the Mazda’s fabled chassis balance, and in practice it works well - it’s not too obtrusive and lets you get on the throttle a bit earlier and with greater vigour when exiting corners, roundabouts and junctions.

Otherwise, the engines continue as they were before: a 1.5-litre 132hp unit, or the more potent 184hp 2.0-litre. Opt for the latter and you get tougher Bilstein-damped suspension, a front strut brace and a new asymmetrical limited-slip differential, all features designed to sharpen the MX-5’s chassis and make better use of the bigger four-cylinder unit’s added performance.

Yet we can never help ourselves from being hopelessly drawn to this ‘baby’ 1.5. With just 132hp and 152Nm of torque to play with, at no point are you ever going to call an MX-5 with this powertrain fitted anything like ‘fast’... but a kerb weight of just 1.1 tonnes also means that the Mazda makes the absolute most of what limited resources it has at its disposal.

And what on-paper performance figures, such as an acceptable 8.3-second 0-100km/h time, can never truly convey is just how wonderful this engine and gearbox combination is. Especially that latter item - you will rarely find a manual transmission these days which shifts with the glorious, tight, mechanical precision of the six-speed unit in a 1.5 MX-5. It is an unmitigated joy to stir the stubby little ball-topped lever about the H-gate, revelling in its click-clack movements which are completely free of any slop or rubberiness.

That therefore allows the driver to quickly flick between gears to best access the four-cylinder engine’s high-rev performance, which is thrilling. This 1.5 is one of the smoothest-spinning petrol units in the world, an engine which positively revels in chasing its 7,000rpm point of peak power. What’s so nice about this modest output in such a small, light car is that you can exploit the Mazda’s full-bore delivery, without fear of immediately losing your licence the minute you get out of second gear.

In turn, the lower power means you can sample just what a diamond chassis this car has underneath it. The 1.5 is more softly sprung than the 2.0-litre, so its body will move around more on quieter back roads. But this only better conveys where the MX-5’s outright limits of grip are, what its marvellous steering is doing, how much braking effort you’re applying and so on. There’s a good reason the Mazda has become the best-selling sports car of all time: it’s majestic to drive.

Thankfully, it also works as a ‘normal’ car, with a comfortable ride quality and just about enough flexibility in the engine that you can drive around in fourth, fifth and sixth in the manual gearbox without endlessly downshifting just to keep up with regular traffic flow. Granted, there’s a bit of road noise in the cabin and there will be those odd times driving the 1.5 MX-5 where you might wish you’d splurged out more money on the 2.0-litre model, but in the main you’ll simply be behind the Mazda’s steering wheel with a great big grin plastered all over your face.

What you get for your money

Mazda Ireland sells the MX-5 only in one trim, called Exclusive-Line. That comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, a new frameless auto-dimming interior mirror, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, LED lights and the upgraded infotainment system as standard (among much more), all for €39,890 for this 1.5 Roadster.

You can opt to spend another €2,500 to end up in the Retractable Fastback (RF) folding hard-top model, if you want, or alternatively add another €3,400 to the mix to have the 184hp 2.0-litre engine (and all the chassis changes that brings) in this Roadster. You can, of course, also combine the two for the most expensive model, the 2.0-litre RF, at €45,790. But we really don’t think you need to look much further than this ‘basic’ 1.5 soft-top variant, because it’s terrific as it is.


Mazda gave us a truly great sports convertible in 2015 when it launched this MX-5, and it has then gone on to finesse various aspects of it over the course of the following years - a folding metal hard-top for the RF in 2017, an additional 24hp and 5Nm for the 2.0-litre in 2018, a bright-orange spray tan for a 30th birthday special in 2019, added driver assist systems, Burgundy Nappa leather and an adjustable steering column in 2020, Kinematic Posture Control brake-bias handling updates in 2022, Zircon Sand paint in 2023... you get the picture.

Now we have tidier light clusters, a better infotainment system and the ‘hold-your-hand’ DSC Track system, so we’re hardly talking transformative changes. Yet as the MX-5 has always been a thoroughly brilliant little machine underneath it all, it remains so just as much in 2024 as it did when it arrived in 2015 - this two-seat Mazda is a delightfully rewarding sports car at an affordable level, and long may that continue.


Tech Specs

Model testedMazda MX-5 1.5 Exclusive-Line
Irish pricingMX-5 starts at €39,890 for car as tested
Powertrainpetrol - 1.5-litre four-cylinder ‘Skyactiv-G’ engine
Transmissionmanual - six-speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door, two-seat roadster
CO2 emissions142g/km
Irish motor tax€270 per annum
Fuel consumption6.3 litres/100km (44.8mpg)
Top speed204km/h
0-100km/h8.3 seconds
Max power132hp at 7,000rpm
Max torque152Nm at 4,500rpm
Boot space130 litres
Kerb weight1,106kg
Rivals to the Mazda MX-5