Overall rating: 5/5
High emissions mean the 2.0-litre MX-5 has been overlooked by Mazda Ireland, but that decision may need to be reversed. The extra power and suspension changes mean the bigger engine is the one to have; it's easier to drive around town and more fun out of it.
In the Metal:
You probably already know that the new Mazda MX-5 is a good-looking car what with our pre-production review of Mazda's fourth generation roadster proving exceedingly popular. It's tauter and lighter than before - 1,000kg in the case of the 2.0-litre powered car, second only to the original Mk1. The body panelling is honed where it needs to be with important curves highlighted with precise metalwork. If you ever wondered what exactly Mazda's 'Soul of motion' design philosophy was; this is it.
With car cabins generally getting larger as the years progress to better accommodate a growing clientele and the equipment they demand it may come as something of a surprise to see that the new MX-5 has the smallest cabin of any car to wear the badge. Everything has been optimised and tightened up to focus the attention on the driver and his/her attention on the road ahead. The occupants sit slightly closer together than before, closer to the centre-line of the car as well as lower and further back. It is a relaxed seating position, one that you should not grow weary of too quickly.
The steering wheel, beautifully sculpted and just the right size and girth, could possibly do with adding reach to its tilt function and the cup holders seem like something of an afterthought what with their poor positioning behind your elbow, but we get the feeling everyone's attention is going to be focused forwards - the driver to the 'heads up' concept of the control layout that puts everything quickly at hand or eye while the passenger tries to find some space in the tight footwell to brace themselves for what is to come.
'Connected' is the buzzword of choice in the motor industry at the moment with each manufacturer rushing to get their newest models more connected than their rivals. The MX-5 is the most connected car on the market at the moment. Not for its MZD Connect system but instead the analogue connection between car and driver. Sitting low and so far back you are almost over the rear axle, you feel at one with the car; like that long lost friend you can pick up a conversation with despite having not seen each other in years. That feeling is down to the conversational ability of the Mazda roadster - it is a yappy little thing, which, from the moment you prod the starter button until you park it up for the evening, is always talking.
But if you'd read our previous reviews of the pre-production MX-5 you would know about the car's communicative ability already. The 2.0-litre version goes further, however, with unique Bilstein tuned sports suspension separating it from the 1.5-litre car. The difference is night and day; while the 1.5 delivers it messages from the rear axle and the exact positioning of the front wheels in crystal clear stereo the 2.0 does so in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. There is never any mistaking exactly what is going on around you and the affect the minute changes you are making to steering angle or throttle application are having.
And that is the brilliance of the MX-5 - there is no electronic buffer between driver and car, or at least not a perceptible one. Legislation means it has to have certain safety systems like traction control, but it really needs to be provoked to intervene, at which point you probably needed reining in anyway.
And with 30 more horsepower and 50Nm more torque than the 1.5 you may need to be restrained in the 2.0-litre MX-5. The extra power shaves a second off the 0-100km/h time, but more importantly the power is available earlier, making it more accessible. Redline chasing in the 1.5 to achieve max power at 7,000rpm is all well and good but with the 2.0-litre offering its peak output 1,000rpm earlier it is more easily exploited and ultimately more enjoyable. You can take the car by the scruff of the neck but you do not have to wring that neck to make the most of it.
The extra torque also makes the 2.0 more enjoyable around town - easier to drive normally away from lights, as, again with torque arriving lower down the rev range, you don't have to go looking for it. The downsides to the extra power however are higher emissions and therefore tax. With 139g/km the 1.5-litre car resides in tax Band B2 making for an annual bill of €280. Emitting 161g/km, the 2.0 is going to set you back €570 every year.
What you get for your Money:
For the moment you cannot have your MX-5 with the more powerful 2.0-litre engine, Mazda Ireland deeming its emissions too high to appeal to the average customer. The theory may prove logical yet still rumours persist that the bigger engine will be considered for the hard-top convertible that is set to arrive in 2016. Officially no decision has been made on either the engine or indeed the hard-top but there were hints that a 2.0 hard-top will be offered. Whether Mazda Ireland will ever offer that engine in the soft-top roadster remains to be seen, but with the company recently relenting to pressure to offer the smaller 1.5-litre diesel in the Mazda3, anything is possible. There just has to be demand for it.
As the 1.5-litre Roadster starts from €27,995 you have to expect a minimum of €35,995 for a 2.0-litre Coupé if it emerges - worth every cent.
There is no shame in driving the 1.5-litre MX-5. It is a terrific engine that offers up just the right amount of power to have fun with without getting into too much trouble. Purists will want more power than the 1.5 can offer though and the 2.0-litre has the answer. The extra torque provided makes it more useable around town while the 30 extra horsepower and suspension changes turn the MX-5 from a great sports car into a special one.