2022 Mazda MX-5 review | news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site


There are good reasons why running changes to this cult favourite are mild – it’s one of the best new cars you can buy.

Sunny afternoons at the wheel of a Mazda MX-5 are the sort of drives you wish would last forever.

Particularly when you have access to a winding road – and doubly so if that road is private, and closed.

Mazda has updated its evergreen roadster for 2022, honing its line-up in response to buyer tastes. Few people bought an entry-level 1.5-litre version, so that’s gone. Silver-like “platinum quartz metallic” paint and terracotta-coloured leather options represent the mildest of aesthetic changes.

Mechanical tweaks are even subtler, amounting to a few lines of new code within the stability control software. Dubbed “kinetic posture control”, the feature applies mild brake pressure to the inner rear wheel when cornering, reducing pitch and body roll from the roadster’s famously soft suspension.

That’s it.

But wholesale changes are not the way of the MX-5, a car that might remain truer to its original form than anything else on sale.

The latest MX-5 weighs a scarcely believable 1052kg, just 100 kilos more than the 1989 original. That’s impressive given the new car has airbags, climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen with satnav and smartphone mirroring, plus safety features such as front and rear auto emergency braking.

Today’s customers gravitate towards the range-topping MX-5 GT RS with its “retractable fastback” folding hardtop, Brembo brakes, bigger BBS wheels with stickier Bridgestone tyres and a Bose stereo that jams nine speakers – four embedded within headrests – in what might be the most compact new-car interior.

We’ll forgive their indulgence, as almost 60 per cent of customers also choose to shift their own gears with one of the sweetest manual transmissions on the road. Paying $2000 extra for an ordinary auto doesn’t make much sense, because the MX-5 is all about connection and purity.

So the best model might be the cheapest, priced from $37,790 plus on-road costs (about $42,000 drive-away).

It makes more fiscal sense than the BBS-shod MX-5 RF GT RS sold for $51,500 plus on-roads (about $56,000 drive-away), but that may not bother folks with cash to spare for a topless two-seater.

Whichever MX-5 you pick, power comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 135kW and 205Nm.

A relative of the humble motor found in the Mazda3, the MX-5’s 2.0-litre benefits from old-school hot-rodding techniques such as a larger throttle body, higher cylinder compression and freer-flowing exhaust to make an extra 21kW and 5Nm.

It feels brisk enough on the road, helped by a willing appetite for revs. You need to work the MX-5 hard to find its best work, but that’s no chore given the motor’s effervescent nature and the slick gear changes.

As always, the MX-5 is a car that rewards precision from the driver. It can feel flat to folks accustomed to big power or tenacious grip, but enthusiasts who don’t care about acceleration figures or lap times know there is magic in Mazda’s approach.

We see more MX-5s on public track days than higher-powered rivals such as the Ford Mustang for good reason.

Few cars approach the sheer joy of an MX-5 on the right day.

Our time with the latest model included a road loop, skid pan and closed circuit to evaluate its “kinetic posture”.

There’s a mild reduction in rear roll but it doesn’t change the character of the car, which will dance on its tippy-toes, sliding from turn-in to apex and exit and responding instantly to inputs into beautifully weighted controls.

This year’s changes won’t warrant an upgrade for existing owners. But they do serve as a reminder Mazda has something truly special in a car that won’t be around forever – particularly in such an original form.

Verdict: Engaging, affordable and committed to an inspired vision, the MX-5 represents distilled motoring joy. 5 stars

Mazda MX-5

Price: From about $42,000 drive-away

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 135kW and 205Nm

Warranty/Service: Five years/unlimited km, $1755 over five years

Safety: Four airbags, front and rear auto emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert

Thirst: 6.8L/100km

Cargo: 130 litres

Spare: Repair kit

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