“Like a summer that never seems to end,” was the headline in a car magazine from Austria for its report on the Mazda MX-5. Now the summer is definitely over, even if the autumn was still very mild. And now? Is the iconic roadster from Japan really just a summer car? Or can it withstand the icy winter temperatures despite the soft top?
The MX-5 has been in the Mazda program since 1989. With more than a million units sold, it is the most successful roadster in automotive history. It is now in its fourth generation and most of its competitors, such as the Fiat Barchetta, were discontinued after a short lifetime. The Japanese roadster, on the other hand, was cared for lovingly and with devotion. The biggest break with tradition may have occurred in 1998 when the NA type was switched to the NB. The flashy pop-up headlights were then replaced by conventional lights.
Since then, the MX-5 has remained true to all of its original virtues. Weighing just 1100 kilograms and with a slim cut, it guarantees driving pleasure. The rear-wheel drive makes it extremely agile, and the fact that Kinematic Posture Control went on board with the most recent facelift is one of the most exciting innovations over the years. What is that? Well, an electronic system that brakes the inside rear wheel, reducing body roll when it comes to cornering. Body roll would be the last thing we would have criticized about the MX-5 in the past. After all, the little helper hardly costs anything and doesn’t weigh on the scales.
The main feature of the two-seater, in addition to its lively engine, is its light fabric hood, which can be opened manually at low speeds at least in summer and thrown backwards with a practiced flick. If you use the right technique, you will find the right amount of force so that it snaps into the provided box in the rear. Closing it is hardly less complicated. The cap is pulled forward without effort and locked with a central locking mechanism. In winter, when there is ice and snow, you should never force the soft fabric hood. It is better to take the roadster out of the garage or drive it carefully to avoid damaging it when opening the roof.
Two degrees below zero, the sun shines pale. It’s not the ideal weather for open-top driving, but you don’t need a pronounced capacity for suffering to enjoy the tour either. Although there is no hot air blower in the headrest, there is powerful three-stage seat heating for the two heavily contoured Recaro armchairs in the cockpit. The air conditioning also fans warm air eagerly into the footwell, the vents in the dashboard only make a small contribution to the warming. On the other hand, the small but effective wind deflector between the headrests limits the turbulence in the interior, and at moderate speeds the temperatures always remain in the comfortable range.
The more powerful of the two selectable four-cylinder petrol engines comes with a displacement of two liters and without a turbocharger to 184 hp. It is brought to life with the start button, then revs up with sports car manners, only to then tour with a pleasantly hoarse sound when idling. The shift lever is more of a stick and an enemy of long distances, the gears can be changed from the wrist. Just as the Mazda can be driven around the corners with very economical steering movements. It stays on track, and the fact that even a comparatively slim 205 Newton meters of peak torque can sometimes lead to short side wipers when used correctly is reliably prevented by the ESP, which is not uncommon. It’s always good luck. The Mazda does not lose its agility even in the cold.
The voice control works reasonably well, only the tightly cut interior and the positioning of the central rotary actuator in front of the control console occasionally lead to unwanted actions, which can be quickly reversed with the “Back” button. City emergency brake assistant, drowsiness detection, reversing camera and traffic sign recognition assist for 750 euros, the sports package with Recaro seats in leather-Alcantara combination, the Bilstein chassis and a strut bar for 1900 euros ensure the sporty oomph.
Driving pleasure is always part of the MX-5. The tight suspension is no obstacle to comfort and the glass top rear window can be heated for good rear view. The automatic start-stop system also works pleasantly, which gets the engine running again after it has been switched off without the annoying shaking. The driven model variant Selection is equipped with everything that is good and expensive, a sound system from Bose, navigation, alloy wheels and matrix LED light are among other things.
However, Santa would have been ill-advised with an MX-5. He’s a rather strong guy and would sit in the slim roadster more like a liverwurst in an artificial casing. There is also little space for gifts, 113 liters of trunk volume are poor. And a trailer is also ruled out due to a lack of approval for a coupling. Everyone else can look forward to entertaining mobility experiences with the Mazda in winter too. Especially since the consumption with an adapted driving style with 6.7 liters of petrol per 100 kilometers is 0.2 liters lower than the WLTP value.
If you have concerns, you could switch to the Targa version of the MX-5, the RF. It has a fixed roof that can be removed and is supposed to insulate better. But there is one problem with this version, too: there is no room for the thick winter jacket inside. It can only be stowed in the trunk. (Michael Kirchberger/cen)
Daten Mazda MX-5 Selection G 2.0
Length x width x height (m): 3.92 x 1.74 x 1.23
Wheelbase (m): 2.31
Drive: 4-cylinder petrol engine, 1998 ccm, RWD, 6 gears
Power: 135 kW (184 hp) at 7000 rpm
Max. torque: 205 Nm at 4000 rpm
Top speed: 219 km/h
Acceleration 0 to 100 km/h: 6.5 seconds
WLTP average consumption: 6.9 liters
Test consumption: 6.7 liters
Tank capacity: 45 liters
CO2 emissions: 156 g/km (Euro 6)
Empty weight / payload: min. 1100 kg / max. 235 kg
Trunk volume: 113 liters
Turning circle: 10.4 m
Price: 35,690 euros
Test car price: 39,240 euros