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Driven: Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.

Driven: Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport
Another special edition in the world of the Mazda MX-5...


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Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

In a long, long, long, long, looooong line of the things, we've got another special edition of Mazda's seminal MX-5 roadster - and, in actual fact, we've actually got two, because the RF hard-topped version also gains a limited-edition variant.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport
Pricing: range from 18,995; Z-Sport from 25,610
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door roadster
CO2 emissions: 161g/km (VED 515 first 12 months, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 40.9mpg
Top speed: 133mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Power: 160hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 4,600rpm

What's this?

Mazda has had more attempts at specialising the MX-5 over the near-three decades it has been in production (next year will be its 30th birthday, the old codger) than either you or we've had hot dinners. OK, that's maybe exaggerating the point a little, but the Japanese company has produced a litany of MX-5s over the years that have basically been snazzy paints, an unusual name (Angels? Phoenix? Gleneagles? J-Limited? Jasper Conran? 25th Anniversary? Sport Recaro? We mean, we could go on...) and some additional bits of equipment, and not much more besides.

So, here's another to add to that canon. Called the Z-Sport, it's not the first to wear this particular badge - that honour fell on a 400-off 2007 version of the Mk3 MX-5 that sported 17-inch BBS wheels, Stone leather seats, Radiant Ebony Mica paint, brushed aluminium dash inserts, alloy pedals and co-ordinated stitching for the steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake.

The Mk4-based Z-Sport v2.0 follows much the same pattern. Only 300 will be made and they're all bespoke to the UK, based - as they are - on a Mk4 Sport Nav 2.0-litre roadster. The Z-Sport has a cherry red fabric roof, 17-inch black BBS wheels (wonder where that idea came from...?), Machine Grey Metallic paint (this colour previously exclusive to the Roadster's RF hard-topped sibling), Sand leather seats, Z-Sport-branded floor mats and scuff plates, and an individually numbered plaque on the dash, outlining which number of the 300-build run you're sitting in. As it's based on the Sport Nav, hard-driving essentials like the limited-slip rear differential, the Bilstein dampers and a strut brace are also part of the package, which costs 25,610 - a 1,215 premium over the same engine (160hp SkyActiv-G) in the spec one down from Z-Sport.

Not a fan of the Roadster MX-5? Wish there was a special RF model too? Well, be thankful - there is. Also based on a 2.0-litre, 160hp model, the RF Sport Black is a development of the SE-L Nav (so it doesn't get the Bilstein dampers, for example) and requires an extra 1,110 over that car, resulting in a price tag of 25,695. Again, only 300 will be built and they're all finished in Eternal Blue Mica paint, set off nicely with a contrast black rear spoiler and door mirrors, plus gunmetal alloy wheels. Unique floor mats, scuff plates and badging mark the Sport Black out from its regular brethren, while it also enjoys some more standard equipment - namely, leather seats, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors and automatic headlights.

Mind, the timing of these two almost looks valedictory: the company has just announced that, for the 2019MY MX-5s, it is uprating the 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G engine to 184hp and 205Nm. So these 160hp/200Nm specials almost appear as if... well, let's not be cynical, eh?

How does it drive?

We'll focus on the Z-Sport, because the Sport Black - as lovely as the RF is - doesn't feel any different to drive than a regular 2.0-litre, hard-topped MX-5. Strangely, the Z-Sport, despite no obvious spec-sheet mechanical upgrades, does have a tiny edge on its Sport Nav base material.

Maybe its those BBS wheels, which might be a fraction lighter than the regular alloys. Maybe it's the tyres fitted to said alloys. But whatever it is, the Z-Sport has a slightly steelier focus to it. We drove it exclusively on Silverstone's Stowe Circuit, in and among a few Sport Black RFs, as well as regular 2.0-litre Roadsters and RFs. And the Z-Sport was the only one which managed lap after hard lap of the tight little track without its brakes fading completely. Where the middle pedal was going long on the other Mazdas pounding the Stowe loop, the Z-Sport felt capable of taking even more punishment.

It might also have been a placebo effect in our minds (brought on by the giddiness of relentlessly thundering around a closed circuit in such a superb rear-drive sports car), but the Z-Sport's steering was also just a little more granular, a little more informative than the other cars available. Again, this is almost certainly to do with the wheel and tyre package specified on it, and as a Sport Nav MX-5 is hardly a dynamic duffer to begin with, any extra edge the Z-Sport possesses is most welcome. Indeed, we also like the grey-and-red colour scheme contrasted against that light cabin finishing. And the track action confirmed that while the RF feels like it might have the Roadster's measure out on the roads, when it comes to circuit work the soft-top is most definitely the way to go.


Another day, another Mazda MX-5 special edition that will no doubt be overlooked in years to come, but the Z-Sport Roadster really is an intriguing bit of kit. Ever-so-slightly sharper than the basic vehicle, the Sport Nav, it's a good-looking and semi-collectible machine, that still has the Mk4 MX-5's delightful chassis. It completely overshadowed the RF Sport Black and proved itself our favourite car of a rather good day out, and the only shame is that the Z-Sport wasn't the first recipient of the new 184hp iteration of the 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G engine. If that had happened, maybe five stars wouldn't have been out of the question...

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 20 Jun 2018    - Mazda road tests
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2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.

2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.2018 Mazda MX-5 Z-Sport. Image by Mazda.


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