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First drive: 2023 Mazda MX-5 Roadster. Image by Mazda.

First drive: 2023 Mazda MX-5 Roadster
Mazdaís ever-popular soft-top sports car has been revamped with a new range of trim levels, but will that make any difference to the MX-5ís appeal?

   



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Mazda MX-5 Roadster

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Mazda claims the MX-5 engineers' motto is "innovate in order to preserve", and that's exactly what it's doing, updating the roadster every year or so to keep it at the top of its game. For 2023, the range has a new look, with a new Homura trim level and some new paint jobs, including this Zircon Sand colour. We put both the new trim and the new paint to the test in a bid to find out what's what.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mazda MX-5 Roadster 2.0 184 Homura
Pricing: £32,980 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, two-seat roadster
CO2 emissions: 155g/km
Combined economy: 40.9mpg
Top speed: 136mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Power: 184hp
Torque: 205Nm
Boot space: 130 litres

Styling

Styling is a key differentiator for the 2023 MX-5, particularly in Homura form. The new range-topping trim level doesnít look so different at a glance Ė the bodywork hasnít changed and nor has the folding fabric roof Ė but the details have been altered slightly. Not only does this car sit on black BBS alloys that seem to draw a surprising amount of attention, but it also gets bright red brake callipers to add an even greater impression of sportiness. And then thereís the new Zircon Sand paintjob, which is probably best described as ďdivisiveĒ.

Interior

The MX-5's interior hasn't changed much either, and you still get the same driver-centric dashboard punctuated only by an instrument binnacle, climate control switchgear and air vents. There's an iPad-style infotainment screen stuck to the top, too, although that's beginning to look quite small by modern standards.

For some, the strange touchscreen function will be confusing, too. Because while the screen is touch-sensitive, it only works when the car is stationary, obliging drivers to use the rotary control on the centre console while on the move. That's a safety feature, because once you've learned your way around the logical menus, you needn't look at the screen too much to operate it, reducing distractions for the driver. Of course, it doesn't work quite so well with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which were clearly designed with touchscreens in mind, but it's generally a solid idea.

And the cabin is very solid generally. All the materials feel well considered and the build quality is impeccable, giving the MX-5 quite a premium feel, particularly with the smart leather upholstery of our test car. There is still a sense of age, though. The current-generation MX-5 hasn't changed much since it was introduced in 2015, and the hybrid binnacle, which combines digital and analogue displays, is starting to look old alongside other sports cars.

Practicality

Few customers will buy an MX-5 for practicality, but those that do will find themselves disappointed. This car is smaller than the old third-generation car, built between 2005 and 2015, and that means interior space is limited. Things have improved over the years, with more adjustability in the steering wheel, but tall drivers will still find the MX-5 cramped. And big suitcases will be squeezed by the boot, which measures just 130 litres and has an awkward boot lid.

Performance

As before, the MX-5 remains available with a choice of two different engines Ė a 1.5-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre petrol. Both go without turbocharging for a more natural and linear response, while both drive the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. An automatic option is available, but that isnít really in keeping with the MX-5 spirit.

The more powerful 2.0-litre engine, which produces 184hp, is the only one offered to Homura buyers, and itís the only MX-5 that really feels quick. The 1.5 is fizzy and lively, but not fast, while the 2.0-litre engine has a limited-slip differential to help get its power down, and that helps the car to get from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds. Thatís hot hatchback speed.

Yet because the MX-5 is also light, it doesnít have hot hatchback thirst. Officially, this 2.0-litre engine will return around 41mpg, and our test showed such a figure would be easily achievable on a long run, provided the driver doesnít get too greedy with the accelerator. The smaller 1.5 will manage more than 45mpg over longer distances.

But for all the economy and performance, the star of the MX-5ís powertrain is the gearbox, which is snappy and positive and precise. The stubby gear lever feels great in your hand, and it makes changing gears deliciously addictive. Obviously, the pedals, which are perfectly positioned for heel-and-toe downshifts, help on that front.

Ride & Handling

The MX-5 was built for enthusiasts, and it's difficult not to fall in love with the back-to-basics simplicity of the Mazda roadster. Except it isn't that simple. This Homura model comes with uprated rear suspension and bigger wheels, as well as the aforementioned limited-slip differential, which helps it make the most of its power.

But it still feels beautifully analogue, with great steering feel and perfectly weighted pedals that make the car reassuring and intuitive, as well as easy to drive. Despite the clever suspension, the body still rolls a bit in corners, which tells you exactly how the car's weight is shifting and warns you of any impending slide. But fear not, because when the car does slide it's very easy to control.

That slight softness also means the MX-5 is reasonably comfortable, and though the 1.5-litre versions are a mite softer, even the 2.0-litre is quite supple. Yeah, the worst bumps will jar you a bit, but most are dealt with after a quick rumble, and the car remains very stable throughout. Keen drivers will say it just lets you know what the wheels are up to at any given moment.

Value

Prices are rising everywhere, and the MX-5 is not immune to that. While basic MX-5s were once remarkably inexpensive, even the cheapest cars now come in at almost £26,000. And that's for the basic 1.5-litre Prime-Line model. If you want a 2.0-litre Homura like this, you're talking about more than £32,000 before options.

At least you get lots for your money. The 17-inch BBS alloy wheels are standard, as is the light-coloured leather upholstery and the red Brembo brakes. You get a limited-slip differential, too, and the Bose surround sound system. But when the Exclusive Line starts at £28,125 and comes with the same sound system and black leather, the Homura doesn't look like such great value.

Verdict

In truth, very little about the MX-5 has changed for 2023, and that's just the way we like it. It's still every bit as brilliant as before, but the new trim structure brings it in line with the rest of the range, and keeps things fresh. As with everything, though, prices are beginning to creep up, and with this car coming in at almost £33,000, the MX-5 is not as cheap as it used to be.



James Fossdyke - 4 Jul 2023



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2024 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Skyactiv-G 2.0 184 Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Skyactiv-G 2.0 184 Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Skyactiv-G 2.0 184 Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Skyactiv-G 2.0 184 Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Skyactiv-G 2.0 184 Homura. Image by Mazda.

2024 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Skyactiv-G 2.0 184 Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Skyactiv-G 2.0 184 Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Skyactiv-G 2.0 184 Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Skyactiv-G 2.0 184 Homura. Image by Mazda.







 

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