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First drive: Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster (2024MY). Image by Mazda.

First drive: Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster (2024MY)
Tiny detail changes for the 2024MY MX-5, but then this is a car which absolutely didnít need drastic remedial action.

   



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Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura (2024MY)

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Another year, another load of minor detail changes for the 'ND' fourth-generation Mazda MX-5, which - believe it or not - is getting on for ten years old now. You can sum the 2024 model year updates up as new light clusters, better infotainment, flashier seats for the flagship variant and a revised limited-slip differential plus halfway-house 'Track' mode for the DSC, which doesn't sound a lot... but as the ND MX-5 has been utterly brilliant ever since it first arrived in 2015, this round of revisions just ensures that one of our favourite sports cars of them all remains a deeply, satisfyingly compelling proposition in an increasingly electrified age.

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura
Price: MX-5 range from £28,015, 2.0 Roadster Homura from £34,835, car as tested £35,645
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive with limited-slip differential
Power: 184hp at 7,000rpm
Torque: 205Nm at 4,000rpm
Emissions: 153g/km
Economy: 41.5mpg
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Top speed: 136mph
Boot space: 130 litres

Styling

Time for our second 'believe it or not' of the ND MX-5 generation: this facelift is actually the first time in nine years that the exterior design of the car has changed. No, honestly; we might have had new paint colours and different wheels and altered badging and some special models in the intervening period since it launched, but physically it has retained the same panels and light clusters it has always had. Until now.

Good luck spotting the major change, though. And if you're peering at the pics and desperately trying to discern what's altered, allow us to tell you that the strip-like LED daytime running lamps, which formerly lived in those slim air intakes situated at the outer, lower edges of the front bumper, are now incorporated into the headlights, while at the back the same-shaped clusters have a more defined 'ring' signature in them. And that's it. Yep. Really. Oh wait, there's a new paint colour added to the palette, called Aero Grey, but that really, really is your lot. Good news, then, that the MX-5 still looks utterly splendid, either in this Roadster body or as the unusual RF folding hard-top variant.

Interior

It's a similar tale of cautiousness inside the 2024MY Mazda MX-5's cabin, although there are some more worthwhile changes in here. Chief of which is the adoption of a slicker, flashier-looking 8.8-inch infotainment system, replacing the antiquated seven-inch affair stuck onto the dash previously. This works and responds well, and still has the MZ Connect rotary controller that is now our favourite human-machine-interface system of this type, seeing as BMW has slowly abandoned iDrive in recent years.

Similarly, the cluster gains enhanced and sharper digital content, which makes it look more modern without losing its exceptional at-a-glance legibility. But perhaps the best change from an enthusiast's point of view is that the top-grade Homura now benefits from some sumptuous Recaro bucket seats trimmed in leather and Alcantara, which not only look magnificent, they're also brilliant to sit in. So it's a big thumbs-up for the passenger compartment from us.

Practicality

Come on, now; you don't buy a Mazda MX-5 for practicality. This ND went back to basics and was designed from the outset to be as small, as lightweight and as focused as it could be, replacing the NC which had, in the kindest possible sense, become a trifle bloated. However, the pay-off for the ND's trimness is a car which, even by the standards of two-seat roadsters, is small and dainty. The boot is a paltry 130 litres and if you're much more than six-foot tall, you'll find the cabin pretty cramped as well. Those of average height will be happier in here, but there's still going to be a degree of enforced (and almost certainly unwanted) intimacy with your passenger if you travel two-up - the MX-5 is remarkably compact inside.

Performance

Mazda continues with the sweet-as-a-nut 1.5-litre Skyactiv-G engine and then this more potent 2.0-litre derivative. That means 132hp/152Nm from the former, with meatier 184hp and 205Nm outputs from the latter, all of which is sent to the rear wheels by a six-speed manual that is a gem of a transmission. Which is possibly ever so slightly more of a gem in the 1.5, where it has one of the all-time great shift actions, than it is in the torquier 2.0-litre that has a tad more of a heavy-duty feel on occasion. Either way, though, Mazda knows how to do a sublime manual gear linkage.

We've made the point before that, as with the debate about Ridley Scott's atmospheric haunted-house-in-space Alien versus James Cameron's all-action, shoot-'em-up sequel Aliens, whichever ND MX-5 we prefer depends on which one we drove most recently. Although we hope the MX-5 lineage doesn't turn out to be utterly rubbish from this point onwards, as every entry into the xenomorph's increasingly depressing cinematic canon has turned out to be since Cameron's 1986 epic. But we digress.

Anyway, we drove the 2024MY MX-5 in both 1.5 and 2.0 Roadster formats on the same day this time, the smaller-engined car first. And it remains really hard to call on which one we prefer. The 2.0-litre was massively improved by going from its launch 160hp to the more potent 184hp in 2018 which it retains to this day, because it made it feel happier to rev and more insistent at the top end; still is, with a 6.5-second 0-62mph time rendering this the fastest factory road-going MX-5 by some distance. For a nat-asp four-cylinder, it also sounds decent too, although by no means are we saying this is an automotive soundtrack for the ages.

But the way that 1.5 silkily yet eagerly spins right out to 7,000rpm and beyond has to be experienced to be believed. If you have ever tried a Mazda rotary, you'll almost be convinced the smaller MX-5 engine doesn't have reciprocating pistons, so eerily smooth is it. So it's a tough one - the added torque of the 2.0-litre definitely makes it easier and more relaxing to drive in regular traffic flow, but the 1.5 is not without a serious amount of appeal of its own.

Ride & Handling

Again, in the 1.5 v 2.0 debate, there are key differences that give each their own strengths - and weaknesses. As ever, this bigger-motor model has tougher Bilstein dampers, a front strut brace and a limited-slip differential, all items the 1.5 does without, and Mazda has also amended the last of these for the 2024MY 2.0-litre. It now has an asymmetric LSD, in which a cam mechanism has been added to the conical clutch in the diff. Mazda says this enhances its cornering stability, optimising the chassis for the particular characteristics of its engine, suspension and tyres.

Furthermore, like all the latest MX-5s, this car has the 'Track' setting for its dynamic stability control, a relaxed 'halfway-house' option that allows less-confident drivers to access the Mazda's rear-driven abilities without turning the electronic safety net completely off; this works fine, although the car is so biddable in the dry with DSC fully disengaged that you won't often use the Track button.

There's no doubt, on a back-to-back drive, that the 2.0-litre is notably firmer and more intense. On rucked-up back roads, it's less forgiving in its body movements and can sometimes feel quite abrupt, while you might think there's more scuttle shake because the windscreen frame looks like it is rattling uncontrollably out of the corner of your eye. It isn't, of course, it's just that imperfections in the road's surface are amplified more by the tougher shock absorbers on the more powerful MX-5.

Yet when you hook it all up on the right road, the 2.0-litre model remains colossal fun to pilot. It has an innate sense of balance and all of that rear-wheel-drive delicacy that you pick an MX-5 for in the first place, yet the steering, grip and chassis messages are all of such an elevated level of clarity that you can develop a lasting rapport with the Mazda from mile one. It's not a car that just wants to oversteer everywhere, you see, instead delivering a magical and involving sports car driving experience that's only enhanced by the fact you can be enjoying it all with a thousand miles of blue sky above your head (notoriously rancid British weather permitting).

The flipside of the coin is that the 2.0-litre is nothing like as comfortable as the 1.5, which has more obvious squidge and movement in its suspension. This means the ride quality on almost all surfaces is preferable in the less-powerful car, while it also has a nigh-on 'floating' sensation on the worst bumpy B-roads that puts you in mind of no less a dynamic luminary than the majestic Alpine A110. That's what the 1.5 MX-5 feels like; a shrunken, open-top version of the French masterpiece. So it's a difficult one, because objectively the 2.0-litre is the superior-handling car of the two. But subjectively? It's Scott v Cameron, all over again...

Value

Mazda has simplified the 2024 model range, albeit there are some odd trim names from this company right now. So there are three specification grades to go at, which are Prime-Line, Exclusive-Line and then Homura. This applies to both the Roadster and the RF, and with the 1.5 the only engine available at Prime-Line level, while the 2.0-litre is the exclusive powerplant in the Homura cars, it means there is only one trim at which you can choose from either the 1.5 or the 2.0-litre - which is Exclusive-Line, the more powerful engine adding £2,420 to the £30,015 base price of a 1.5 in this spec.

Because the Homura only comes with the potent 184hp engine, that means its basic list price is the chunkiest of all at £34,835, but then Mazda fits practically everything equipped on the car as standard - the only way you can inflate the price is by opting for anything but the 'free' Arctic White paint: Aero Grey, divisive Zircon Sand, Deep Crystal Blue and Jet Black will all set you back £570; Machine Grey is £690; and then Mazda's signature colour, the luscious Soul Red Crystal you see in the pics, is the most expensive at £810, meaning the car in the photos is the dearest new Roadster you can possibly specify at £35,645. There are a range of accessories available (body kits, pedal covers, different finishes for the key fobs and so on) if you want them, but that's almost like aftermarket tuning so slightly less than 36 large is your ceiling for a soft-top MX-5 these days. And as the only remotely comparable driving experience you can get is the blinding £32,495 Toyota GR86, which is in short supply, maybe you can conceivably consider the Mazda as terrific value.

Verdict

No major changes for the 2024 model year Mazda MX-5 have been enacted, but some detail tidying and moderate technical additions definitely improve what was already a phenomenal sports roadster. About the only thing we can't decide on is which is the finer driving experience, the 132hp 1.5 or the 184hp 2.0. The fact remains, though, that no matter which one of these two you pick, with the Mazda two-seater you're getting one of the true modern-day motoring greats. Long may its glittering excellence continue.



Matt Robinson - 3 Apr 2024



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2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.

2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Roadster Homura. Image by Mazda.








 

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