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Mazda MX-5 Review

8 / 10
8 April 2024
2024 Mazda MX-5 front three quarters shot

In a world where cars are getting heavier with each generation, the Mazda MX-5 is a breath of fresh helium. 

The car's commitment to being lightweight comes at the cost of refinement and practicality, but it's an absolute beauty to drive. If you're after a two-seat convertible sports car that makes every drive a real occasion – and you don't have twice the money for a Porsche Boxster – look no further than the little Mazda.

What we like:
  • Amazing driving experience
  • Much improved infotainment
  • Revvy petrol engines
What we don't like:
  • Hand luggage only
  • It's more expensive than before
  • Not for the taller driver

Should I buy a Mazda MX-5

The answer is yes, you should absolutely buy a Mazda MX-5 – if you want a stark reminder of just how thrilling and involving driving can still be. It's a lightweight two-seater convertible sports car that will joyfully slide into your life with a whole heap of practical drawbacks, but almost all of them can be overlooked if you're in the pursuit of outright fun.

The MX-5 was updated in 2024 with reshape headlights and taillights, and a new infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which adds to the feisty roadster's everyday usability… which is otherwise somewhat limited.

Drivers much over 6'3" will struggle to keep their heads out of the wind with the roof down, and the cabin is narrow, so wider adults may struggle to get comfy. At 130 litres, the boot is smaller than some kitchen bins, but a couple of soft bags and judicious packing should mean two adults can elope to the south of France for a week or two.

2024 Mazda MX-5 rear shot

On twisty roads with the roof down is where the MX-5 is at its best. The 1.5 and 2.0-litre petrol engine choices are both revvy and demand you use the superbly weighted and satisfying manual gearlever to drop a few gears every time the speed limit increases. The fact the MX-5 only weighs about a tonne means even the entry-level 132hp 1.5-litre engine feels peppy enough, while the 2.0-litre, 184hp option really brings out the best in the MX-5's rear-wheel-drive chassis.

On longer motorway schleps, you'll find yourself wishing for greater isolation from wind and road noise, and the MX-5's tiny stature means you'll find yourself looking up at the underside of passing lorries with either interest or mild concern. But, once you hit a winding country road, no other car at this price point comes close to the pared-back thrill of driving an MX-5.

Interior and technology

Inside the MX-5's somewhat cramped cabin, you get a new-for-2024 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which can also be controlled via a rotary controller on the centre console. It comes with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and, if you pick a mid-spec Exclusive-Line car or a top-spec Homura model, then your ears will be treated to a Bose sound system – complete with speakers in the seat headrests. A couple of USB-C ports are on hand to keep your phone charged.

2024 Mazda MX-5 interior

Keyless entry and ignition are standard on those mid-spec and top-spec models, and we love the part-Alcantara Recaro sports seats you get in Homura models. They're heated, which means you can stick to the first rule of driving a convertible – if it's not raining, the roof must be down.

Apple CarPlay showing on the 2024 Mazda MX-5's infotainment screen

Overall, the MX-5's cabin feels just high-tech and high-quality enough to justify the ever-increasing price. Particular highlights are a delicate thin-rimmed steering wheel, and simple analogue rev-counter and speedo dials with an inset digital display for your mpg and driving data. Mazda also wins points for giving you a single physical button by your right knee to disable the mandatory-for-2024 speed limit warning system, which – thanks to legislation – automatically turns back on every time you restart the car.


If driving fun is the MX-5's bread and butter, then practicality is the mouldy tub of Philadelphia at the back of its fridge.

To be fair to Mazda, it's done what it can to make the small cabin reasonably liveable. There's a lidded storage bin under your elbow, but it's not even big enough to hold a phone. The owner's manual lives in a bin between the seat-backs, although you'll have to navigate the two cupholders that are also there – and which can get in the way when you're changing gear. You can move one of the cupholders to a slot by the passenger's thigh if you're driving solo.

2024 Mazda MX-5 centre console, climate controls, gearknob and manual handbrake

Boot space is pretty rubbish on paper at 130 litres – 127 litres in the folding-metal-roof RF version – but there's actually a decently wide space for squishing in some holdalls for long roadtrips. Just don't expect to carry much hard luggage to the airport in an MX-5. Any large loads will have to be strapped to the passenger seat while your companion takes the bus.

Engines and performance

There are two engine choices in the MX-5, and they're both excellent. The entry-level 1.5-litre petrol engine with 132hp will get from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds – 8.6 seconds in the folding hardtop MX-5 RF version – and it's a real joy to rev it out to the 7,500rpm redline.  

2024 Mazda MX-5 1.5-litre engine

More expensive models get Mazda's 2.0-litre engine with 184hp, which drops the 0-62mph time to just 6.5 seconds, or 6.8 in the RF. It's a fair bit torquier than the 1.5, which makes trundling around town a bit more restful, and it feels pretty darn quick when stretched to the same 7,500rpm rev limiter.

It's worth noting that both engines are paired to an incredibly satisfying manual gearbox, with a weighty shift action and a short 40mm throw into each gear. Mazda has cunningly removed the damping mechanisms that normally mitigate vibrations from the gear linkage, so the knob vibrates satisfyingly in your palm as you change gears.

Driving and comfort

The Mazda MX-5 has a reasonable level of refinement for such a small lightweight car but, at motorway speeds, you'll hear a fair bit of wind and tyre noise with the fabric roof up, although the folding hardtop RF version is a bit more hushed. Ironically, we found the RF to be a bit more blustery with the roof down than the 45kg-lighter fabric roof, so we'd just pick the soft-top version. 

The soft-top can be put up and down from inside the cabin without needing arms like Hercules, and trust us – you'll want it down more often than not. 

2024 Mazda MX-5 front three quarter driving shot

Heading onto a country road in an MX-5 with the roof down is one of motoring's all-time great experiences, thanks to its revvy petrol engine, stubby gearshift and rear-wheel-drive chassis. 2.0-litre models get a limited-slip differential on the rear axle which helps tidy up any corner-exit powerslides.

New for 2024 is an updated stability control programme called 'Track DSC' which, at the prod of a button, will let you hang the car's tail out more before the electronic safety net kicks in. If this all sounds a bit hooliganish, then you're exactly right and it's the sort of fun the MX-5 encourages.

2024 Mazda MX-5 rear driving shot

But, even if you're a more sedate driver, you'll notice the MX-5's light weight – you feel every kilogramme of weight transfer under braking, and you become more aware of accelerating out of wet corners or over bumpy roads. Never does the MX-5 scare you, but it just transmits every sense of the car's movements to your hands and bum, in a way that rewards focus and considered use of the accelerator, brakes and steering. 

That sounds a bit like purple prose, but jump in an MX-5 for a 10-minute drive and there's a good chance you'll fall in love with driving all over again. It's sublime.

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