Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav+: long-term test review
It’s hard to cover up the smile on my face, because I know I have the keys to a Mazda MX-5 for the next six months.
My last three cars have been saloons, so the prospect of a two-seater sports car as the weather starts to warm up is an exciting one. You’d be beaming as much as me.
While I was loath to relinquish the keys to the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce I was running before, I did spend some time with the now-departed Mazda 6. And I concluded that, just like the Alfa, it had its flaws, but it was a deeply likeable car to live with.
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The 6 offered something different to its rational rivals like the Skoda Superb and Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport: character. In typical Mazda style, it has also been steadily improved over the years, with the latest version sporting an incredibly well-built and relaxing interior, and exterior styling that for me borders on being pretty. If only that 2.5-litre engine and automatic gearbox combination were more satisfying to use, then the 6 would be my choice in that family-saloon-cum-executive-car sector.
But just like relationships, the 6 is old news and our new flame is the MX-5. It received a bit of a makeover late last year, with a few subtle changes designed to improve its usability. Things like a steering column that adjusts for reach as well as rake are now standard, as are seats with a smoother reclining mechanism (yes, really), sturdier cupholders and a reversing camera on a new top-spec GT Sport Nav+ model. At the same time, more safety kit appeared in the options list; so did Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The big news for this revised MX-5 was a new 2.0-litre engine. In the 2015-2018 MX-5, the 2.0 was a bit of a letdown, with the revvy little 1.5 the star of show. But with an extra 23bhp and 5Nm of torque, plus the rev limiter raised from 6,800 to 7,500rpm, the new unit’s figures look more promising.
Indeed, when I first drove this new engine on the car’s launch at the famous Trasfagarasan Highway in Romania last year, it immediately appealed. The next six months will reveal whether the 2.0-litre is now the better engine option for day-to-day use or if the 1.5 – the engine this fourth-generation MX-5 package was designed around – remains the pick of the range.
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Speaking of the range, we’ve gone for the MX-5 slap bang in the middle. The Sport Nav+ may not have the neat little spoiler and other niceties of the new GT Sport Nav+, but it’s the one most buyers opt for, because it gets heated leather seats, sat-nav and a Bose sound system. To match our 6, we’ve also chosen arguably the best colour for an MX-5: Soul Red Crystal Metallic. It’s pricey, at £790, but it looks great and, as you can see from the pictures, it’s very photogenic.
Finally, to test out some of the latest tech, we’ve opted for the £800 safety pack as well. This bundles together a reversing camera, adaptive LED headlights and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.
No wonder I’m all smiles. The next six months are shaping up to be rather good.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.