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Road tests

New Mazda MX-5 Homura 2023 review

Mazda has updated its best-selling sports car once again, but you might struggle to spot the changes

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

Mazda knows the MX-5 didn’t need a huge revamp to maintain its wonderful character, so these 2023 model year changes are fairly minimal. The price tag may have risen again, but the MX-5 keeps its position as the go-to roadster for those looking for a simply, joyful driving experience.  

Another year, another name adorning the Mazda MX-5. This time it’s ‘Homura’ and it's the new range-topping variant of the world’s best-selling sports car

It replaces the GT Sport Tech and at £32,350, the Homura is around £1,500 more expensive than that old model. Before you start looking for visual changes, don’t bother, the Homura doesn’t introduce any cosmetic tweaks, aside from some front Brembo brake calipers nabbed from 2019’s 30th anniversary model - painted red this time around rather than orange.

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Elsewhere the Homura is pretty well equipped for an MX-5. The black leather of the lesser Exclusive-Line trim level is swapped out for ‘Light Stone’ Nappa leather and the forged BBS 17-inch alloy wheels (exclusive to the Homura) look the part. Heated side mirrors are also equipped as standard. 

The Homura can only be specced with the MX-5’s larger engine. It’s a 181bhp 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit with 205Nm of torque. The entry-level Prime Line model comes with the rather weedy 130bhp 1.5-litre four-pot and mid-range Exclusive Line can be optioned with either power unit. 

The bigger, more powerful 2.0-litre is definitely the powertrain you want. On paper it appears quick enough with a 6.5-second 0-62mph time and 136mph top speed but as we all know, the MX-5 does its best work on the tarmac rather than the specs sheet. 

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Mazda introduced this Skyactiv-G unit during the fourth-generation model’s facelift in 2018 and it was the engine the car had been crying out for. A little bit of extra torque across the rev range really helped the MX-5 feel brawnier and it’s a smooth climb to 7,500rpm. The MX-5 Homura’s power is adequate enough to push the chassis but as ever you’ll have to rely on some good old fashioned momentum to spice things up, even with the standard-fit limited-slip differential.

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Being naturally-aspirated, the engine displays good responsiveness across the rev range, provided you’re in the correct gear. That’s easily done though, the MX-5’s six-speed manual gearbox probably only sits behind the ones in the Honda Civic Type R and Porsche 911 these days - it’s snappy and tight with virtually zero play but doesn’t feel especially rewarding during quick shifts. 

The extra traction from that limited slip differential makes the car’s rear-driven setup more obvious coming out of corners, but the Bilstein Sports suspension (like the LSD it’s standard on 2.0-litre cars) tends to squat the rear down noticeably on acceleration. The flip side of this is that helped by the MX-5’s 1,051kg dry kerbweight, there’s a tremendous amount of grip to be had - further aided by a lower front brace found on the more powerful MX-5s. 

Of course, the steering remains one of the best aspects of the MX-5, giving just enough weight to create a sense of security on a cruise but responsive and full of feedback when you want it. The steering wheel itself hasn’t become thicker to give some false sense of sportiness either (we’re looking at you BMW). The Brembo brakes have a terrific feel to them, combined with plenty of stopping power. 

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An expected bonus of the MX-5 being so light is the intrinsic efficiency. Mazda claims 40.9mpg on a combined cycle which seemed fairly conservative to us, mid-40mpg would be easily achievable. This frugality is just as well because the MX-5 only comes with a tiny 45-litre fuel tank. 

The MX-5’s remit has never included being a comfortable long-distance grand tourer, but the sports suspension is still a little firm on our seemingly worsening roads here in the UK. While a few hours hairing around on your favourite roads will flash by in an instant, the same amount of time on a motorway trip can turn into a slog. 

There are a few questionable (or pointless) options for the MX-5, such as skirts for the front, rear and side, but two extras are must haves. One is the sports exhaust system. At £952 it’s not cheap but the 2.0-litre is a fairly quiet motor, drowned out by wind noise if you have the roof down. The other is the lowering springs at £479 which don’t impair ride comfort but help the chassis come alive more readily in the corners. 

The current MX-5 was launched in 2015 and it pretty much looks the same inside and out today, with Mazda preferring to concentrate its efforts on making its iconic roadster better to drive. This strategy is admirable and throws up some unexpected benefits - especially when it comes to the cabin design. 

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Some areas do look almost a decade old now but overall it’s still a pleasing environment and this Homura’s leather colour breathes some life into it. There’s not much room for storage and if you place anything heavier than a laptop on the passenger seat you’ll get some annoying beeps warning your non-existent passenger to put on their seat belt. 

The infotainment system doesn’t look the most modern but it works perfectly well and is easy to understand. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto essentially bypass the dated layout on the central seven-inch screen. A benefit of the older design is that there are physical dials for the climate controls - which are a real breath of fresh air against the touchpads many competitors use now. Heated seats, standard on the Homura, certainly help give the MX-5 the flexibility to use in all temperatures with the roof down. 

While the Homura impresses in all the ways we expect an MX-5 should, the cheaper (by £2,000) Exclusive Line model is the one we’d pick. You still get the 181bhp engine, an LSD, heated seats, a Bose sound system, a reversing camera and 17-inch alloy wheels. It lacks the Brembo front brakes but unless you're taking your car on track days, the standard-fit system is a perfect fit.

Model:

Mazda MX-5 Homura

Price:

£32,350

Engine:

2.0-litre four-cylinder

Transmission:

Six-speed manual

Power/torque:

181bhp/205Nm

0-62mph:

6.5 seconds

Top speed:

136mph

Economy/CO2:

40.9mpg/155g/km

On sale:

Now

Now read our list of the best rear-wheel-drive cars...

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Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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