Mazda MX-5 facelift

We get behind the wheel of the new-look Mazda MX-5 on British roads for the first time

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Newer cars may have been launched to steal the MX-5’s limelight, but few match its mix of driving fun and value for money. It may be ageing, but it still feels as young and eager as ever, while the facelift keeps it looking fresh. We can’t wait for an all-new MX-5 in 2014 (a car co-developed with a new Alfa Spider), but for now it continues to top its class.

The Mazda MX-5 has long been considered the best affordable sports car you can buy, but its been around for while. So in a bid to stay ahead of newer rivals like the Peugeot RCZ and MINI Roadster, it’s been given a bit of a revamp.

There’s a new front grille and bumper design, which aren’t just for looks, but also help reduce drag. Inside there are additions to give it a more upmarket feel, including climate control as standard, along with a glossy dark grey dashboard.

The Sport Tech Nav model we tried also gets an integrated TomTom sat-nav with 5.8-inch touchscreen, plus iPod and Bluetooth connection. Sadly, though, the system feels dated and isn’t the most intuitive.

There’s also some added safety kit, with the new active bonnet system. This pops up the trailing edge of the bonnet if a collision with a pedestrian is detected, increasing the deformable area between the panel and the engine.

Mechanical changes include a modified throttle map for the six-speed manual gearbox to improve responsiveness, while the brakes have been tweaked to provide more control when braking through corners.

It gets the same 2.0-litre engine as before and, with 158bhp it’s not especially quick. Work it hard though and it produces its best, enhancing the feeling of involvement. The snappy six-speed manual feels particularly great, though sometimes you do have to fight it to get into first gear.

Throw it around a bit and the Mazda is as brilliantly balanced as ever. The sharp handling means you always know which way the car is pointing, or sliding, making it lots of fun, albeit not supercar-fast.

If you’re after refinement and relaxation, then the Mazda might not be the best choice. Wind and road noise are quite intrusive, and the low suspension means you’ll feel the bumps in the road.

But despite these minor niggles, the latest MX-5 looks even better than before, still delivers pure driving thrills and sets the benchmark its younger rivals should strive for.

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