Mazda MX-5 Sport Recaro 2016 review

Fully loaded, limited edition roadster is still as fun to drive as the regular version

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

If you simply must have the ultimate MX-5, the Sport Recaro edition offers a touch of extra style and some premium cabin touches to fit the brief. It’s also still a joy to drive. But it comes at a price, and one that puts it right in the firing line of some seriously talented hot hatchbacks. The Mazda looks much better value as a mid-spec SE-L Nav with the sweet and revvy 1.5-litre engine.

We’re quite familiar with Mazda’s brilliant new MX-5, having been impressed by it in both 1.5 and 2.0-litre form. Late last year the Japanese firm launched a range-topping limited edition of the lightweight roadster called the Sport Recaro, producing just 600 examples. But does endowing the roadster with more kit and racy styling add-ons make it a better car?

Well, £24,295 is a not small amount to pay for an MX-5, especially considering the far-from-sparse entry-level 1.5-litre starts from just over £18k. However, for that extra outlay you do get pretty much every possible option thrown in. For starters, you can have the choice of both metallic paint options, while a black Sports Aero Kit brings and a neat boot spoiler spice up the exterior. 17-inch diamond cut alloy wheels are standard, while inside you’ll find Alcantara trim on the dash and pedals, plus decorative red stitching and a pair of figure-hugging heated Recaro seats. 

BBR Mazda MX-5 review

That’s on top of satnav, cruise control, climate control and a Bose sound system. Lightweight it might be, but this MX-5 isn’t short on creature comforts. It’s a little short on space, however, so drivers over 6ft will find it difficult to squeeze their legs around the wheel – that isn’t adjustable for reach. Still, it’s a cosy and inviting place to sit. 

The Sport Recaro is only available with the more powerful 2.0-litre engine, which means it’s equipped with Bilstein dampers and a limited-slip differential. There are no chassis tweaks, but it remains a wonderfully agile and engaging roadster at any speed. The larger alloys and stiffer setup give it an initially firm ride but it settles at speed and becomes reasonably comfortable considering its purpose. The more powerful engine brings useful torque for overtaking, but we prefer the lighter and more rev-hungry 1.5-litre engine.

Mazda MX-5 vs Toyota GT 86

Importantly, the Sport Recaro model doesn’t alter the drive unduly, which is both a positive and a negative. The MX-5 is a true bargain sports car at a touch over £18k, but this price level introduces a whole host of multi-talented hot hatchbacks that are faster, more practical and more refined.

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