Roadster of the Year 2016: Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 is the 2016 Auto Express Roadster of the Year, with the Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 718 Boxster commended

No car embodies the spirit of a roadster better than the Mazda MX-5. With its nimble rear-wheel-drive handling, compact dimensions, an eye-catching price tag and simple fabric top, it delivers wind-in-the-hair thrills to the masses.

The key to the latest MX-5’s success is its focus on fighting the flab. Thanks to Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, this fourth-generation model weighs around 100kg less than its predecessor, meaning it feels faster and more agile than ever.

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Even the entry-level 129bhp 1.5-litre delivers all the performance you’re likely to need, with the 0-62mph sprint covered in just 8.3 seconds. There’s a larger and more powerful 2.0-litre option, but it doesn’t rev as sweetly or respond as crisply to the throttle as the smaller unit. Whichever engine you choose, you’ll benefit from a six-speed gearbox with a rifle-bolt shift action.

Yet it’s through a series of corners that the Mazda really comes into its own. With its light and precise steering, beautifully balanced chassis and skinny tyres, the MX-5’s engaging handling can be enjoyed and exploited at any speed.

Lowering the fabric roof takes seconds and can be done with one hand. Better still, with the hood stowed, you can get even closer to the action, taking in all the sights and smells, plus the characterful rasp of the engine.

Mazda MX-5 Icon - white front tracking

When you’re not behind the wheel, you can stand back and admire the MX-5’s eye-catching styling. The curves and creases of the bodywork fit perfectly over the mechanicals, giving the car a taut and neatly proportioned stance.

Inside, the mix of slick design and good-quality materials gives the Mazda a surprisingly upmarket appearance. But this premium appeal won’t leave big dents in your wallet. Prices start at just £18,495, while claimed fuel economy is 47.1mpg. Factor in the forthcoming MX-5 RF with its folding hard-top and it’s clear the Mazda’s appeal is only going to grow. 

Our choice

Mazda MX-5 1.5 SE-L Nav (£20,195)

Mazda designed the MX-5 around the 1.5-litre engine, so it’s no surprise to find the keen and revvy unit feels perfectly suited to the fun-loving two-seater. SE-L Nav spec isn’t generously equipped, but it gets all the essentials and is attractively priced.

Commended 

Jaguar F-Type

The combination of sleek looks, a stirring soundtrack and scintillating performance makes the F-Type one of the most desirable drop-tops money can buy. The raucous V8 is dripping with character, but a cheaper V6 S is nearly as quick and boasts more balanced handling.

Porsche 718 Boxster

Porsche 718 Boxster 2016 - front drift

As with the Cayman, the revised Porsche Boxster now gets sharper looks and a turbocharged flat-four engine in place of the old car’s six-cylinder unit. Increases in power and efficiency offset the less characterful soundtrack, while the mid-engined handling is sublime.

Auto Express New Car Awards 2016 

For complete, in-depth coverage of the New Car Awards 2016, buy your collector's edition copy of the Auto Express magazine now or click here to subscribe...  

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