New Mazda MX-5 Icon 2016 review

Racy detailing sets the new Mazda MX-5 Icon apart, and it'll be a very special buy for those lucky enough to get their hands on one

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5.0 out of 5

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If you thought the Fiat 124 Spider was a little Italian try-hard with its tan coloured seats, exotic badge and long sweeping bonnet, the MX-5 Icon is the antidote. With its Soul Red splitter, spoiler and mirrors, and chequered flags down the sides, the MX-5 takes on a racy, more masculine appearance than the dainty Fiat. While the exterior add-ons won’t be to everyone’s taste, the interior extras will be.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year or so, you’ll know that the new Fiat 124 Spider is a Mazda MX-5 in a sharp Italian suit. You’ll know that they are very closely related; using a long list of identical parts, and you’ll also know that they are even built in the same factory in Japan.

The Fiat is just beginning its rollout in showrooms across the UK, while Mazda’s small sports car debuted over 12 months ago. But, with perfect timing, Mazda has now brought a special edition of its MX-5 to make you sit up and take notice. It’s almost as if Mazda didn’t want Fiat’s new roadster to steal all the limelight.

The Mazda MX-5 Icon is your typical special edition. There are just two colours on offer – Meteor Grey Mica or Crystal White Pearlescent – contrasted boldly by a Soul Red front-splitter, wing mirror caps and a little spoiler on the boot. There are also red chequered decals along the skirts and a set of gunmetal alloy wheels to replace the silver-coloured rims on mid-range MX-5s.

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On the inside there are a pair of heated leather seats, as well as red-stitched leather trim on the doors and across the dash, rear parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers. Oh, and there’s the obligatory ‘special edition’ plaque glued on to the storage locker between the seats.

As the Icon is based on the mid-level SE-L trim, these extras come on top of sat-nav, Bluetooth, climate control, a DAB radio, LED daytime-running lights and cruise control. Mazda will make just 600 Icons, with each one commanding an £800 premium over the S-EL. It’s a reasonable jump, as the extra kit isn’t available on the standard car. To add to the exclusivity, the Icon will only be available to UK buyers.

Behind all the trinkets, it’s standard MX-5. Mazda has only fitted the Icon with the 1.5-litre SKYACTIV petrol engine and is not offering the higher powered 2.0-litre. It’s no bad thing as the 1.5 is arguably the purest version in the range. While it may be down on power (129bhp vs 158bhp), the 1.5’s lower kerb weight means it’s slightly more agile. This is shown in the corners – the larger-engined MX-5 slices through quick bends thanks to its extra grunt and limited slip diff, but the 1.5 is more precise and reactive.

Turn into a corner and the MX-5 offers up a smile-inducing cocktail of chassis dynamics and handling fun. The body rolls and leans just like the standard car, but the beautiful steering allows you to keep your line trim and precise. It’s all backed up with a close ratio manual box that snaps between gears with a stubby, short throw lever. A fabric roof that can be lower and raised with a flick of your wrist only adds to the simple, back-to-basics fun.

The real appeal with the Icon is its exclusivity. While the exterior add-ons as part of the Icon makeover are dubious in taste, the Icon will appeal to MX-5 die-hard fans. Mazda UK has offered an Icon version on every MX-5 since 2000, and the new car’s limited production run will mean this is the rarest of the lot. 

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