Mazda MX-5 review - Interior, design and technology
Occupants sit lower down and closer to the MX-5’s centre line for maximum enjoyment, while there’s more technology than before
The MX-5’s design is more about perfect proportions than endless slashes, creases and vents in the bodywork. Mazda’s designers have worked hard to introduce a more muscular and squat stance on the road, making the car 10mm lower overall with a 15mm shorter wheelbase and overhangs reduced by 45mm at each end.
Slim LED headlights and a gaping front grille give it a slightly more aggressive character than previous versions, while round tail-lamps provide a striking light signature in the dark. Whether the roof is up or down, the MX-5 has a classic silhouette, with the cockpit located towards the rear of the car and a long bonnet stretching out in front.
By adapting the standard MX-5’s design to accommodate the hard roof on the RF, Mazda has created something really rather unique in this sector. Unlike the Mk3 MX-5 RC, the RF has buttresses that slope down from the back of the cabin and into the slightly kicked up rear wheelarches. The result is something discernibly different from its soft-top relative, despite sharing the same sharp-looking front end design. This is definitely part of the RF’s appeal, but you’ll have to really like the looks, as the intricate roof arrangement adds around £1,900 to the car’s price tag when compared with the standard car.
Car group tests
Whichever model you go for, on the inside, the door tops are coloured to match the exterior paint, adding a flash of colour to the cabin and, according to Mazda, visually connecting the driver to what’s going on outside. They are also sculpted in such a way that airflow with the hood down is directed to keep the passengers cool while minimising buffeting to their hairstyles.
The current MX-5 was launched in 2015 and it pretty much looks the same inside and out today, with the seven-inch display stuck onto the dash highlighting that. At least one benefit of the older design is that there are physical dials for the climate controls and rotary dial for the infotainment on the centre console. Meanwhile the instrument panel (with the tachometer front and centre) and air vents are designed to be perfectly symmetrical around the driver, for a cockpit-style feel.
The seats have been moved 15mm closer to the centre line of the car and 20mm lower in the chassis, putting you closer to the Mazda’s centre of gravity. Apart from a few questionable plastics here and there, and the simplicity of its design, the MX-5 cabin is a pleasant place to be.
The MX-5’s trim structure has been overhauled several times in recent years, and now consists of the base Prime Line, mid-range Exclusive line and recently introduced Homura specifications sitting at the top of the range. The entry-level Prime Line model only comes with the 130bhp 1.5-litre four-pot, while mid-range Exclusive Line can be optioned with the 181bhp 2.0-litre motor, unlike Homura-spec which is 2.0-litre only.
All 2.0-litre models feature a limited-slip differential and front strut brace, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights and sports suspension with Bilstein dampers as standard. Opting for Homura trim adds BBS alloys, Brembo brake calipers, ‘Light Stone’ Nappa leather and heated side mirrors.
The 130bhp Sport Venture limited edition is no longer available, but bag a used example and you'll benefit from standard Deep Crystal Mica Blue paint, a grey fabric hood and stone-coloured Nappa leather upholstery.
Arctic White paintwork is a no-cost option and, while there's a selection of blue, black and grey body colours to choose from, we think the MX-5 looks best in Soul Red Crystal paint. Optional extras include a lowering kit, sports exhaust and some small styling tweaks like a rear spoiler.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All MX-5 models come with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that certainly doesn’t look the most modern but it works perfectly well and is easy to understand. The physical shortcut buttons and rotary dial on the centre console all help to navigate the system when you’re on the move. Sat-nav is standard, but so is wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto that essentially allows you to bypass the dated set-up and use Google or Apple Maps instead.
DAB radio also features, along with a six-speaker sound system that’s replaced by a nine-speaker Bose version in Exclusive Line models and above. Bluetooth connectivity and internet app integration is also included as standard, while higher-spec Exclusive Line and Homura models get a reversing camera too.
In this review
- 1Mazda MX-5 reviewThe Mazda MX-5 is a legendary small sports car that delivers driving thrills and everyday usability
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe MX-5's revvy Skyactiv-G engines are a joy, but we'd go for the extra power of the 2.0-litre
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsMazda doesn’t use turbos to boost efficiency, but still claims impressive economy figures for the MX-5
- 4Interior, design and technology - currently readingOccupants sit lower down and closer to the MX-5’s centre line for maximum enjoyment, while there’s more technology than before
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceIt’s no grand tourer, but the Mazda MX-5 is quite spacious considering its modest dimensions
- 6Reliability and SafetyMazda’s reputation for reliability is sound, while a suite of assistance systems boost the MX-5's safety
- 7Used and nearly newA full used buyer’s guide on the Mazda MX-5 covering the MX-5 Mk4 (2015-date)