Driving today’s Mazda MX-5 is quite the experience.
With roads and highways filled with massive crossovers, being in a small two seater can be a little daunting. Being eye level with the wheels of a pickup doesn’t help much. This is going to be the norm as sales of pickups and SUVs keep going up while cars are dropping faster than some manufacturers were prepared for. Oddly enough, during this pandemic, sales of the MX-5 have increased compared to last year. Only the MX-5 and CX-9 can make this claim in the Mazda lineup so far for 2020. If you’re going to self isolate, a car like this 2020 Mazda MX-5 GS is a pretty good way to go about doing so.
The extra horsepower and torque added to the MX-5 for the 2019 model year give this little roadster more pep over the version that ran from 2016-2018 (known as the ND1). This is the most powerful MX-5 since the turbocharged Mazdaspeed version of the mid-2000s. As the owner of a 2012 Miata, I can confirm the quickness of this little two seater compared to its predecessors. The engine revs smoothly and is a joy to drive with a well matched six-speed manual transmission that stands as one of the best in the industry. An automatic option is available at no extra charge, but what is the fun in that?
Without resorting to forced induction, Mazda has tweaked the engine with lighter connecting rods and pistons. Changes were also made to the exhaust, fuel injectors, intake, flywheel and crankshaft. The result was a healthy increase of 26 horsepower and 3 lb-ft. of torque while increasing the redline to 7,000RPM. Mid-range punch has improved and the smoothness associated with the engine has been maintained. This is impressive stuff when most manufacturers resort to forced induction for extra power. Buyers can expect a 0-100km/h run in around six seconds.
There is more body roll evident with the ND-generation of MX-5 when compared to older models, but the chassis is well controlled and as always, quite forgiving. If more control is what you want, I suggest selecting the GS-P performance package ($4,000) equipped here. This adds a limited-slip differential, Strut Tower Bar and Bilstein Shocks. Additionally, the package adds some non-performance enhancements such as a nine-speaker Bose sound system and heated seats.
Highway on-ramps and twisty roads will put a grin on your face as the Miata grips the road more than expected. The steering, while not as sharp as older models, provides enough feedback and response to let the driver know what the car is doing at any given time. If anyone was worried that this little Mazda with more power would lose some of its charm, these fears have been quashed. The latest MX-5 absolutely will remain a favorite with track fiends and autocrossers, and already is somewhat of a sensation in those circles.
The interior of the current MX-5 is a bit more snug than the previous generation, which consumers need to take into consideration if space is a priority. Luckily, a telescoping steering wheel was added for 2019 so taller drivers such as myself can enter, exit, and fit more comfortably. The layout is well-designed with quality materials. Everything is within reach taking into account that available space is limited. Lowering and raising the soft-top is the easiest in the business. It remains a one handed operation and literally takes seconds.
The trunk remains enough for two overnight bags with the roof having zero effect to capacity, even when lowered. This being a soft top roadster, expect quite a bit of road noise even with the top up. Turn up the radio and it becomes less of a problem. The biggest issue with the MX-5 comes down to the infotainment system. It doesn’t run on the new interface found in the 2020 Mazda3 (reviewed here), which is a disappointment. As much as Mazda wants to cut down on distracted driving, the UI makes it difficult to do so. Fortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard and do make the system more user friendly.
The exterior design remains the same and as expressive as ever. This MX-5 will never be mistaken for anything but a Miata. The fascia is aggressive, and the wheel arches make the car look wider than it is; the rear looks rather pedestrian in comparison. The Soul Red Crystal Metallic Paint (a $450 option that’s well worth it) looks fantastic and draws a lot of attention everywhere the car goes. Mazda has perfected this color and it’s proudly used across their lineup.
Mazda has fuel economy rated at 9.0L/100km city and 7.0L/100km highway. During our test week, we observed 8.6L/100km which is fantastic, especially considering our vehicle only had 60km on it at delivery. Premium fuel is recommended. As per the trend in the automotive landscape, safety features such as Lane Departure Warning, Smart City Brake, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Smart City Brake Support are all now standard.
Pricing starts at $35,077 for the 2020 MX-5 in base form, with the option of manual or automatic transmissions. The GS model on test here adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and handbrake handle. Additional options include the premium paint and 17-inch wheels. Those wanting more amenities can step up to the performance-oriented GS-P, or GT models, both available in the hardtop RF (reviewed here) form as well.
At this price point, the MX-5 has no real competition if a convertible is the priority. From a performance standpoint it goes up against the likes of the Toyota 86 (reviewed here) and Nissan 370Z, both of which are fixed-roof cars. The Fiat 124 Spider is a twin, though can get pricey and the turbocharged engine really is no good. Similar personalities can be had from pricier cars like the BMW Z4 (reviewed here) and Porsche 718 Boxster. That said, little comes close to the MX-5 from a value perspective.
Even in near-base form, the MX-5 handles with grace and poise, with a personality that cannot be found in most vehicles today. Where most performance cars will thrill you with crazy horsepower figures or insane acceleration times, the MX-5 takes a different approach in its nature. There is no sport mode to select, no exhaust that pops and crackles at the push of a button. The 2020 Mazda MX-5 GS is the most analog car that can be purchased in a digital world, and there’s no substitute for the feeling it communicates to the driver.