2021 Mazda MX-5
Whether you are looking for a retirement gift, or a track toy, Mazda MX-5 or also known as the “Miata” is one of the first cars that comes to mind. What makes two types of completely different people buy the MX-5? The answer is easy – it’s an affordable sports car that you can put the top down and cruise down the road, or take it to backroads to have fun.
2021 Mazda MX-5, being the 4th generation (ND) MX-5 is better than ever. Since the first generation, it keeps the fundamental feature that makes the MX-5 an icon. It’s a two seater sports car that anyone can buy, and anyone can have fun regardless of your driving style. This is one of the few cars that makes slow driving fun, and that fun factor makes the driving experience unforgettable.
Exterior and Interior
Current gen (ND) platform may not be new, but it still carries sporty design elements that makes the car look fresh even after several years. So far, Mazda implemented different design language in every MX-5 generation, but this is the first time MX-5 actually looks like a product of premium brand. LED headlights may look small but it works great when it’s dark.
MX-5 keeps it’s current look pretty much the same compared to 2016 version, and from technical standpoint many things are similar as it’s pretty much what most enthusiasts need, such as Bilstein shock absorbers, and Limited Slip Differential. If that’s not enough for you, Mazda offers Sport Package that comes with BBS forged wheels, Recaro sport seats with Nappa leather, red Brembo front brakes.
Last year, we had a chance to drive the RF version, which comes with the hard top. One of our complaints was it takes forever to put the top down, or up. With the soft top, it literally takes less than 5 seconds, once you get used to it. Everything is manual, so there is no electric motors meaning that there is one less thing to fail in the long term.
The interior of the MX-5 hasn’t changed since it is first released, and it started to look a little bit old. This is a type of a car which you should only have essential features, and nothing else. MX-5 does that well, and important features have all physical buttons with no gimmick.
If you are a long adult, you may not find a lot of legroom or headroom, but the seats are very well shaped and makes you feel comfortable and keeps you in place at tight turns. Also, you are still getting two cupholders and an actual glovebox in the middle of both seats.
Engine and Drivetrain
Like the exterior, you may think that the drivetrain hasn’t changed, but you would be wrong. Mazda decided to bump the power figures in 2019, and now it produces 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque out of 2.0L naturally aspirated engine. Pre-2019 models came with 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, so there is a significant improvement.
As you expect from a true driver’s machine, the engine is placed longitudinally and it is matched with 6 speed manual transmission, and mechanical limited slip differential in the rear. Like the rest of the car, there is no gimmick in terms of drivetrain choice. Gear ratios are pretty short, meaning that you can just drive around the city in the 6th gear no problem.
Driving Impressions and Features
The driving experience is what makes the MX-5 an icon, as it traditionally offers driving pleasure for an affordable price, and 2021 MX-5 is no exception. The steering feeling is excellent, at least by modern standards where everyone switched to electric power steering, and the feedback is very quick. Short gear ratios make the car feel rev more eager.
It doesn’t end there, the seating position is perfect if you are a right sized adult, preferably 6’0″ or shorter. You don’t get a lot of adjustment options due to the limited space, but the optional Recaro seats are very comfortable with decent amount of side bolstering. You should also not expect huge amount of trunk space, it can only take a small bag, or two.
The suspension tuning is traditionally on the softer side, and there is some amount of body roll at higher speed tight turns. Though that body roll is very controlled, thanks to the Bilstein shocks. Mazda wanted to keep the MX-5 suspension firm, but soft enough for daily driving while still being fun on the twisties.
Feature wise, it has some decent features. You get the old generation Mazda infotainment system with rotary knob, and it is one of the biggest indicators that this platform is aged along with the rear view camera resolution. It’s not only the software, but the screen is placed in a weird location that looks towards the passenger more than the driver.
Thankfully, it comes with wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and it has a pretty decent Bose Premium Audio system that is surprisingly good for an affordable roadster. You don’t need any other features in a roadster, as driving experience comes first.
Pricing and the Verdict
Aside from Subaru BRZ/Toyota GR86, we don’t have many affordable rear wheel drive enthusiast’s car in today’s market. At the end of the day, MX-5 keeps it’s unique stance where you can have the top down, while still having great driving dynamics. I think the biggest rival is itself, where you have to decide if you want a hard top or soft top.
After driving both versions (RF vs Soft Top) in less than a year, here is my verdict. Unless you drive your MX-5 daily on our long and boring highways, I would definitely get the Soft Top version. Hard Top (RF) not only adds complexity, but also additional weight, and price is much higher than the Soft Top version. MX-5 Soft Top requires just a little bit physical work but it literally takes less than 5 seconds to put the top down.
It is true that RF looks much more upscale with body colored roof, but the Soft Top version is a better match to MX-5’s philosophy. It still keeps the price tag and overall weight low, and simple to operate. However, the biggest compromise is the road comfort, where it cannot be as good as RF version. It is definitely louder on the highway, as you hear lots of wind and tire noise. For our MX-5 RF review, please click here.
That’s where you should decide if you want to have a little bit more road comfort or want to have more simplicity. Either way, it’s a true enthusiast’s machine and wants the driver to be a part of the drive, and wants you to remember the driving experience more than anything else.
2021 Mazda MX-5 Soft Top starts at $33,200 with the GS trim, and our tester (GS-P) is priced at $37,200 with the Sport Package, which sets you back additional $4,400 and $200 for the Polymetal Grey Metallic color. If you want the top trim, it goes all the way up to $43,777.
For more details – please visit www.mazda.ca