Product Type: Mazda cars
Newest Review: ... superb. You don't sit on the seat; you sit IN the car, very low down. Getting out can be a bit of an effort, however. The seats are very... more
Converted by a convertible!
Mazda MX-5 1.8i
Member Name: xalala
Mazda MX-5 1.8i
Date: 29/03/04, updated on 08/02/05 (6629 review reads)
Advantages: Cheap, Reliable, Most practical sports car (which isn't very practical!)
Disadvantages: Poor fuel economy
We bought a Mazda MX5 as our first ever car in January 2003. Bizarre time to be buying a soft-top car, you might think, but actually quite good from an economic point of view – you'll be one of only a few people looking at these sorts of cars in the dead of winter and so can pick up a bargain – and probably get to test the waterproof quality of the roof!
The model we have is the 1.8i S, and is W reg. As standard, it has ABS brakes, sill plates, electric wing mirrors, heated rear window, a CD player, twin air bags, mud flaps, alloy wheels and branded carpet (!). These are mostly only options on the 1.8i and 1.6i, although the 1.8i has some as standard too.
Launched in 1989, the MX5 is now the world's top selling roadster (according to the Guiness Book of Records). It has a front engine, is rear-wheel drive and looks fantastic. It's become known as a hairdressers car, but don't let that put you off!
There have been two body types, Mark I, 1989 – 1998, and Mark II, post-1998. The easiest way to tell them apart is by looking at the headlights. Mark 1 had pop-up headlights, which many people love, and I absolutely hate. I test drove one MX5 with this sort of headlight, and found them distracting when turned on or off. Apparently many owners find that the headlight mechanism is the first part to need replacing, too. Other changes included the back window, which was changed from plastic to glass, a raised boot lid, and it also saw the addition of dual airbags.
The shape of the car is, above all, curvy. The bonnet, the roof, the back end, it's all curves everywhere you look. I like this in a car, and I especially like the front of the M
;X5 for its curvaceous goodness. As you sit in the car and look down the bonnet, it has a definite sweep upwards in the centre, presumably so the clever mechanic-types could fit all the engine into what is, afterall, a pretty small space.
The car is available in many many colours, from bright red or silver through to the classic racing green or dark blue. Mazda do occasionally change the colours that their cars are available in, so if you can't get the colour you want new, it could be worth trying the second hand market.
As a soft-top convertible, the roof on a MX5 is very important. The standard roof is made of black vinyl, and is very well made. We have never had any problems with leaks or similar, although I know that they can happen.
It's possible to get an optional hard-top for MX5s, that many people use during the cold season, however we don't have the space to store it when not in use, so we have chosen not to bother. They cost around £200 from a dealer, and are colour matched to the body of the car.
Perhaps the most important piece of information about a soft-top car is how well the folding mechanism works when you take the roof down. Fortunately, on the Mazda MX5 it's a very simple mechanism, and one that seems robust and relatively easy to use. It's manual rather than electric, which I think is a good thing, as electric mechanisms tend to use up much more space.
To put the roof down, there are clips on each side of the roof, passenger and driver side. They are undone, and the roof then just lifts down. If doing it when seated inside the car it can be a little difficult, as the roof is relatively heavy and you wouldn't want to damage it by dropping it down. But it's easy enough to twist and reach over with it to prevent this. Although I h
ave in the past taken the roof down while the car was moving (I was the passenger!), it's not something I'd really recommend doing.
Putting the roof up again is more fiddly – almost impossible to do while sat in the car due to the weight that needs lifting. Again, it's a case of grabbing the roof and lifting it into position, then making sure that the clips are done up securely. All told, it takes around 30 seconds, which is important in our lovely British weather! Obviously it isn't possible to do when the car is moving – if for no other reason than the wind resistance that the roof would generate.
One comment I would make about the roof is that the cover designed to go over it when it's down is, frankly, rubbish. It's very fiddly to attach, and uses a combination of feeding the edge of it into a channel, and securing it with poppers. The fit is very tight, and to be honest it's not strictly necessary anyway, it just makes the roof look better when it's down. We don't usually bother with it.
Finally, do be aware that it's not advised to take the roof down on days when the temperature drops below 5C. And in very hot or sunny weather, don't forget your suntan lotion (if you're follically challenged, wear a hat)!
The interior of the car is, as you might expect, rather on the small side. You need to be fairly agile to enjoy this car, getting into it is done at an almost horizontal angle and you feel very close to the ground when sitting in it.
The two seats feel surprisingly roomy, and there's certainly plenty of leg room for both passenger and driver, although anyone over about 6 feet tall might have problems. There's more space on the back shelf than you might expect, too, although this is the space that the roof uses when folded do
wn, so isn't always available.
The seats in our car are covered in black cloth, although heated leather seats are available on some models. They do recline and are adjustable forwards/backwards to some extent, however if you try to push them too far back, they have an annoying habit of squeaking against the back shelf.
The climate controls and radio/CD player are all on the central console between driver and passenger. This is also where the controls for your rear heated window switch, rear fogs and hazard lights are located. The controls themselves are standard and therefore easy to use. The only gripe I'd have is that there's nothing to tell you if your fog lights are on or not, which can be a problem if you don't realise that they are still turned on. The gear stick is just in front of this central panel, which is fine, but my problem is around the location of the handbrake. It is to the left of the central console, on the passenger side. This can create an obstsacle for the passenger, not exactly something that you want in a car!
One thing worth mentioning is the heaters in the car. Important, thanks to the UK's notoriously cool weather – turning the heaters on full blast will soon have your feet (and the rest of you) feeling like they're on fire, even with the roof down in the middle of winter! I've never been in a car with such powerful heaters.
Behind the gear stick there is a storage area, inside which are the levers to open both the boot and the petrol cap. This is just about big enough to keep a couple of pairs of sunglasses in, and maybe a hat for those sunny days you're hoping for! The glove box is really quite large, plenty big enough to store some spare CDs for the CD player and your car documents, a bottle of water and so on. Both the glove box and central storage area are loc
kable, with the normal car key. How secure these locks are I've never had cause to investigate, thankfully.
The dials on the dash board are very easy to see, even in very strong sun with the roof down. The only thing slightly different from other cars I've driven is that the milometer is digital. There are two trip counters (marked A and B) and a small button to press that cycles through the milometer and the two trip counters. I like the fact that there are two trips, this proves useful when needing to keep an eye on, for example, fuel consumption but also wanting to measure distance between locations. We always use one trip for seeing how many miles we've done between filling it up, as we know we get around 300 miles out of a tank of petrol.
There's a certain level of road noise while driving, definitely much more than you'd hear in a standard car. However, it's not so bad as to be intrusive, it's perfectly possible to hold a conversation with your passenger and/or hear the radio.
The car has airbags in the doors and to the front, for both driver and passenger. There's no roll bar or supports above the headrests (like the Z3/Z4 has), however, although the windscreen supports are reinforced.
There are ABS brakes, which are very good indeed, however the car is rear wheel drive, which makes it much easier to skid or spin the wheels, particularly in wet or icy weather. It can definitely get a bit twitchy on occasion.
The new shape doesn't have pop-up headlights as the older versions did, which apparently are considered a safety issue, presumably if you hit someone while they're popped up.
Mazda run a registration scheme for MX5 owners, if you haven't heard from them within 6 weeks of acquiring your car, they ask you to call 070
00 111 111 and register with them.
The car is, I suppose, eminently nickable. It is, afterall, a soft-top, and these cars aren't renowned for their high security. However it is one of the less desirable cars in its class as far as thieves are concerned (I believe its in insurance group 11), so this is less of a concern than it would be with many other roadsters. Every MX5 has an immobilizer fitted, although there is no alarm as standard.
In practice, this is not a family car, or even a very practical one for couples. Of this type of car, though, it is the most practical that you will find.
The interior space is small compared to a standard car, the boot is tiny (although large by competitors standards), the spare wheel is a “make do” wheel rather than a full sized one, and by taking it out you can effectively double your boot space. There are no back seats, no room for a suitcase unless you get a boot rack to strap it to, and you get around 300 miles from a full tank of petrol.
On the plus side, the glove boz and central storage area are both lockable, good for when the roof is down, and the glove box especially is surprisingly roomy. And of course when the roof's down, visibility is second to none...
That's not a lot of plus side, all things considered...but be honest, who buys a roadster for practical reasons?
The Mazda MX5 is not the nippiest car on the block, nor the most admired, nor the sexiest looking. It is, however, an accessible roadster at a pretty good price.
It has a top speed of around 130mph, and goes pretty well. When driving, it pootles around well at 30mph, but take it on the motorway and try to keep it at 70mph? You'll find i
t's much happier trying to nudge up to 90mph or so, and it's dangerously easy not to notice what's happening. Taking it on winding, country roads is where it comes into its own – it sticks to the road like glue, mainly thanks to the rear wheel drive.
Changing through the gears is good, although it can be a little stiff when the engine is cold. There's no danger of accidentally selecting the wrong gear, although it can be necessary to drop down a gear to get decent accelleration when trying to overtake another vehicle.
As mentioned above, the rear end can be rather twitchy in the wet, and we try to avoid driving in the snow or ice at all costs. Because you only get around 300 miles from a full tank of petrol, it can be a thirsty and expensive car to run (the tank takes 50 litres of fuel).
Above all else, this car is fun. It's great to drive, nippy and responsive to a light touch. It's easy to control, with light steering and fantastic brakes, and grips the road like glue – so long as it's dry.
There's nothing quite like putting the roof down and going for a drive on a hot summer's day, music blaring, picnic in the back.
If you're looking for a convertible – and 4% of the cars sold in Britain are convertibles, despite us only having an average of 51 days of sun a year – that performs well but won't break the bank, then look no further. It really is a great car, and not just for hairdressers, either.
Mazda MX5s are available from around £15000 (depending on your negotiating skills) new, or expect to pay around £10000 for one that's two or three years old. They hold their value relatively well.
Expect to get between 25 and 40 mpg, dependi
ng on what sort of driving you're doing. The car takes 50 litres of fuel.
www.mazda.co.uk (beware the evil Zoom Zoom music though)
www.mx5oc.co.uk - the Mazda MX5 owners club in the UK. They have all sorts of information about the different models available, their specs and so on.