Test Drives

Mazda MX-5 2.0 Manual Review: Lacuna Miata


That’s the new MX-5! We know this much…

Yep, and we’ve covered the new fourth-gen ‘ND’ MX-5 (aka Miata) in detail in CarBuyer too. It’s recently launched here, as we’ve mentioned, but first get up to speed with all the technical bits in our on-track First Drive of the 1.6-litre version (not offered in Singapore). We even led a parade of its predecessors too, delving deeper into the MX-5 enthusiast community.

This is our first proper, local test drive of the car, and we’ve scored the most desirable model for those who love spending time behind the wheel – the 2.0-litre with a six-speed gearbox.

But we don’t like manuals!
The vast majority of Singaporean drivers turn up their noses at the joy of left-legging it, but the MX-5 is a special case. It’s the spiritual successor of small, affordable British roadsters (like the MGB or Triumph Spitfire) just without the rust and bankruptcy, and with all-important Japanese reliability. That’s basically why the MX-5 has become the world’s best-selling two-seater over its 36-year history.

We’re still not convinced
Despite Singaporean tastes, a sizeable number of MX-5s are chosen with a manual gearbox, as a Mazda rep told us, even by the fairer sex. The big plus here is that the manual version costs $3,000 less than the auto, is a huge 0.7 seconds faster to 100km/h (7.3 seconds) and if you’re mad enough to try, has a higher top speed of 214km/h (compared to 198km/h).

That’s pretty impressive…
It is, especially in this age where some automatic gearboxes outperform manual ones. And that’s not all. It’s almost as if Mazda is telling you to go manual, since it’s 23kg lighter (which in a machine weighing only 1,057kg, counts for a lot) and it has a limited-slip differential. The auto lacks this, and it should translate into better traction and dynamics overall.

It looks small...
That’s because it is – it’s only 3.91-metres long. From the moment you enter the low-slung, enveloping driver’s position it’s quite clear what the MX-5’s purpose is. Compared to anything else but a kei car roadster, it seems cramped, but that’s because the car is devoid of extraneous clutter. There’s no glove box and you can’t store anything larger than a pomelo in the provided cargo spaces, while the boot is only 130-litres in capacity.

A case of less is more?
Definitely. The MX-5 makes a case for leaving stuff behind and driving your cares away. In town, the car’s well-behaved and nimble thanks to the light clutch (though the biting point is vague) and precise throttle. But find a stretch of good road and the MX-5 shows brilliant balance in handling, while the ride is sporty yet supple and confidence inspiring. It’s quick in a straight line, but not outright fast, yet it’s because the MX-5 lives for apexes and bends.

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But could you live with one?
Easily. First of all, the MX-5 won’t make you take a second mortgage to own. At $160,888 with COE, you could get a hot hatch like a Renault Clio RS or a convertible like the Volkswagen Golf Cabrio (GTI version tested here) but nothing else combines driving involvement into a small, desirable drop-top at this price range.

While the 2.0-litre engine isn’t small, it’s certainly frugal thanks to Mazda’s Skyactiv tech (like start-stop) and even when thrashed, the MX-5 rarely delivers anything more than 9.0L/100km, which is impressive for a sports car of any sort.

Very few machines will deliver smiles to a driver’s face in such an easy, direct manner. Most that can, like the BMW 220i Convertible or Porsche Boxster, cost twice as much or more. The MX-5 is still a special case, one that’s affordable enough to draw smiles from its pilot and, judging by the number of on-street conversations we had about it with grinning strangers, everybody else as well.

Mazda MX-5 2.0 Manual

Engine 1,998cc, 16V, inline 4

Power 158bhp at 6000rpm

Torque 200Nm at 4600rpm

Gearbox 6-speed manual

Top Speed 214km/h

0-100kmh 7.3 seconds

Fuel efficiency 6.7L/100km

CO2 156g/km

Price $160,888 with COE

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about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.