Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT review: sometimes the old ways are still brilliant

David Linklater
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Roadster GT is the more frisky half of the MX-5 range in NZ. And manual only.


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  • Still an outstandingly pure RWD roadster
  • Track Mode adds another dimension
  • Swish new infotainment system
  • $60k is a lot for a tiny car launched in 2015
  • Lack of storage space in cabin is dire
  • Roof-up wind noise at motorway speed

Mazda MX-5, we love you; don’t go changing. Oh, you haven’t really. Great.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT.
Pert profile of ND generation isn't that different to the original NA. Cool.

The fourth (ND) generation of Mazda’s much-loved little sports car is now in its ninth year and there’s no real sign of a new one. We’re okay with that; this one’s still superb.

But the company serves up a little refresh every now and then, so meet the very slightly updated MX-5 for 2024. It’s not one to wow the neighbours, because it doesn’t look much different. 

However, the headlights are new. The daytime running lights (which looked like cat whiskers in the old model, mounted in the outer edges of the bumper) are now included in the one-piece LED main lights (which still look like fox eyes).

Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT.
Daytime running lights used to be down here, now they're up here.

The tail-lights are also new, with a more defined illuminated ring around the main unit; nah, we couldn’t really tell either. There’s also a revised interior with new 8.8-inch infotainment screen. And a fresh colour, Aero Grey Metallic, as featured here.

The fourth (ND) generation of Mazda’s much-loved little sports car is now in its ninth year and there’s no real sign of a new one. We’re okay with that.

So that’s the garnish. But the key stuff is underneath; at least if we’re talking about the Roadster (soft-top) GT, which remains the more focused of the two MX-5 variants. It’s manual-only, whereas the RF folding hard-top is exclusively automatic for New Zealand.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT.
Even less obvious change at the rear, but the tail lights are new. No, really.

The GT, which rides on special 17-inch BBS alloys and boasts Brembo brakes and Bilstein suspension, now has a Track Mode, which is activated by a tiny button, down out of sight to the right of the steering wheel. It allows more of a movement into oversteer before stability control steps in, and once it does it brakes a wheel rather than retarding engine torque as in the previous car. Track Mode also activates automatically when the car detects oversteer.

The Mazda is still a sublime car on the road. Not too much power, not too much grip is the MX-5 ethos.

That's a small technical change, really; a tweak to the stability control, nothing more. But a big plus for a car that's born to show off its chassis smarts.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT.
The magic button: Track Mode (top right) asks the stability control to step back.

There’s also a new “asymmetrical” limited-slip differential that represents a step on from the previous Kinematic Posture Control. There’s a cam mechanism within the differential that works to stabilise the anti-slip effect during both turn-in (including deceleration) and under power, employing different angles for each. All in the name of keeping the little MX-5 stable and ready for action at all times.

You can forgive a car like this a lot when it comes to comfort/convenience. But for a model so carefully finessed in dynamic terms, a few basic packaging things still irk.

Much of this stuff is really aimed at circuit use (there’s a clue in the name of the new drive setting) so a track would be the ideal place to play with it. Alas, not for us this time around.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT.
Very familiar, but the new widescreen infotainment display looks pretty swish.

But the Mazda is still a sublime car on the road. Not too much power, not too much grip is the MX-5 ethos. So you get just 135kW/205Nm from the 2.0-litre engine and a click-clack gearchange from the six-speed manual, the lever within a hand-span of the steering wheel. It’s a rev-happy engine and the idea is to use most of what the powertrain has to offer, as much of the time as possible.

Same goes for the chassis, which still squirms around through tight corners and does its utmost to make you think you’re taking the car by the scruff of the neck; but always with an underlying sense of supreme balance. It’s laugh-out-loud fun at virtually any speed.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT.
The MX-5 is evergreen. But this Aero Grey colour is brand new.

But don’t think of it as bare-bones thrills. Mazda has long since accepted that MX-5 buyers also want plenty of home comforts, so you get heated seats (which do make sense in a convertible anyway), a pretty decent Bose audio system and that new infotainment setup.

The wireless phone projection took an age and several tries to pair initially (which does seem to be a bit of a Mazda thing generally), but once connected it performed flawlessly.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT.
Centre box is handy... but that's pretty much your lot for storage space.

The new screen looks really swish and although you can still operate it with the rotary controller on the centre console, it’s also a full touch unit - even when the car is moving, which hasn’t been the case with older Mazda systems. It’s now also much easier to flick between the Mazda OS and Apple/Android; on startup all you have to do to wake the projection is tip the controller forward, for example.

You can forgive a car like this a lot when it comes to comfort/convenience. But for a model that’s so carefully finessed in dynamic terms, a few basic packaging things still irk. There’s a pseudo-glovebox (there sure isn't one in the dashboard) between the seats that’s quite hard to reach around to, and beyond that very little storage for small items save a tiny tray in the centre console. Nowhere to put your mobile if it's larger than a 2017-spec iPhone, for example, which is not such a deal-breaker with wireless projection. But still, seriously.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT.
Putting the roof up or down is a five-second job. The simple ways are the best.

Roof-up there’s also a lot of wind noise at 80-100km/h around the side windows. Okay, it’ll never be coupe-quiet, but it does surprise that Mazda hasn’t made greater advances here.

No issue with the minuscule 130-litre boot, which is size-appropriate for this car, but it does surprise that there’s no lining on the bootlid of this $60k model A small detail, sure, but it looks cheap. And the MX-5 is no longer a cheap car.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT.
Roadster GT gets special BBS alloys, Brembo brakes and Bilstein suspension. All the Bs.

None of the above is any impediment to enjoying the MX-5 the way in which its makers intended. Whether the next generation will hold as steadfastly to its ICE/manual/RWD triple-pack roots is yet to be seen, but for now we’re elated that the car is still around to show what true sportiness should feel like.

ENGINE: 2.0-litre petrol 4-cylinder POWER: 135kW/205Nm GEARBOX: 6-speed manual, RWD 0-100KM/H: 7.4sec CONSUMPTION: 7.6l/100km (3P-WLTP) PRICE: $60,490.

What are the key statistics for the Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT?

There are now just two versions of the MX-5 on sale in NZ: the highly focused Roadster GT (soft-top) and the RF with folding hard-top. They both have the same 135kW/205Nm 2.0-litre engine, but the GT has special wheels, brakes and suspension and it's manual-only. The RF is automatic.

Is the Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT efficient?

In terms of being a light car with a modest engine, yes. The official figure of 7.6l/100km isn't super-thrifty of course (no electrification for the MX-5, remember) and if you use it as the maker intended, it'll use more. It's a sports car, enjoy!

Is the Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT good to drive?

Brilliant as ever. The GT's sportier suspension, bigger brakes and new features like Track Mode add another dimension to what's still a classic two-seat, RWD manual sports car. You can't help but smile when you're driving it.

Is the Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT practical?

Not too bad for a minuscule roadster; the cabin can accommodate taller drivers and it's easy to get in and out when the roof's down, which is easy to achieve because it's a one-latch, one-hand affair that takes only a few seconds.

We do wish there was more storage for small items in the cabin. There's a box behind the seats but up front, not even a glovebox.

What do we like about the Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT?

It remains a purist RWD roadster that puts driving pleasure above all else. If you like driving, you'll love this car. End of story.

What don’t we like about the Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT?

Over $60k is quite a lot of money for not much car, especially one that owes its maker so little in development costs after nine years on sale. And there are a few packaging issues - not the car's size, but the lack of minor storage in the cabin.

What kind of person would the Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT suit?

Anybody who loves a pure RWD/manual driving experience will love this car. But the MX-5 also now carries a lot of heritage behind its badge, so any new model with a few special touches like this one is an instant collectible.


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