The world’s best-selling two-seater sports car was recently treated to an update featuing more power and torque, subtle improvements to refinment, steering and the interior. The most notable update is that the 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G engine now revs to 7500rpm, with a resultant bump in power from 118kW to 135kW, as well as 5Nm more torque, bringing the total to 205Nm. The Roadster GT version tested here gets all these improvements with a very reasonable bump in price to $41,960 for the manual tested here.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review: Cabin Space and Comfort
Inside, you’ll find much the same interior setup as before – see our MX-5 RF Limited Edition review from earlier this year for reference. There has been some subtlechanges here, though. For examples of Mazda’s painstaking attention-to-detail, see the filled in sun visors, thicker seat frams for better lever operation and even the detachable cup holders are now more rigid, says Mazda.
Omissions that continue to niggle are the lack of moving guidelines on the reverse camera, plus the arrangement of the USB block in front of gear shift that is problematic for those who like to place their phone there.
Fundamentally though, the MX-5’s cabin remains a triumph of clever ergonomics, better than expected comfort and technology.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review: Infotainment and Ergonomics
While the MZD Connect system in particular remains a highlight, with its click wheel and unobtrusive operation, the navigation software can lead you astray with its slow refresh time and questionable routes, but most of the time it is helpful and works fine. Apple CarPlay was not included in our car but Mazda offers the system as a $495 retrofit on suitable models.
Ergonomics remain superb, with everything where you’d expect it. A highlight is the soft top’s single-latch mechanism, which is so easy to use with one hand. Once the top is down, visibility is unparalleled.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review: Design
While design is subjective, the ND MX-5 still acquits itself well here, despite three years of familiarity. The sharp, slit-like headlamps and round tail lamp elements contribute to arguably the most exotic expression of Mazda’s “Kodo” design philosophy. Although the interior shares elements with the Mazda2 and CX-3, and contains some hard plastics, it is well screwed-together and the overall theme of useful simplicity pays dividends here.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review: Engine and Performance
Onto the main attraction, then. For 2019, the 2.0-litre engine has been reworked for a higher power output and a higher rpm redline of 7500.
The extra 700rpm does give the engine more flexibility, negating one of the former advantages of its 86/BRZ rivals. The extra torque is hard to pick through the rev-range in day-to-day driving, but it already had an appreciable dollop of this to begin with. To handle the additional power and revs, Mazda has upgraded the conrods, crankshaft as well as intake and exhaust system. The reshaped pistons are lower weight for less inertia. If you buy the base 1.5-litre version, that has a whisker more power and torque too, at 97kW and 152Nm, respectively.
Through the corners, the extra rpm is very welcome indeed. You can now hold off on gear changes for longer and there is a satisfying note in the upper rev ranges as a prize for winding it out that little bit more. Aurually speaking, this is no Alfa Twin Spark, with a slightly workman-like engine note, but it is not unpleasant.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review: Transmission
As before, you have the option of a six-speed manual with delicious, precise gearshifts and just right clutch action or a six-speed automatic with paddles. While we haven’t sampled the automatic, Mazda does autos very well and it is a worthy alternative if you battle bumper-to-bumper traffic on a fairly regular basis.
We drove the manual through some of Sydney’s worst traffic, and while the engine’s fairly torquey nature and pleasant gearshift and clutch action took the edge off, the floor-hinged accelerator and slightly dullish throttle response off idle resulted in the odd stall. Still far better than most other new manuals in this regard and as mechanical and connected as you can get.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review:Handling and Steering
Mild changes to steering result in a tiller that is slightly more weighty but reactive than before, but fundamentally, it possesses the same feelsome character as before. Seat of the pants tells us that during sweeping corners- even those on pockmarked roads- the car tracks more faithfully than before, with less corrections required.
Being rear-wheel drive means you can dial in a predictable and very fun degree of tail-out with the stability control disengaged. Thanks to the MX-5’s multi-link rear suspension setup, it is very well mannered. Brakes, while still superb and not showing overt signs of fade after punishment are not quite up to the standard of the Brembo-equipped Limited Edition from earlier this year.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review: Ride and NVH
The aforementioned multi-link suspension and MX-5’s relatively soft suspension setup mean it handles bumps and corrugations better than a low-slung sports car has any right to. Only the short-ish travel of the suspension can bring it unstuck over the most unforgiving potholes.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review: Fuel economy and running costs
Thanks to improvements to engine breathing, the official fuel economy rating improves by 0.1L/100km to 6.8L/100km. When we refrained from exploring the engine’s newfound loftiness, an average of 7.4L/100km was what we found, but bear in mind that the high-compression powerplant requires a preimum diet.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review: Safety
Building on its already-impressive five star ANCAP rating, the 2019 MX-5 adds autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and traffic sign recognition. The reverse camera is now standard across the range. Visbility in the soft-top models is better than the MX-5 RF, as that car’s achingly-gorgeous flying buttresses tend to get in the way of the rear quarter view at times.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review:Value for Money
Aside from the Toybaru twins, what else gives you rear-wheel drive fun for this kind of money? Nothing. Not only is it cheap to buy but also cheap to maintain with a decent list of standard equipment for the money.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Roadster GT Review: Conclusion
Purists might say the ND MX-5 doesn’t quite have the old-school analogue feel of hydraulic power steering, or cable-operated throttle, let alone carburettor- or the crisp action of NA-B series’ 1st-2nd gearshift. But that really is splitting-hairs; the MX-5 manages to be deeply involving, well-balanced, great value for money and livable on a day-to-day basis in a way almost no other car in that price range can be. Most of all, it gets under your skin in a truly intoxicating way.
The added flexibility of engine and subtle tweaks to safety, dynamics and interior all add to the recipe a pleasing dose of sweetness that more than justifies the modest price bump. Keep doing what you’re doing, Mazda.