The 2019 Model Year Mazda MX-5 RF has one main change compared to the previous version, which is more power – 184ps compared to the previous 160ps – this doesn’t sound like much of a update, but few other changes were needed.
We tested the Mazda MX-5 RF 160ps Sport Nav only a year ago and it was awarded a 10/10 rating. In fact, we said the only one main area for improvement was “sometimes you’re left feeling as though you just want a bit more power to safely accelerate past slow vehicles on Welsh B-roads…” Well, our wish has been granted: the 2019 Model Year Mazda MX-5 RF has more power – an extra 24ps. If you’re thinking that this doesn’t sound a lot, you’d be correct – so is it worth choosing this latest model?
It’s perhaps also worth mentioning that the new engine also revs higher, the peak torque rises by 5Nm, there’s a 0.6 second improvement in the 0-62mph time, yet the CO2 emissions are lower, and there’s a new telescopic steering adjustment and improved seat sliding operation.
As you may have guessed by our introduction, the basic formula for the MX-5 remains unchanged. This means it has a 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre petrol engine with rear-wheel drive, and in the case of our test car, a 6-speed manual transmission.
Our test car was also the RF model rather than the convertible, meaning that it had a retractable hard top rather than a soft top. We think the exterior styling looks great, and the interior is well designed and functional.
The driving position of the previous MX-5 was good, despite having no steering wheel reach adjustment, however the latest model, with reach adjustment, offers an even better driving position. This also shows that manufacturers can engineer an adjustable steering column into a ‘mid-life refresh’ of a car that has the same basic platform as the previous model – something that would be well worth noting by the engineers of the Nissan LEAF.
The basics of the MX-5 remain the same: the aim is to be the smallest, lightest and lowest it can to package an engine, two occupants and a small amount of luggage. Added to this impressive starting point is direct and responsive steering, rewarding rear-wheel drive handling, and a good ride.
And of course you now have the extra power from the 2-litre petrol engine, and this is channelled through an incredibly slick 6-speed manual gearbox.
The combination of all the above gives you something that is very rare in modern cars: a refreshingly direct driving experience that is great fun. The extra 24ps of power isn’t a lot, but because this is such a light car (1148 kg), it actually does make a difference.
The MX-5’s chassis is beautifully balanced when progressing enthusiastically through a series of flowing bends, and the driving sensations are of course magnified by putting the roof down, which can be done in a matter of seconds by the flick of a switch. With the roof up, there’s a greater feeling of being cocooned in a modern car – but there’s still an element of road noise coming through into the cabin.
Ergonomically the MX-5 is a triumph, it’s very small yet everything has just about been fitted into the interior in the right place, although the handbrake sits very close to your left knee.
Although the inspiration for the MX-5 is an old British sports car, you get a very modern and effective infomedia system. It feels clearly modelled on BMW’s iDrive system, and probably because of this – ie. there’s a rotary controller and shortcut buttons between the front seats rather just a touchscreen – it works really well.
In terms of modern driver assistance, there’s a lane departure warning system, which thankfully you can shut down with one press of a switch, as there can be nothing more annoying than a car like the MX-5 constantly beeping at you as you’re cutting across white lines on your favourite road.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Mazda MX-5 RF 184ps Sport Nav+ 2019 Model Year is 40.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 156g/km.
So what sort of economy did we achieve in real-world driving? At 50mph for over 20 miles on the motorway we achieved a highly impressive 64.6mpg, which shows the potential for the MX-5’s efficiency. At a constant 60mph we returned 53.2mpg. At motorway speeds not exceeding 70mph we averaged 52.5mpg.
Overall after a week of mixed driving, but with our normal proportion of 80% long journeys, the MX-5 averaged 44.3mpg. You may notice that this is a better result than the official fuel economy figure of 40.9mpg, which is the first car in 12 years of testing that has ever delivered an improvement on its official economy figure. Presumably the new, more realistic WLTP test is a factor in this, but the key reason for its efficiency is that the MX-5 is light and has a very small, and low, frontal area. It also doesn’t have a turbocharger, and in our experience such cars – although there are increasingly few of them – perform closer to the official economy figures in real-world driving. Interestingly, our 44.3mpg figure almost exactly matches the WLTP ‘Medium’ fuel economy figure of 44.1mpg. The MX-5 also had a useful 418 mile range.
The Mazda MX-5 RF 184ps Sport Nav+ 2019 Model Year costs £26,595. Our test car had the two options of Machine Grey Metallic paint (which wouldn’t be our choice of colour for this car) (£670) and Safety Pack (£800), taking the total price to £28,065.
The MX-5 is available as a Convertible or as the RF as tested. As well as the 2.0-litre petrol engine, there’s also a 1.5-litre engine. The RF is available in SE-L Nav+, Sport Nav+, and GT Sport Nav+; the higher two trims are available with an automatic gearbox.
For over 12 years Green Car Guide has been searching for cars that are efficient and great to drive. The Mazda MX-5 has always ticked this box, but this latest version is even more impressive, offering more power, yet it’s also the first car that we’ve tested in 12 years that has beaten its official fuel economy figure in real-world driving.
A key reason why we like the MX-5 so much is that you can enjoy a rewarding driving experience at legal speeds. With higher performance machinery, you’re often finding yourself well above the legal speed limit in an effort to enjoy the car. And another bonus is that the MX-5 is relatively affordable.
Therefore it’s very difficult to award the latest MX-5 with anything less than the same Green Car Guide rating of 10 out of 10 that the previous model enjoyed.
But it’s worth noting that at the moment there are no electric, ie. zero emission, rivals. If a genuine electric rival does appear, which may be unlikely given the weight of EV batteries. then the MX-5 might struggle to retain its 10 out of 10 accolade. Until that point, the MX-5 is one of the best ways to enjoy driving while minimising your emissions, your fuel bills, and your initial outlay on a sports car.