Having had the opportunity to race an MX-5 on a frozen lake in Sweden earlier this year, it was great to learn AM would be taking on Mazda’s best-selling roadster on a long-term test.
Arguably a car with no equal on the road in the UK at the moment (Kia has hinted it wants to spice up the brand further with a rival), the MX-5 has absolutely nailed a corner of the market for buyers that want some sporty fun at an affordable price.
The Japanese brand has sold more than 100,000 MX-5s in the UK since launch in 1990, accounting for over 10% of global and 40% of European sales.
Annual UK sales hit an all-time high in 2007 with 9,234 sold.
Sales have slowed since the recession, with 5,157 units sold in the UK in 2010 and 3,927 MX-5s are expected to be sold here this year.
The MX-5 is the car most people associate with Mazda and it successfully acts as a draw for the brand.
It’s popular with current owners too, winning the 2011 JD Power vehicle ownership satisfaction survey with a rating of 82.4%, beating the Volkswagen Scirocco, Audi TT, Mercedes-Benz CLK and SLK.
This roadster isn’t blisteringly quick, but the 158bhp on offer means the dull commute to work is injected with some fun, even at low speeds and even though interior space is a lot tighter than our VW Caddy Maxi Life, a work trip to the West Country proved it was still a comfortable place to spend a four hour drive.
The MX-5 handles brilliantly and the 2.0-litre petrol engine delivers a satisfying rasp into the cockpit when pushing the revs.
Our MX-5 comes with a lot of premium standard equipment, including sports suspension, leather upholstery and heated seats, 17-inch alloys, BOSE sound system with 6-CD changer, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity.
The only option added was metropolitan grey mica paint for £420.
Boot space is limited due to the car’s small size, but there are still 150 litres to cram two weekend bags or a week’s shopping in.
There’s a cubby hole in between the driver and passenger to store a portable sat nav or valuables.
There have also been enough sunny days to deploy the powered retractable hard top roof which can be operated in just 12 seconds.
The only real downside with the MX-5 comes with the 2.0-litre petrol engine which can return 36.2mpg, but consistently returns mpg in the low 30s.
That might be a sour pill to swallow for customers looking to have fun while minimising petrol costs.
Luckily Mazda will be introducing its Skyactiv (see p60) low emission engine and chassis technology across its range, including the MX-5, from 2012, which will see a 15% improvement in fuel economy for its petrol engine.