Mazda MX-5 review – Japan’s iconic roadster is better than ever - On Track

The Mazda MX-5 is better than ever, a distillation of the sports car that has matured into a brilliant little roadster

Evo rating
Price
from £18,995
  • Sparkling new 2-litre engine, fab transmission and so much fun at road speeds
  • Chassis’ limitations aren’t hard to find, tight cabin

On track

The characteristics that define the MX-5 on the road are equally distinct on track, where there’s no great change to the driving experience. It’s much of the same, except all the sensations are heightened and exaggerated, for better and worse.

The consistency of the control weights makes it easy to acclimatise yourself to the small roadster, so you can focus on clipping apexes and nailing braking points without having to attribute brainpower to managing tricky, unintuitive controls.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to our exclusive new offer and SAVE 39% on the shop price, get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £20!

The car’s exaggerated body movements are even more empathic on track, feeding back clear messages through the seat of your pants.

Trail the brake into a slow corner and you sense the weight shift forwards as the nose dives, and you can use this movement of mass to help rotate the car on entry to get the nose tucked in tight.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Once turned in, the body leans hard onto the outside wheels and the car settles. From here you get back on the throttle as the corner opens out. Be gradual with your input and you’ll understeer. However, be more aggressive with the throttle and the car adopts a neutral state, squatting and bobbing over the rear outside wheel as it powers out of a corner – an enjoyable feeling.

You can use both the Mazda’s body roll and consequent shifting of mass to exploit the chassis’ natural balance, especially in tighter sections of a track. Lift off suddenly mid-corner and you feel the car start to pivot around its hips under weight transfer, taking on a few degrees of slip-angle in the process, which is easily neutralised with the throttle and a dab of countersteer. On the whole, it’s all very manageable, and thoroughly enjoyable.

However, the softer, road-going bias does leave the MX-5 wanting when you’re really pushing for a fast lap as opposed to just indulging in the chassis’ adjustability. That exaggerated roll breeds greater inertia, so you don't have the confidence to negotiate high-speed direction changes at full tilt, where you crave tighter body control and more agility. The flat, confident cornering stance of track-bred cars is certainly something unfamiliar to the MX-5.

A light kerb weight means the brakes feel up to the job of hauling the MX-5 down from speed and they hold up well enough over the course of a session, although if you're considering doing regular track work it may be worth investing in new lines and fluid at the very least.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/honda/civic-type-r/202099/honda-civic-type-r-limited-edition-revealed-amongst-range-wide-updates
Honda Civic Type-R

Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition revealed amongst range-wide updates

Our hopes have been addressed and more, as Honda launches two more Civic Type R versions at the top and tail of the range
20 Feb 2020
Visit/seat/leon-cupra/22765/new-2020-cupra-leon-revealed-cupra-hits-back-with-hot-hatch-and-estate
SEAT Leon Cupra

New 2020 Cupra Leon revealed

Cupra’s launched not just one, but a whole range of hot Leons to rival the rapidly expanding hot hatch class in 2020
21 Feb 2020
Visit/bmw/3-series/202267/new-bmw-m340d-xdrive-saloon-and-touring-revealed-with-516lb-ft-of-torque
BMW 3 Series

New BMW M340d xDrive Saloon and Touring revealed

BMW has released its range-topping black pump 3-series models, with a predictably impressive torque figure
20 Feb 2020
Visit/hyundai/i30-n-hatchback/201775/hyundai-i30-n-versus-hyundai-i30-tcr
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 N versus Hyundai i30 TCR

Can Dickie Meaden beat Steve Sutcliffe in a straight(ish) race? We sent them to the Circuit Nuvolari with a pair of Hyundai i30 Ns to find out.
20 Sep 2019