In-depth reviews

Mazda MX-5 review – 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

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.

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.

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.

Most Popular

New Audi RS3 revealed – AMG’s A45 S rival returns fitter and faster
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback – front tracking
Audi RS3

New Audi RS3 revealed – AMG’s A45 S rival returns fitter and faster

After months of tech insights, we now finally get to see the all-new Audi RS3 in its finished form
19 Jul 2021
Lotus Emira makes world debut – all-new coupe to rival Alpine A110
Lotus Emira
Lotus

Lotus Emira makes world debut – all-new coupe to rival Alpine A110

Lotus's first all-new car for a quarter of a century comes AMG power and sub-£60,000 price tag
13 Jul 2021
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring 2021 review – pairing the magnificent 992 GT3 experience to a more subtle audience
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring 992 review
Porsche 911 GT3

Porsche 911 GT3 Touring 2021 review – pairing the magnificent 992 GT3 experience to a more subtle audience

There are few, if any, more rewarding, engaging or intense experiences for those in pursuit of the thrill of driving
14 Jul 2021