Max Sherlock purchased this Mazda MX-5 used for $4500 (including all on-road costs) in 2013. Max Sherlock would buy this car again because: “My MX-5 has proven to be one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I’ve driven a lot of cars in my time and few provide the same level of engagement or smile inducing fun as this car does. In a game of top trumps, my MX-5 (nicknamed Lola by a friend’s girlfriend) would win the smile to dollar ratio every time. It certainly doesn’t hurt either that the car is currently worth roughly four times what I paid for it”
As is to be expected of a car that is now approaching 33 years old, some parts have worn out and reached the end of their life and there are more than a few rattles and creaks to keep me company on my daily commute.
With a couple of exceptions, however, reliability has been strong and the car is mechanically sound. The alternator has failed and been replaced twice. A new battery has been fitted along with a new catalytic converter. Brakes and discs have been replaced twice.
A leaky head gasket was also replaced. A relay controlling the indicators short circuited and needed to be replaced and one particularly hot summers day melted part of the fuse box causing the radiator fans to remain permanently on, even with the car switched off. All of these have been relatively inexpensive and easy repairs and, spread out over nearly ten years of ownership, have amounted to only slight irritations.
I can’t provide much feedback on the Mazda dealership experience as I’ve never visited one with this car. I carry out all routine servicing myself and use local businesses for any job that surpasses my skill level.
The MX-5 community however is outstanding. From businesses such as MX-5 Mania in Dural that cater only to MX-5 owners to other enthusiasts that are passionate about their own roadsters, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
Whenever an NA MX-5 passes another heading in the opposite direction, both will pop their headlights in a universally accepted MX-5 salute that always makes me grin.
Pulling up next to a car full of kids, seeing them looking at the car and then watching the delight spread across their faces as I pop those same headlights never gets old. The car has been a conversation starter many a time and always seems to put a smile on peoples faces. It’s a happy car (look at that goofy grin) and it seems to be infectious.
For the price I paid, this car has been a bargain. As far as features are concerned, they are few and far between. Electric windows are a surprise inclusion along with air-conditioning. I believe both were options when the car was new but I could be wrong about that. An aftermarket head unit has added Bluetooth audio and handsfree phone calls, both welcome additions.
The soft top takes mere seconds to retract and only slightly longer to put back in place. The heater will nearly melt the soles of your shoes making it possible to drive with the roof down during the middle of winter
Storage space is not a strong point of the MX5 with a good chunk of the boot taken up by a spare wheel and only a glovebox for small items within the cabin. As a car that rarely holds more than one person, the passenger seat has become a convenient location for groceries, overnight bags, coats and anything else that might need to come with me on my journeys
My NA1 MX-5 came with a 1.6L four-cylinder petrol engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. When new, the engine produced 86kW of power and 135Nm of torque. These numbers seem dismal by todays standards but a weight of less than a tonne means that the car always feels spritely and responsive, if not outright fast.
The addition of a less restrictive exhaust than the factory unit has given way to a rorty engine note higher in the rev range and a subtle amount of extra bass at low speeds
The manual gearbox is one of the best I’ve ever used. It has super short throw, a pleasingly mechanical feel and great clutch weight. A sixth gear would be nice for freeway driving as cruising at 110km/h in fifth will see the revs pinned at over 3500rpm and the fuel tank emptying quickly.
Around town, fuel economy is great. I’ll admit to never having measured the consumption but the tiny 45L fuel tank will get me through at least a couple of weeks city driving at a time.
What little tech there is in my MX-5 has mostly been added by myself. Outside of the electric windows, one 12V power socket and a factory fitted radio/cassette player, the MX-5 came with very little to distract from the driving experience.
The list of safety features stops at seatbelts and, other than headlights to help you see at night, you won’t find a hint of a driver’s aid.
The MX5 has always been a momentum car, with its famous handling characteristics allowing you to carry speed through corners. On a tight, twisty piece of road, my MX-5 will keep pace with cars many orders of magnitude more powerful and more expensive.
Body roll is definitely present but the car is constantly talking to you. The unassisted steering is heavy at low speeds but allows you to feel exactly how much grip you’ve got as speeds increase and gives you confidence in getting the best out of the chassis. Understeer is only present in the wettest of conditions and oversteer is linear, predictable and easy to manage
Ride comfort is surprisingly good but not brilliant. Every road imperfection will make itself known inside the cabin which can be wearisome on a longer drive. The car does, however, do a decent job of remaining composed over rougher surfaces and the seats are comfortable and supportive.
I would not recommend an MX-5 to someone who needed to regularly drive long distances or who is much above average in size, be that height or girth.
I would recommend that anyone who has the chance to get behind the wheel of an MX-5 gives it a go. After having driven a 2021 MX-5 RF for a lap around Tasmania, I can confirm that the core character that makes me love mine so much is still present in the current car.
Few cars give you such a pure driving experience, are quite so capable of putting a smile on your face in such a broad variety of conditions and allow you to be part of your surroundings whilst doing so. Cars like the MX-5 are a dying breed. We should cherish them whilst we can before embracing a more environmentally-friendly future.