Although the 2019 model is available, the older MX-5 still proves to be amazingly good fun.

When you’re given the opportunity to drive a rather sporty or athletic car, most people would ask about numbers; how much horsepower it makes, or how fast does it go. I’m the guy who’d ask if it’s available in stick. Yes, yes, we’ve all heard the complaints about the hassles of manual transmission in traffic, steep inclines, and even parking, or how modern automatics shift faster than any human being can, and we all understand and get those very valid points. But, for a handful of people like me, the driver involvement and joy of finessing a mechanical transmission into doing your every whim is what attracts us. And bonus points if you happen to be in the world’s best selling two-seater sports car; the Mazda MX-5.

4.4 / 5
Review: 2018 Mazda MX-5 2.0 SkyActiv MT
Performance
Engine Output (HP), Acceleration, Transmission, Handling
5.0/5
Design
Exterior & Interior Design, Quality, Fit and Finish, Ergonomics
4.5/5
Ride Comfort
Cabin Comfort, Suspension, NVH Insulation
4.0/5
Safety and Technology
Convenience Technologies, Active and Passive Safety Features
3.5/5
Value for Money
Amount of the vehicle you get for the price, Fuel Efficiency
5.0/5
What You Will Like
  • You'll look forward to driving this everyday
  • Best looking MX-5 yet
  • Best performance per peso in the market
What You Won't Like
  • Soft top can be loud or a security risk
How We Do Our Reviews

I was given the keys to this soft top convertible 2018 Mazda MX-5 2.0 SkyActiv in Arctic White, and I specifically asked for the manual variant. The car’s compact dimensions are akin to the previous generations before this fourth iteration (ND platform), but it actually is lighter and slightly shorter at 105 mm less than before. Tipping the scales at close to 1,000 kilograms, the Mazda MX-5 is Mazda’s flagship expression of Jinba ittai, or “rider and horse as one body”, focusing on delivering perfect 50:50 weight distribution through a front mid-ship rear wheel drive configuration with minimal wasted cabin space.

While the Mazda MX-5s of previous generations weren’t particularly aggressive or breathtaking in design, the latest generation is the best looking one yet, with sharp headlights and much more flowing lines. Much thought was given into designing the present day MX-5, and the contrasting 17-inch alloys on white body can be stunning at the right angles. LED lighting is standard all around, with the RF and top end variants getting adaptive LED headlights. No biggie, as the headlights and slim LED running lights are gorgeous no matter the time of day. It’s a definite step in the right direction and definitely in line with the Kodo design philosophy from the brand. The textile soft top is a breeze to put up and down, requiring only one hand and a lever to pull or push to release or fix the whole thing together. Downside is that the soft top can be damaged and punctured easily if someone wanted break in and grab a few items in the car. In which case, you shouldn’t be leaving anything valuable in your car in the first place.

The MX-5 also happens to be one of the smallest vehicles you can get in our market, so you’ll kinda been in the shadow of SUVs and some crossovers most of the time, which really won’t be a problem since people naturally stare and do a double take when this car rounds the corner. It’s a testament to how the Miata/MX-5 is instantly recognizable by people across generations.

Okay, so let’s talk about the cabin and get the most obvious thing out of the way first; this is a car that will fit two relatively slim people comfortably. If you happen to be taller than six feet, you’ll find getting in and out quite a task, but once you’ve dropped yourself in the seat and close the door, you realize that they’ve kept anything non-driving related to a minimum, and for good reason. Everything is within easy reach, and the controls are laid out with a focus to driving and driving only. Interesting to note is that the instrument cluster’s main display is the tachometer, which you’ll be climbing and bouncing off of regularly. The cupholders are found behind the handbrake, and they can be moved around to a spot next to the passenger’s thing for easier convenience. There are two USB ports for charging and a small spot to place your phone, and the easy to use Mazda Connect interface and floating head unit. There’s no glove compartment to speak of, but there is a lockable cubby hole found between the seats and is reachable in a pinch. There you can keep a camera, manuals, and that's about it. Anything bigger will have to go into the weekend bag sized trunk.

A nice, chunky leather wrapped steering wheel takes up most of your front view and once you adjust everything to your seating position and liking, you instantly feel much more connected to the car. The driving position is one of the best in the business, and the visible front wheel arches are there to guide you in placing the car into corners and parking slots. Pillars are slim up front but there are definite blind spots, but that can be alleviated by looking at the rear quarter panels, especially with the convertible roof down. You’re low to the ground and in an especially small car, so this is expected. I do like how the body color finds its way into the cabin with matching plastic panels throughout, and it adds a nice visual flair. Overall, the inside is a tight package that’s all business and no fuss, and it’s a pure and refreshing experience.

The driving experience is what matters the most, however, and is the main attraction to this competitively priced sports car. The Mazda MX-5 is a car that you can drive relatively fast and within your limits, and still have immense fun. The 2.0L SkyActiv naturally aspirated gasoline engine is a good mill and generates a pokey 160 hp and 200 Nm of torque. The first gear is surprisingly longer than expected, and the clutch action is tall but comfortably firm. The leather shifter’s gears are short and tight, and each change feels very positive, even when pushing hard. It feels good to run up the tach on each gear because it genuinely feels like a spirited drive, and the tight steering that transfers just the right amount of feedback to the driver (despite being electronically assisted) means that you always feel in control. It’s like a throwback to the analog cars of years ago, save for a single traction control switch that you can turn off.

Of course, the Mazda MX-5 finds its element on the racetrack or any mountain pass or winding backroad, where you can easily engine brake or heel and toe down gears before you settle the car’s weight and throw it into the corner. It holds its lines exceptionally well, and will easily let you know when you’re close to the limit of those Bridgestone Potenza tires. You can even power out of most corners where bigger and much more powerful cars will require feathering the throttle. The suspension is on the firm side, but handles road imperfections decently. Since this is a soft top, you’ll have road noise and wind noise creep into the cabin at speed. You can even hear vehicles next to you at times, but it’s a controlled level of noise and you can still have a conversation at speed.

The Mazda MX-5 is one of the best compact sports cars on the market today, and it offers a fantastic driving experience that’s so natural and easy to fall in love with. When the weather is good, just drop the top down and hear that engine work hard, but happily. At under 2 million pesos, this car offers the most compelling and engaging drive I’ve had in a long time; no digital filters, just authentic good fun that doesn’t break the bank. Forget practicality, I’d use this everyday. Long live the manual.


Specifications

Engine

2.0 L

Fuel Type

Gasoline

Performance

160 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Transmission

Manual

Summary

Name Mazda MX-5 2.0 SkyActiv MT
Body Type Convertible
Price ₱1,880,000
Transmission Type Manual

Engine

Performance

Economy & Environment

Dimensions

Safety & Security

Features

Technology

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