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Is the Mazda MX-5 Any Good? – /CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

Is the Mazda MX-5 Any Good? – /CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

[THEME MUSIC] A few years ago, I wrote a blog
in which I questioned the greatness of the Mazda MX-5. In the eyes of pretty much every
car enthusiast, this was a crime worse than an Alex
Roy suit and hat combo. But I meant it. I really did. I just don’t quite get what
all the fuss is all about. And this is some of
what I wrote. “It seems I’m alone in being
completely ambivalent as to the existence of
the Mazda MX-5. Apparently, the 900,000th
example has just rolled out of Hiroshima, which means there
will be yet more public outpourings of emotion for a
machine which drives with all the precision of a
boneless limb. This will not endear me to
anyone who’s ever owned or loved an MX-5. I just always judge sports cars
on the way they drive, and I’ve always found the little
Mazda slow, imprecise, and unsatisfying. And the MX-5 isn’t exciting. An Elise is exciting, because
it’s a proper sports car, whereas the MX-5 is just a way
of being a little more exposed to the elements.” And
so it went on. I even ended up calling it,
well, shit, and that didn’t go down too well either. These days, I’m haunted
by the bloody things. Not just because that blog
generated considerable hatred but because Dan Trent, the
editor of PistonHeads, where I do my writing stuff, has one
of the bloody things. And Neil, who stands behind
the camera every week, has one, too. They both think they’re great
and talk about them like they’re a cross between
Florence Nightingale and Bambi. The MX-5 really can
[INAUDIBLE] So today, it’s car swap day. Neil gets the 599, and
I get the MX-5. But this isn’t quite the deal
of the century for Neil that you might have expected. Because even though I’m swapping
sharp Italian lines and 600 horsepower for a tight
perm, about 7 horsepower, and a body shell with the twist
resistance of a Haribo crocodile, Neal still has to
stand behind the camera, which won’t give him much time
to drive the posh Fiat. Oh, no. So from where I’m standing,
we’re both losers. Or are we? Because today, I’m going to
work out if I was right or wrong about the MX-5. So the case for the prosecution
of the MX-5, and that’s my personal prosecution
of the MX-5, is that it’s never quite squared with what
I wanted from a sports car. And I suppose, at this point,
I’m going to define what I mean by sports car. And I think, perhaps, my
definition differs from a lot of people. Just because a roof comes
off a car doesn’t make it a sports car. That makes it a convertible or
a roadster or something like that, you know. The evidence is on the
seat behind me. It says Roadster. The way I define a sports car is
the way it behaves, the way it makes me feel, and the way
the controls feel to me, so the steering, the gear box, the
pedal box, where I sit in the car, and also the way the
car responds to my inputs. So the more I push the car,
the more I kind of want back from it. So the harder I drive it,
the better it gets. And in several of those
categories, the MX-5 has always been a bit
missing to me. Now, I’d probably like to answer
some of the critics at the time who gave me, yeah, a
right old mouthful for being rude about the MX-5. Because, of course, you can’t
be rude about the MX-5. You can be rude about
anything in the world, but not the MX-5. I made a couple of mistakes,
because I didn’t flesh out that piece too far. It was only a few hundred
words long. One thing, I do believe that the
very first MX-5s, the gen ones, had something
about them. They definitely were, for me,
more exciting cars to drive than the later cars, especially
the latest one, which I have no interest
in whatsoever. The other thing is the nature
of the car itself. I’m talking about driving
standard cars. And so many of the defenses of
the MX-5 that I’ve read say, oh, yeah, mine’s got the
following diff, the following suspension, the following engine
mods, and it’s now a riot to drive. If it’s heavily modified,
that’s not a stock MX-5. So I don’t think that’s a
valid defense anyhow. I’m in Neil’s pride and joy, and
I’m now going to try and understand the car and find what
there is to enjoy about this car, and maybe, hopefully,
prove myself wrong. So Neil’s pride and joy
is a VR-Limited. That means it’s got
locking diff. It’s a 1.8 liter car. It’s gone 118,000 kilometers,
and it is rather a sweet little thing. I mean, obviously, the color’s
a bit questionable and some other things, but it’s Neil’s,
so he’s not a man of taste in some respects. What is right about this car
is that it feels the right size on the road. It’s got a really quite punchy
little engine, and it can be stroked along at reasonable
speed. Break down the components,
steering’s fine. I don’t think it’s brilliant. It’s not sort of chattering
away at me. People lead me to believe that
these things are all about communication, and I’m not
feeling that, perhaps partly because I’m sitting too high,
I think, for the type of car that it is. Gear box, pretty good. Lever’s quite short throw. Everything else about it is,
it’s good, it’s fun, but it’s not remarkable. It’s not something that would
get me absolutely screaming from the treetops about
how amazing a driving experience it is. Ultimately, and I use this
phrase a lot, if you push the car a bit harder, it doesn’t
seem to reward you an awful lot. And it starts to move
around a bit. It’s a bit wallowy. It’s got quite a lot of grip. It’s not moving around
the whole time. In the dry, you have to
try really hard to unstick it at all. In the wet, it’ll do this– well, now, I’ll cut you into
that, because that’s why it’s amazing, but if you try and
drive it like that in the wet the whole time, it can be quite
tricky, actually, even with this locking diff. Am I surprised at how
sweet this car is? Yes. Okay, Neil, a little bit. Was I too harsh overall
on the MX-5? Perhaps, but I’m gonna spend a
bit more time in this one to fall on my sword at all or to
retract anything I said. I think I was wrong to make
blanket assumptions about all MX-5s, because this one, to me,
feels a lot more fun than the Mk2 that I drove and also
than the later car, which as I said, I really don’t like
that much at all. So let’s move from these more
open roads, which really don’t suit the MX-5, because it
doesn’t feel that powerful anyway– and up here, it feels
like it’s really lacking power– and move into some more
tight, technical roads, which I think suit this
car far more. And as if by magic, we’re now
on a much narrower road. There are a few more curves
[INAUDIBLE] hedge rows. This is MX-5 country. To me, it’s not a car, still,
that I want to grab by the scruff of the neck, though. It’s not bad, but when it starts
to move around a bit, it all feels a little
bit messy. Suppose some people like that. I don’t, especially. There are probably two MX-5s. Now, bear with me. I’m not going mad. When you’re driving an MX-5 on
a day like today, the sun’s out, there’s the car that you’re
sitting in, and even for me, someone who isn’t a
fan of this thing, it’s a passable roadster. It’s actually quite nice
with the roof down. I accept that. But then there’s the MX-5 that
people see you driving. Now, I’m someone who is not
self-conscious, and I really don’t care about what I look
like in my clothes, as you can probably tell in my videos. But I just don’t like being
seen in this thing. Maybe it’s because it’s a bit
girly and all the usual hairdresser jokes. I don’t know what it is. I just– I feel a bit ashamed
in an MX-5. Now, if I don’t especially like
the outside of the car, there’s something very appealing
about the way this car’s aged inside. It’s very simple design, but the
one thing none of us can argue about the MX-5 is
the way this car was designed and built. It is a quality, quality
product. I mean, this one, 16 years
old, and it feels really, really solid. There’s a simplicity in here
that just wouldn’t be matched if we got into an equivalent,
contemporary MGF or something. That would now feel like
a right old man inside. This doesn’t. And also, because this is an
import car, it’s got this incredible hi-fi system with the
speakers in the headrests. That works absolutely
brilliantly. And the heater– the heater
can melt your shoes. The motor’s a good
sport, though. It’s willing. It revs up to about six and a
half, doesn’t really want to go much further than that. Gear ratios are a
bit too long. Look, I can objectively pull
holes in this car for quite a long time. Where I need to apologize
to the MX-5 community unreservedly is that this car is
worth 2000 pounds, and for the experience I’m having today,
genuinely, with the roof down and what I’m doing, I
don’t think you could match it for 2000 pounds. In my defense, at the time, I
wasn’t talking about all 2000 pound Mk1 MX-5s. I was talking more about the
more expensive cars that are getting into kind of used S1
Elise territory, because I think it doesn’t stack up
to an Elise at all. But for doing this, for
the money, OK, it’s a nice little thing. It is a nice little thing. But– and there has to be a “but,”
doesn’t there– I still don’t think it deserves
this amazing status as a driver’s car. I just don’t. I think it’s fine. I don’t think it’s bad. But for the money, give me a 205
GTI any day of the week, 161, I don’t mind. I just have a lot more
fun driving that car than I would this. But some people just love
having the roof off. So maybe this is a great
roadster and not a great sports car. Is that a fair definition? It can’t be that bad, can it?

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100 thoughts on “Is the Mazda MX-5 Any Good? – /CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

  1. My brother in law had a Ferrari Dino . He brought it by and after a short drive it blew the tranny and it spent 6 months in my carport . MX 5 is a great driver that won't break your bank account. As an aside , some UK gear heads seem to have attitude about cars that are not a mechanic's bread and butter send your kids to university like most British cars.

  2. Did I just hear Chris correctly ? He'd rather have a FWD hatchback than a RWD 2-seater convertible ??

    I've owned both a Mk1 MX5 and a S2 Lotus Elise. I hated the Elise after about 9 months and didn't think it was that good at any point of my ownership.
    I loved the MX5 that I had… which was, other than the paint, standard. (It was a 1.8i with PAS & elec windows)

  3. The moment you say your ashamed because its a hairdressers car , then its no longer about the car , its about the insecurity of your own masculinity . Speed or rather the lack of speed of this car , doesnt really enter my head when i drive it . I dont have to be a complete twat , and try and push the back end out on wet roads , i dont have to push it until its screaming at the top of the rev range . I drive the car because it puts a smile on my face , & most importantly because i haven't got to spend a fortune doing it . The only entertainment i get from ferraris , is watching youtube videos of car fails , where wankers with far to much money , end up making fools of themselves , by believing their racing drivers .

  4. This thick , ( i.e. no education to speak of ) ill mannered  idiot , has somehow acquired enough money to become a car snob . I don't think he is worth listening to , but endured the full ten minutes  to hear him out . Jeremy Clarkson , and everyone else who has ever driven an MX5 loves them , he doesn't ; so what !

  5. Chris admittedly doesn't care about what other people think, but then immediately contradicts himself by saying he cares about what other people think when he drives the MX5, espeically the hairdresser comments.. He almost feels insulted that people call this a sports car because that would drop it into the same category as some exotic Europeans cars, and thats not on..
    You can dislike the car sure, but you dont have to be stupid and borderline arrogant about it

  6. I spent 6 1/2 years selling Porsche and Ferrari cars. I love the MX5. I run a Mark 3 as a race car and can't wait to attend a track day and embarrass some people in very expensive cars. Sorry Chris, I'm not with you on this one. Love your work though.

  7. You have driven all sorts of good cars…. I came from driving old shi* Astra’s. When I drove the mx-5 NA it was like driving a real fun car for the first time. The good thing is, they are very affordable. What else is in its price class beating it?

  8. The Mx5 can be summed up in three letters, 'FUN'

    Its probably because Chris was not exposed to the mx5 when he was learning to drive, that he doesn't appreciate it the way we do.
    To some extent, Chris is right, but that's because hes looking at it from a sports car perspective. He compared it with the lotus elise… sorry but there's no comparison with between the two.
    his complaints were that the standard car is rather soft, not very sharp, steering's a little vague, gear ratios are long, not enough horsepower. the list goes on.

    BUT, its got alot of good points as stated in the comments! Fuel economical, cheap to run, practical for something its size, huge aftermarket, top down experience, the list goes on..
    Its the perfect first car.

    But what every owner can agree on is that these have some charm! something really endears them to us! dont know what it is, but it could be the sum of all its good points and bad ones! its like a puppy on a walk! its just moves about at normal speeds!

    Because that's what this little car is. its FUN.

  9. I am seriously considering a mk1 mx5 as my second car and my first rear wheel drive car. I have heard that mechanically they are sound. I am just concerned about RUST. Should I still buy one? If I use rust sealant to seal chassis, keep it washed regularly and get rid of mud in wheel arches regularly, will it not rust??????

  10. Harris kinda sounds like he’s insecure in his masculinity and doesn’t truly understand the fundamentals of driving enjoyment. But hey, to each her own

  11. I actually couldn't agree more. Great to hear someone finally say it. I have always wanted to like the miata but every time I drive one either on track, which I have done with skip barber on several occasions or hard on the road I don't like the way it sort of has a two stage knuckle over as it leans (and in the street car sort of wallows) into the corner and then finally loses grip. It's not flat and the breakaway not enjoyable. It is not snappy the way c5 and c6 corvettes can be if you don't drive them properly but the vettes are far more fun both on road and track. And it has no where near the flat precision of modern Porsches, whether Boxster/Cayman, 911 or even the all wheel drive 911 Turbos all of which I have owned and driven on track frequently . It also is less cohesive than the prior generation m3s or even regular 3's series-which are a great blend of practicality and performance.

    I think like Chris said about the 370z it is really a delightful 8/10ths sort of car. It is small, the roof comes down and, up to 8/10ths, a nice roadster to zoom around in. It can make running an errand enjoyable. But compared to the many sports cars of many makes I have owned it is lacking at and near the limit and not nearly as cohesive in transitions, and so not nearly as fun as a true sports car. It is as he said a nice roadster.

  12. Imagine being in a place where everyone who owns an MX-5 had enough money to drive a Lotus Elise instead. Yeah yeah Chris, this guy's MX-5's handling is in certain technical ways inferior to your Ferrari's. What are you really trying to tell us?

  13. Its a winner in that it rings a soft top to the public,at ok price.As for being ashamed you grandparents generation lucky to own a pedel bike how spoiled we are today.

  14. Ive driven an NA and owned a NB but when it came to a daily i got an NC as im 6ft 3 and i absolutely love it as a daily, the only downside for me is where to stop, as i live close to BBR and all those choices.

  15. I have a Porsche 968 Sport, an Alfa Romeo GTV Cup V6 and a Supercharged NA Mx5. They are all fantastic and equals in my eyes for the thrill they provide.

  16. This guy is a fool he's talking about a people's car and comparing it with somthing only half a percent of the population can afford to own. The idea behind the mazda mx5 is that its a little sports car that is reliable and fun to drive and cheap to own, anyone can have one, not anyone can own a ferrari

  17. I bought a MK1 in British Racing Green, beige leather interior, absolutely lovely. £8K and we had a FUCKING BLAST in it for a few years. That's what it's all about. A taste of the supercar life for pocket money.

  18. Comparison time.
    2016 lotus elise on autotrader.. £33k
    2016 mazda mx5 on autotrader again today.
    Both the cheapest ones available.
    So one car costs three times the amount.?
    Sorry Chris, just sad middle class snobbery.
    Nearly a million sales says it all.
    The mx5 was built for normal people who have to pick up repair bills and think about depreciation etc, not for motoring journalists who get to drive supercars for free for a living.
    Love 99% of your work, but this vid is a stinker.

  19. Fair assessment! "For the money, it is a nice, little thing." Seeing as a sports car enthusiast with a British accent such as yourself (I say that respectfully) was willing to change his opinion a little is giving a lot of credit to the MX-5's enduring appeal. Is it the greatest car ever? I'm sure there are those who might say so but I don't think so. I'm sure there are other sports cars that top the Miata in any single metric. Some may even be at a similar price point. But most agree that its value is in being overall a quality, appealing roadster on a limited budget. And I think you might be more self-conscious than you care to admit because I have no shame in being spotted in my Classic Red, beat up 93' MX-5. Who cares as long as I'm enjoying the ride?

  20. A lot of the commenter's arguments are "its okay for the money". So is public transportation . Which I would rather take than be seen  in that cereal box toy.

  21. Difference is it's like speaking to a audiophile about HIFI separates. You can get a great set of HIFI separates which sounds great, has good detail and is fun or you can spent hundreds of thousand on a super incredible system where you can hear all the detail and is technically brilliant. Most people like myself would just enjoy the fun aspect and don't take life too seriously.

  22. You Are an idiot perhaps learn how to drive then you'd appreciate the MX5 More I've only ever seen wankers behind the wheel of a ferrari. the MX5 Isn't a penis extension maybe thats what you don't like it !!

  23. We get it, you have a Ferrari and yes it may be superior in a lot of ways. No need to be a dickhead about it.

    But for fucks sake you can buy a miata for $2000 what do you want from the little thing? It corners better than any non-exotic car out there and you can slap a turbo on it and have a car with half decent acceleration, or settle for a newer one that is at just over six second 0-60 times…

  24. If you like the MX-5 but you also want a car that doesn't scream poverty out the open roof, get a BMW Z4. Yes, the beemer is not as handy 'round some corners but it's a good compromise for people who like a little wee bit of 'niceness' in their cars. The MX-5 really is a plane white sheet of paper and needs a lot of work until you feel yourself at home in the cabin.

  25. The MX-5 is for those of us who aren’t being handed the keys to supercars we’re allowed to go burn the tires off of free of charge. You can buy one of these for the cost of consumables for one of your videos for crying out loud.

  26. I'd be curious to see what Chris Harris thinks of the new, ND generation, MX-5, and whether he likes or dislikes it more than this NA chassis…

  27. The reason the mx5 has the following is because of its affordability and availability yes standard ones are not great but a set of coilovers and a good set of tyres and updated pads and lines and a few sound mods amd a small steering wheel and you are good to go for and enthusiastic drive the other thing is which other car can you genuinely drive flat out and be fun and not dangerous or as slow as a 1.2 on the road that is rwd apart from a well sorted MX-5 ?

  28. I think Chris summed it up perfectly in one sentence: the MX5 is a great roadster, but not a great sports car. To be fair, that's all it was ever meant to be – it's great at what it is, just don't expect it to be what it isn't and was never intended to be.

  29. I've had my MX5 mk1 19 years (first owner 5 yrs) and I love it,'s now at 54,000 miles and when I can get time to use it, I always have a smile on my face..if I was a rich guy like this guy and could own a Ferrari, then I may think differently, but this is what I can afford and it's beautiful…when I am in it I feel great and am in heaven, so enough said

  30. This is why u will never be as good as jeremy u criticise the humble cars we all love and only care about the super cars

  31. The problem with Chris is this, that he doesn't really like Japanese cars. He definitely prefers German cars. That's my opinion.

  32. Having owned a Miata for several years and loved the hell out of it while beating the hell out of it at the same time, It is the budget sports car for anyone. I drove it daily for 4 years and loved every minute. Yes, the 2 seat thing became an issue at times in highschool but other than that it was lovely. For the price, if you put in another 2-3k into it, get poly bushings all around, add some power, and some brakes, and you can have so much fun for so little money. THAT is why the Miata is such an iconic car. Not everyone is privldged enough to afford a Ferrari or Porsche and a Miata has always been the entry point into sports car ownership.

  33. You have fallen victim to comparing the MX-5 to supercars, or at least, cars that cost twice as much.

    For the money, there is NO better platform.

  34. I used to own an Rs98 mx5 in gold loved that car.. I now own a mr2 04 in red.. Compared to the mx5s. The mr2 roadster is faster, lighter, more economical, and as far as handling goes only thing better is an elise (so I've read) criminally undervalued.

  35. I agree 100%. I have a mk2.5, Its no rocket ship but it's still a fun place to be. And it suits my now somewhat ageing skill set.

  36. Owned a Cayman, RS Clio, multiple Alfa Romeos and some V8 muscle cars. The ND MX5 I owned easily beats all of them when it comes down to a fun, comfortable, reliable, engaging sports car that you can actually drive on "normal" roads without wrecking your spine, cringing and or slowing down as you go over regular bumps. Only thing that may beat it would be a Boxster, but I think they might be too big. I am currently back in the market for an MX5, and will get the NC this time due to better passenger legroom.

  37. It's a modern day MG midget or spitfire, for that they are the dogs danglies. It's not a sports car and gas never been pretentious enough to believe it is.

  38. I have the more advanced version, a 2008 special addition, 6 speed, 2.0 liter, traction control, flared fenders, 17 in wheels, Bose 7 speaker stereo, better looking dash, airbags, faster, cold air induction, high flower mufflers. with a beautiful icy blue metallic paint. Love my Miata..!!!

  39. bro who is cross shopping s1 lotus elise's and na miatas??? unfair. 205 gti would be a great alternative, if it were in the US.

  40. I have, and drive the hell out of my NC. Not fast!? How fast do you need it to be? Fast enough to keep up with some posh metal daily drivers at the light changes? Fast enough on a curvy two lane highway ramp to embarrass several muscle drivers into fits of high beam flashing when you merge ahead of them? It's quite fast for me. Maybe you're just driving it according to the instructions. It's a wonderful automotive machine that punches well above it's weight and class.

  41. I think I know your problem: you're on the wrong side of the road, and driving it from the passenger side.

  42. Chris Harris is normally a very good reviewer. But he was way off with the MX5. Firstly he should be reviewing the latest versions and secondly it seems he does not understand the concept of an MX5. Or maybe he does understand what its about, but cant get the negative stereotype (its a hairdressers car) out of his head.

  43. I agree with chris that a peugeot 205 gti is more fun to drive than an Na, Nb or Nc mx-5. But the new Nd is awesome.

  44. It is a great sportscar… i have had mine for 6 years…. it is a red convertable…….it is gorgeous…….and has a lot of pep…..!!!!!

  45. So he's driven the NB, the NC and the ND?. And the particular car he's in is an NC? I think that's what he's talking about starting at 6:20, but he's using the British terminology of Mark 1, 2, 3, 4 instead of the N– A ,B, C ,D American terms?

  46. I talked to a BMW owner, who told me that he swaps between his Z3 and MX-5 from time to time. He loves the Miata more because driving a Z3 can get sort of boring over time.

  47. You can't compare a mighty Mazda MX-5 with a Ferrari 599. You just can't. One is a classic little sporty car and the other is a **** for ******.

  48. People say M I A T A Is Always The Answer. They see the poetry and art of it's qualities. No other car in the world that I know of can meet the road at legal speed limits and deliver so much to the driver including reliability and affordability. Its a feel that captures and connects us to the ahha of the history and future of the roadster sports car. I don't know of any company in the world that offers such a cool reliable car for so cheap. …. Is there any fairness to comparing a $25,000 miata to any car above $50,000? Mind you it likely still wins out on many models. Thanks for the Video. Glad you got to enjoy the simple pleasure of an MX5.

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