2016 Mazda MX-5 Icon Edition first drive review
The Mazda MX-5 has new competition from the Fiat 124 Spider, but this Icon Edition throw its simple, back-to-basics appeal into sharp focus.
- Limited edition, high-spec version of 1.5-litre MX-5
- Icon model features leather seats, styling upgrades
- On sale now priced from £20,995, with 600 available
Limited to 600 models in the UK, the Icon is only available with the 1.5-litre, 129bhp engine, and is easily distinguished from its kin, thanks to a garish set of chequered decals down each flank, and a ruby red finish for the front bumper, wing mirrors, and boot spoiler.
As well as the exclusivity that comes with owning a limited-run model, you also get extra kit on-board for your extra outlay. In this case handy (if a bit unnecessary) stuff like leather upholstered seats, rear parking sensors, and automatic lights and wipers.
That little lot adds up to £800 more than the standard SE-L Nav trim on which the Icon is based, but does the wonderfully simple MX-5 recipe really need any of this extra garnish?
The driving experience is the same enjoyable blend that has kept keen drivers coming back for more than a quarter of a century; so this is not a car for anyone who wants to be lazy behind the wheel.
With only a meagre 111lb ft of torque to be mustered from its little naturally-aspirated engine, you’re forced to work the tightly-wound manual gearbox for every ounce of performance. A tiny gear knob that fits perfectly into the palm of your hand aids that effort, making each shift raise a smile, and there’s a real satisfaction to wringing the engine for all it’s worth. This is one of only a handful of modern sports cars where the top of third is (almost) below the speed limit.
Of course, you need the right road to really enjoy a car that needs to be stirred so vigorously to get it going, but because the MX-5 is now so small and light, pretty much every quiet lane becomes the right road – it always feels alive, engaging, and – crucially – fun.
However, fun doesn’t necessarily mean precise as far as the handling is concerned. There’s lots of body roll, and on a bumpy road the MX-5 hops and floats around, pogoing on its soft springs.
Honestly, you’re unlikely to care, but if you harbour a deep-seeded urge to take it to a track, then the Icon is not the Mazda for you.
Yes, the more powerful, limited-slip differential-toting, 2.0-litre is only the price of a decent meal more, but the latest MX-5 was always designed as a 1.5, so the Icon is the car Mazda intended.
While the upgraded kit roster is generous, it does not transform the cabin into a luxurious cocoon from the elements. It has enough space for two people (just – the tall might disagree), two beverages, and not much else, and the 130-litre boot requires light packing, even on a day trip.
It’s fit for purpose though. The sat-nav and infotainment system is decent, and the heater vents blow hotter than a desert wind when you need them to – important if you are planning trips outside of the three-day window of warm weather known as the ‘British summer’.
As long as you like the looks, then we say go for it. The 1.5 version of the MX-5 offers a driving experience that is becoming rarer each year, and is brilliant fun. Its minor flaws are never a barrier to your enjoyment, as long as you don’t mind being overtaken by the odd hatch. It’s a car that feels alive, and it’ll make you feel that way too.
- Model: Mazda MX-5 Icon Edition 1.5
- Price: £20,995
- Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder, six-speed manual
- Power/Torque: 129bhp, 111lb ft
- 0-62mph: 8.3 secs
- Top speed: 127mph
- Economy: 47.1mpg
- CO2/BIK tax liability: 139g/km / 23%
- Boot space: 130 litres
Feels quicker, and it comes with two extra seats and a bigger boot, but drives more like an unruly hot-hatch than a pointy sports car.
Fiat 124 Spider
The biggest difference between this and the MX-5 is looks, so if you prefer the Fiat’s styling then you’ll feel right at home driving it.
A lightweight, pretty coupe that’s exclusive, more rewarding to drive, and quicker, with sharper body control, pricier though.