The Mazda MX-5 is perhaps one of the greatest sports cars of all time. Its widespread sales success as the most sold sports car in the world would certainly back up that claim.
The original took the concept of the small British 2-seater roadster, taking inspiration from none other than the Lotus Elan, and combined it with Japanese engineering proficiency.
The results spoke for themselves. The Mazda MX-5 combined drop-top driving, a lightweight chassis, sharp handling, and impeccable steering feel, with affordability and reliability. This very formula kept the MX-5 alive and well for generations, one of very few sportscars to do so.
In 2016, Mazda released the fourth generation MX-5, which channelled all the same qualities as the original. Seven years into the modern MX-5’s running, Mazda decided to give it a modest refresh.
Today, in 2023, we have the Mazda MX-5 GT. It’s the same formula, but this time, Mazda’s given the MX-5 a serious streak, providing it with handling upgrades to make it more track-day ready.
So, is the Mazda MX-5 GT the most serious MX-5 yet? We had it for a week to find out.
What We Like and Dislike About The 2023 Mazda MX-5 GT
|What we like||What we don’t like|
Fantastic manual transmission
Solid Brembo brakes
Improved ride quality
Excellent Bose stereo
Little cabin storage
Doesn’t enjoy revving out as much as the older MX-5 models
What’s In The 2023 Mazda MX-5 GT Range?
There are two variants of the MX-5 available for New Zealand buyers. The introduction of the MX-5 GT hasn’t changed this, as it replaces the outgoing MX-5 ‘Roadster’ in the MX-5 line-up.
Beforehand, the choice was basically either a soft-top or hard-top, the Roadster being the former, and the RF the latter. The GT introduces a bit more variety into the mix. Opting for the GT gives you 17’’ forged BBS alloys, Brembo Brakes and Bilstein suspension, none of which the RF has.
The RF, of course, is a bit more seasonally friendly with its folding hard-top. It can also be paired with an automatic transmission option for an extra $1,400, but do you reeaaally want that?
Whatever your choice, your MX-5 will be powered by a 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder SV-T engine, producing 135kW of power at 7,000rpm and 205Nm of torque at 4,000rpm.
Both the GT and the RF start at $57,590.
2023 Mazda MX-5 GT Equipment Highlights
- 17’’ BBS Forged Alloys
- 7’’ Infotainment W Satnav, Apple Carplay, Android Auto
- 9-Speaker Bose Audio System With 203-Watt Amp
- Heated Leather Seats
- Climate Control
- Keyless Entry
- Rear Parking Sensors
- Auto-Dimming Rear-View Mirror
- LED Headlamps With Auto On/Off
- LED Daytime Running Lights
- Heated Mirrors
- Body-Coloured Upper-Door Panels
Being the modern age, the MX-5 comes with a full suite of safety technology as standard. This includes:
- Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
- Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)
- Cruise Control
- Driver Attention Alert (DAA)
- Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
- Emergency Stop Signalling system (ESS)
- Driver Attention Alert (DAA)
- Dynamic Stablity Control (DSC)
- Emergency Stop Signalling system (ESS)
- Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW)
- Hill Launch Assist (HLA)
- Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
- Manual Speed Limiter (MSL)
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
- Smart Brake Support (SBS)
- Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) (Forward & reverse)
- Traction Control System (TCS)
- Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR)
- Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Previously, there were six colours to choose from for your MX5. The introduction of the GT has brought with it an additional one, dragging the total up to seven. These are listed below
- Zircon Sand Metallic
- Platinum Quartz Metallic
- Deep Crystal Blue Mica
- Jet Black Mica
- Snowflake White Pearl Mica
- Soul Red Crystal Metallic (+$700)
- Machine Grey Metallic (+$700)
For more information on the Mazda MX-5 range, visit Mazda New Zealand’s website.
How Does The 2023 Mazda MX-5 GT Compare To Its Competition?
I’m not exaggerating when I say the Mazda MX-5 is in a class of its own. There’s virtually no other 2 seat roadsters with a price tag under $100,000 available. If you want performance for the money, you’re getting into hot hatches, or the Toyota GR86. However, Toyota closed allocations for 2023, meaning you can’t even try to buy one until 2024. For now, the MX-5 stands proudly alone. Proudly, alone.
|Mazda MX-5 GT||2-litre, 4-cylinder engine||135/205||6.3||7.6||130||$58,290|
|Toyota GR86 Manual||2.4-litre 4-cylinder boxer engine||174/250||5.9||10.6||226||$56,990|
First Impressions Of The 2023 Mazda MX-5 GT
Ever since the original, the MX-5’s light-hearted personality has always shone through in its design. Sure, this “ND” generation car may have a keen face, but the rounded edges, bulbous arches and the smiling grille still sends all the right signals. An MX-5 is a jovial and effervescent car. It’s never been aggressive.
That said, the MX-5 GT does have a serious streak. That’s mostly thanks to what’s underneath the arches, being the blacked-out BBS wheels with Brembo brakes underneath, finished in an eye-popping red. There’s also a few more cosmetic nips and tucks, including dual exit exhaust tips and blacked-out wing mirrors.
To sum it up, the GT is an MX-5 with its track shoes on, and it’s feeling competitive.
Our press vehicle is featured in Platinum Quartz, which is a new colour for the MX-5 range. I would describe it as Silver with a Bronze hue. It’s quite a nice colour once you’ve had time to admire it, but personally, it wouldn’t be my first choice. That choice would go to Soul Red.
What’s The Interior Like In The 2023 Mazda MX-5 GT?
We’ve already discussed the cabin of the MX-5 in past reviews. You can find our detailed thoughts here.
There are no changes to the cabin for the 2023 model year. It’s fortunate, because the modern MX-5 cabin is pretty much spot-on for a small 2-seat roadster. The entire cabin is well-built, functional, and everything is at your fingertips. There are also plenty of creature comforts, which will make daily driving the MX-5 a pleasant experience.
In short, there’s plenty to like and not a lot to dislike.
Among the highlights is the driving position. You sit low, cradled by the MX-5’s leather sports seats. You’re flanked by a high transmission tunnel, allowing your arm to fall perfectly to the shifter. The door belt-line is just low enough to allow for some arm-out-the-window action too.
Interacting with the interior is also a pleasant experience. As mentioned, everything is right at your fingertips. The switchgear is nicely damped and all the core controls all do what you’d expect them to. Mazda knows drivers want to drive, and aren’t interested in fluffing about with touch screens and soft interior controls.
A good stereo is almost a pre-requisite for a good convertible. Fortunately, Mazda fitted the MX-5 with a 9-speaker Bose audio system, backed-up with a 203W amplifier. I’ve found Bose car audio systems to be either hit-or-miss, but the system in the MX-5 is an absolute home-run. Suffice to say, you’ll have little trouble hearing your tunes with the top-down.
Some of you might think that a soft-top MX-5 is a summer-only toy. In reality, you’ll be able to enjoy some top-down action in 3-out of 4 seasons, probably. There’s not a huge amount of wind-buffeting in the cabin, and the climate controls and heated seats have enough grunt to create an effective little micro-climate, even with the roof-off.
Are there any downsides? Well, the cabin space is naturally constrained by the MX-5’s small stature. In other words, the MX-5 is not made for tall people. I found myself nearly brushing the roofline, and I am only 5’11. Storage is also a sore point, and while those detachable cup holders are a stroke of genius, I kept managing to elbow them when they are mounted on the centre console.
One might also criticise Mazda for continuing to use its older infotainment software in the MX-5, but you’ll hear no such words from me. The software has a simple interface and it rarely lags. Importantly, you needn’t pay much attention to it, which is perfect for the MX-5. However, if you’re the sort that can’t look up from their phone for more than two minutes, then it mightn’t meet your standards.
What’s The 2023 Mazda MX-5 GT Like To Drive?
Creating a sports-car in the modern era is arguably harder than it has ever been before. It not only must be fun and engaging to drive, but it also needs to comply with emissions, safety and cross-market homologations standards. It also needs to keep up with technology and the demands of modern consumers. Oh, did we forget that the car needs to break-even too?
Because of this, the new MX-5 is a bit of a modern marvel, because it continues to exist as a fun, light-weight and relatively inexpensive roadster, despite inhospitable market conditions. The MX-5’s lack of direct competition is evidence of this fact.
Fortunately, the MX-5 is more than just margin to Mazda. It’s a legacy car, which helped put Mazda on the map in America in the 1990’s. Years of producing the MX-5 has allowed Mazda to hone their craft, and in 2016, Mazda released the MX-5 ND. ND referring to the 4th generation.
The MX-5 GT is more-or-less the same as the outgoing MX-5 Roadster. Except, Mazda’s given the MX-5 GT a serious streak.
This means a fresh set of 17’’ forged BBS wheels, Bilstein dampers, Brembo brakes, dual exit exhaust tips and the addition of Kinematic Posture Control (KPC) – more on this later.
But if the formula was already so good, why did Mazda change it up? Good question.
Mazda’s learned more than a thing-or-two about the ND platform since first being launched nearly seven years ago. Learning from both their customers and from their brand-endorsed MX-5 racing series, Mazda’s tweaked the MX-5 GT for owners who’d like something more track ready.
But, doesn’t adding aggressive hardware taint the experience on normal roads? Nope.
In fact, many of the changes aren’t as dramatic when you’re driving inside seven-tenths of the limit. If anything, you’re more likely to notice the improved dampening qualities of the Bilstein suspension at city speeds, meaning improved ride quality for your trips around town.
It’s not until you really start to fly, that you’ll notice and appreciate the new hardware.
At speed, the MX-5 GT feels firmer and more planted than the outgoing Roadster. This is, again, owed to the Bilstein dampers which firm up under heavier loads, dialling down the body-roll of the outgoing car.
The forged BBS wheels reduce unsprung mass, allowing the Bilstein suspension to react faster and provide better grip. The lower rim weight also reduces the rolling inertia, meaning the MX-5 should also accelerate quicker. That said, my hypersensitive bottom didn’t notice this as much compared with other changes.
Another tangible change you’ll notice are the brakes. The new Brembo’s are bitier and have a confident pedal feel. But you won’t appreciate their biggest benefit until you’re on the track, where the Brembo’s should resist fade for longer.
Then, there’s KPC, which is Mazda’s little dark horse. Essentially, it’s software that helps you corner, by braking the inside rear wheel when cornering quickly. By doing this, the MX-5 is pulled in for a tighter cornering radius.
I know the purists amongst us might recoil at the idea of the MX-5 with electronic cornering nannies, but it’s passive enough so that it doesn’t feel unnatural. You’ll only notice it working when you need it to, and when it does, it’s impressive stuff.
Think of it as software that supports the Limited Slip Differential. Don’t worry, Mazda hasn’t ditched the diff for it.
Despite all these seemingly serious handling tweaks, the MX-5 GT still retains the playful character of the outgoing Roadster. It still feels light on its feet and the chassis is keen to move around underneath you. Even with the new dampers, the MX-5 GT still has a slight lean in the corners, but that’s by design.
The uninitiated might be surprised to hear those words. Nearly all Mazda MX-5’s through the years have exhibited some body-lean, because it’s deliberately engineered that way.
Sure, body roll is often equated with poor handling. That’s usually due to the delayed change of direction and how the weight transfer interferes with vehicle control.
The MX-5 is different, because the chassis has little rotational inertia. The chassis responds immediately to any input, changing direction quickly. Its lightweight frame and 50/50 weight distribution provides the car with a natural balance, meaning that the lean doesn’t interfere with driver control.
Instead, the lean is the chassis’ way of telegraphing the MX-5’s natural limits, providing you with immediate feedback on how far you’re pushing it. It’s very natural and becomes a positive feedback sensation rather than a negative one.
Not convinced? Go drive one. You’ll see exactly what I mean. It’ll also give you the opportunity to appreciate why the MX-5 has its reputation of being one of the best handling cars on the market.
Adding to this, the MX-5 GT’s steering is direct and well-weighted. Modern MX-5’s use electric racks, meaning they do not have the lovely texture of the hydraulic racks in older MX-5 models. That said, the GT’s electric steering feel is about as good as it gets, before you start adding numbers to the price tag.
So, for all the handling upgrades to the MX-5 GT, are there any changes to the engine and gearbox? That’s another nope.
The GT has the same 2-litre 4-cylinder, outputting 135 kW of power and 205 Nm of torque. That mightn’t seem like much on paper, but realise it’s being sent through a frame that barely weighs much over a ton. Combine that with an engine tuned for strong mid-range torque and the MX-5 can honestly haul.
Sure, the MX-5 has never been known to be fast in a straight line. Even I, having owned five MX-5’s through the years, will confess to that. Although, if you’ve never experienced an ND generation MX-5, you’ll be in for a bit of a shock. Dare do I say – it feels fast!
The numbers will back this up too. 0-to-100kph is dispensed-of in 6.3 seconds, which is objectively quick. It might be hard to see it given how jaded we are with big numbers these days. But, compare it with another objectively quick car, like a new Volkswagen Golf GTI, it may surprise you to learn that the MX-5 is actually quicker (by 0.2 seconds). By the way, the GTi has 55kW extra power.
The engine itself is impressively refined. It may lack the grit or rawness that a dedicated performance engine can provide, but living with an angry performance engine can be a bit tough in the real world. You’ll probably appreciate Mazda’s more civilised engine if you’re planning to do some actual mileage.
If there are any downsides, it’s at the top-end. There isn’t a whole lot of shunt once you’ve passed through the peak of the torque curve. It also means there’s no real reward for chasing the redline in a modern MX-5, which is unlike the older cars. I suppose that’s progress?
Another quality to appreciate is the gearbox. The MX-5’s 6-speed is honestly one of the best manuals you can buy today. It’s short throw and tactile shifter feel is so enjoyable, you’ll want to change gears just to experience it.
If you’re considering an MX-5, I don’t think having the latest safety gubbins will matter to you. Or least, it shouldn’t. Regardless, the MX-5 still has a decent amount of safety tech included with it. Although, the fact the ND MX-5 has been around since 2016 means you’ll miss out on features like adaptive cruise and lane centring assistance software.
But these features only remove the driver from the equation. And, who’d want that in an MX-5?
2023 Mazda MX-5 GT Specifications
|Vehicle Type||2-door convertible sports car|
|Price as Tested||$58,290|
|Engine||2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine|
|Transmission||6-speed manual transmission|
|Spare Wheel||Space saver|
|Kerb Weight, Kg||1,134|
|Length x Width x Height|
|3915 x 1735 x 1230|
|Fuel tank capacity,|
(95 octane or higher)
|Advertised Spec – Combined – 8.4|
Real-World Test – Combined – 7.6
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
|Warranty||5 years Mazdacare warranty unlimited km|
5 years Roadside Assistance unlimited km
Mazda Servicing for 3 years/100,000km
|Safety information||ANCAP Rating – 5 stars |
Rightcar.govt.nz – 5 Stars