• Review 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

Review: 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

Catch me if you can.

Stephanie Wallcraft By: Stephanie Wallcraft October 26, 2019


    • What’s Good: The gorgeous special features on this already-excellent car.
    • What’s Bad: I’m getting too old for cars this low.


I feel very special: Mazda made a car just for me!

Okay, that’s not true. But it might as well be. It’s got a snappy manual transmission, it drives like a go-kart on steroids, it’s loaded with special touches – and they even made it available exclusively in my favourite shade of racing orange.

I’ve never loved a car this hard that costs less than $50,000, and I’m not sure I ever will again. Sadly, I don’t have the money sitting around to get my hands on a Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition before the global allotment of 3,000 inevitably sells out, only 165 of which are headed to Canada.

But if you want to run out and order one to make it even less likely that it will ever fall back into my hands, I wouldn’t blame you. I can’t be the only person who will fall head over heels for this covetous yet attainable piece of near-perfect machinery.

Is it ridiculous to be so enamoured with something so impractical, so frivolous? Absolutely. Sorry, not sorry. This car is for the You Only Live Once crowd, and in it, I am their queen.

Exclusive Features

There’s very little mechanically that’s different between this car and the regular MX-5. There are two ways to look at this: either the MX-5 didn’t need a lot of improvement, or I’m a sucker who’s easily impressed by pretty things. (I tend to think it’s the former, but seriously: who doesn’t love getting into a car and feeling instantly happy?)

Review 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

Review 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

The main addition that’s not purely for show is the upgraded brake calipers, which are Brembos at the front and Nissins at the rear, nestled under a gorgeous set of special-edition Rays forged aluminum wheels. (Yes, the calipers are painted orange, too – so good!) A guy rolled down his window to yell at me at a stop light – my roof was already down, so that makes these things easier – and tell me that he loves the car, “but those brakes, aren’t they really grabby?” No, they’re not grabby at all. You hardly notice them until you want them, and then they’re everything you want.

On top of the leather, Alcantara, and orange accents all over the interior, there’s also a pair of Alcantara-lined Recaro sport seats with orange piping and speakers embedded into the headrests. Yes, this car’s list price of $45,995 feels like a lot. But in reality, that’s less than $5,000 more than the top-of-the-line run-of-the-mill MX-5, and in my view that’s a fair amount of extra cost for what’s packed in here.

Upgraded Powertrain for 2019

Once you get through that list, what you’re left with underneath it all is still an MX-5. Funny story: fellow Wheels.ca writer Dan Heyman and I were driving together recently, and a propos to absolutely nothing else we were talking about at the time – if you get to know Dan, this comes as no surprise – he asks which is my favourite generation of MX-5. Without missing a beat, I respond that it’s the current generation, the ND. “Mine is (the first generation,) the NA,” he says, and then immediately reneged. “Why did I even say that? Because I’m nostalgic? That’s stupid. It’s the ND, all the way.” Before long, we’re both nodding and agreeing that if you put the drive experience first and foremost, then that’s the only correct answer.

[And then he drove another NA Miata and changed his mind again. -Ed.]

Review 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

All that is to say that having the 2019 MX-5 to work with here isn’t exactly a bad thing. It has a power bump for this model year in its 2.0-litre four-cylinder Skyactiv-G engine to 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. I don’t know that it drives a whole lot differently as a result of this change, but I also don’t know that it needed to. And its lightweight and pleasantly stiff body are a joy when set into action. Yes, it rides a little rough on some of our more pothole-ridden roads, but if you just think of it as extra motivation to dodge them then it’s an easy thing to get over.

You can have this 30th Anniversary Edition MX-5 with a six-speed automatic transmission. But you should know that by choosing this heresy, you also choose to lose the Bilstein dampers, strut tower bar, and limited-slip differential. Your call.

Updated Technology

Here’s something that adds big time to the value behind that extra cost: these 30th Anniversary cars are currently the only MX-5s you can buy in Canada with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto built in by the factory. (It can be added to other trims, but it has to be done by your dealer.) With Android Auto – sadly, I don’t have access to an iPhone for testing – the user interface functions smoothly and intuitively. This is a very welcome addition.

Review 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

Review 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

A Few Caveats You Can Ignore

It would be unprofessional of me to write a universally glowing review, so here are some things I feel obligated to point out. If you’re as enamoured with this car as I am, you can probably just ignore them entirely.

This observation isn’t specific to the Anniversary Edition, but I couldn’t help but notice something that other Generation Xers who are approaching or knee-deep in their mid-life crises should bear in mind: I’m not having as easy a time getting into and out of these things as I once did.

Review 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

And I would have a harder time justifying the RF hard-top version, which is also available in 30th Anniversary spec, because my torso is so tall that my head hits the headliner. That extra inch or so of clearance in the soft top solves the issue for my 5-foot-7-inch frame.

I happen to like using very small handbags, so mine fits in the little cubby between the seats. If that describes you, or you otherwise don’t carry a lot of stuff, you might not mind the lack of storage. But if you’re someone who carries a larger tote, you might not enjoy having to put it in the trunk or the passenger footwell, especially when the roof is down.

Review 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

That’s it, really; just your average considerations when you’re shopping for a small roadster, in which case you’re likely already familiar with what you’re getting yourself into.

The Verdict

In case this isn’t yet eminently clear: it’s a wonder they didn’t have to chase me to Mexico to get this one back.

2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition

BODY STYLE: Roadster
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
ENGINE: 2.0-litre I4; 181 hp at 7,000 rpm, 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY (L/100km): 9.0 city/7.0 hwy/8.1 combined
PRICE:  $45,995 as tested, including freight and PDI