Since its debut in April 1989, the MX-5 has won more than 200 international awards including the 2015-2016 Car of the Year Japan, World Car of the Year, and World Car Design of the Year 2016.
Colin Chapman, the legendary founder of Lotus Cars, once said that adding power makes a race car faster on the straights, but subtracting weight makes the car faster everywhere. Mazda has taken this mantra to heart and has reduced the weight of the fourth degeneration car by using lightweight materials like aluminum and ultra-high-tensile steel.
The entry level 124 Spider is powered by a Fiat-sourced 1.4 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, which is sent to the rear wheels via either a prior generation six-speed manual transmission, or the 6-speed automatic transmission. Fiat has also tuned the suspension to its liking. According to Fiat, the 124 Spider is the most affordable turbocharged convertible available with a starting price of $31,490.
Which one is better? That is up to each driver’s preference. Test drive them both and determine which is best for you. With more than one million built, it is not uncommon to see an MX-5 during summer driving months. The new incarnation of the 124 Spider (the original was built from 1966 to 1982) has only been available since 2016 and is sold in very small quantities, so you won’t see many of them on the road.
As is always the case, there are pluses and minuses with each of these two-seaters. For true top-down driving fun, the MX-5 soft top and 124 Spider win. For coupe-like protection from the outside elements, and for a much quieter driving experience, a top-closed MX-5 RF is the better choice. Test driving and experiencing each of these cars in real-world driving will help buyers determine which car is best for them.
Mazda is going to help the cause starting with the 2019 model by increasing the car’s horsepower from 155 to 181 and increasing the torque from 148 to 151 lb-ft. Will increasing the torque and horsepower in the 2019 model make it a better car and more fun to drive? Probably. But there aren’t many occasions when the 2018 MX-5 feels underpowered. A seventeen percent increase in horsepower sounds good, and we look forward to experiencing it firsthand.
For those living in climates that include snowy, wintery months, this is a very useable three-season car. Driving the MX-5 on a rain-soaked sixteen lane highway looking up at a never-ending horizon of eighteen-wheel tractor trailers is less than ideal and may result in sweaty palms. Driving this car on open roads with the top down, the sun on your face and wind in your hair, conversely, makes it easy to understand why this car is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the bestselling two-seater convertible sports car of all time. It is a winning formula that Mazda has improved and refined with each generation.