Manual or automatic transmission? Roadster or Roadster GT? And, now that a bigger-engined variant has been released, 2.0-litre or 1.5-litre?
These are the choices buyers of Mazda’s new ND model MX-5 sports car are free to make.
Mazda tips a sales split of 50:50 with buyers expected to favour the higher-spec Roadster GT over the Roadster by 70:30 percent. The manual is forecast to be the transmission of choice, 60:40 percent.
We’ve driven all examples but, for comparison’s sake, let’s look at the predicted best seller, the six-speed manual Roadster GT.
At $39,500, the 2.0-litre version costs $1560 more, though with 118kW of power @ 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4600rpm, you get more oomph for your dollar. This amounts to increases of 23 and 33 percent respectively over the 1.5-litre’s 96kW @ 7500rpm and 150Nm @ 4800rpm.
The combined ADR fuel figure is 6.9 litres/100km, 0.8 higher than the smaller engine.
Standard equipment common to both includes MZD Connect, Bose premium audio with nine speakers, satellite navigation, Bluetooth hands-free and audio capability, LED daylight running lamps, climate control, heated front sports seats and choice of black or tan leather interior.
So much for crunching the numbers, but an enthusiast car like the MX-5 is bought arguably more with the heart than the head. Which, then, is the better drive?
Importantly, handling-wise, the 2.0-litre matches the 1.5’s revered 50:50 front-rear weight balance and low centre of gravity. With bigger rubber and taller wheels, the grip level on the 2.0-litre is greater and thus not quite as entertaining and exploitable, but both cars lap up corners and flow with the road in time-honoured MX-5 fashion.
Ride quality on the 2.0-litre’s larger 17-inch wheels (the 1.5 has 16”) is noticeably firmer with more road rumble.
The larger engine weighs about 25kg more, but we would defy anyone to notice the difference given the extra power and torque that makes it a meatier, more tractable unit. 0-100km/h comes up a second quicker – 7.3 seconds pays 8.3 – though where you really feel the difference for the better is punching out of corners or when the going gets steep.
That said, there’s little between them overall. The 1.5 is an engaging drive and a year-round ticket to the proverbial fun park but, as a package, the 2.0-litre is more complete.