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2022 Mazda MX-5 Review: Still Top Marks, But the Pressure’s On

2022 Mazda MX-5 | Photo: D.Heyman
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Dan Heyman
Not the perfect driver’s car, the MX-5 comes closer to that than just about anyone else
2022 Mazda MX-5, front
2022 Mazda MX-5, front | Photo: D.Heyman

On the road
At 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, power from the 2.0L 4-cylinder is not stratospheric. But since all you have to do is hustle along just over 1,060 kg of mass plus the driver, I wouldn’t worry too much about it affecting the bottom line in the performance sense.

Even with me inside it, the MX-5 takes off from the line not quite with its hair on fire, but at least with its eyebrows singed. Plus, when you’re this low to the ground, things seem to be moving a lot faster than they actually are anyway, so I really couldn’t care less if the stopwatch on this is a little slower than in other cars.

Not to mention that rowing through the 6-speed gearbox is just such a joy. The stubby gearlever is easily reached and flicked, compelling you to shift a little more often than you otherwise would, just to feel the fantastic linkages at work. Plus, the power being what it is, you’re going to want to row those gears a little more as you do your best to keep everything on boil.

Of course, the big story with the 2022 MX-5 – as has been the case with MX-5s since they first landed – is its performance in the bends. Which, safe to say, is as precise as it looks, what with its wheels pushed all the way to the corners, those skinny headlamps and that Jag-F-Type-mimicking rear end.

2022 Mazda MX-5, three-quarters front
2022 Mazda MX-5, three-quarters front | Photo: D.Heyman

Left-right-left-right-left… I could probably do this all day, as addictive as it is to nail every possible apex on my favorite roads in this car. There’s just something about looking out and using the front fenders as aiming reticles, and just watching as the road flows underneath.

For 2022, Mazda has taken strides to reduce body movement even further by adding something called Kinematic Posture Control (KPC). While KPC sounds like something having to do with the seats -- Nissan Zero Gravity seating-style -- that actually has nothing to do with it. At all. Rather, it applies a slight amount of braking to the inner rear wheel during cornering. This works in conjunction with the anti-lift suspension to help pull the body closer to the tarmac, helping keep things more planted. And, in true MX-5 fashion, it does all this without adding a single atom of weight.

Now, I’ve driven many MX-5s over the years and I can’t say that the ’22 model felt hugely different with this new tech. In a taller vehicle, I’m sure the sensation would be better felt but the MX-5 is already so planted, so sticky and so good at this kind of stuff that I’m surprised they even bothered. Really, the only ask I had of the dynamics – and it is somewhat boy racer-ish, I’ll admit -- was it to be a little easier to un-stick the rear end. One way to do that would to add just a little more power; that would not go unnoticed especially considering what’s going on over at Toyota with the new GR 86.

At the end of the day, though, while I guess there’s something to be said for being able to better carry out a slide or two, it’s a sacrifice I’m happy to make for just how easy it is to get comfortable with the chassis in all other instances, and how well it works in the day-to-day.

Which is all good – but there is a bit of a problem for the MX-5 at this juncture, and it has to do with the aforementioned GR 86. In its earlier iterations, the Toyota didn’t have quite enough to take the compact sports car crown away from the MX-5. Now, however, with this new car and its newly calibrated chassis and – most importantly – more powerful engine, I know that having driven both, my choice between these two isn’t as clear. They are both fantastic cars – and motoring enthusiasts should be very happy that both continue to co-exist – but the 86 is going to make buyers in this segment think on their choice more than it ever has before.

Specifications sheet of 2022 Mazda MX-5

2022 Mazda MX-5, headlight
2022 Mazda MX-5, headlight | Photo: D.Heyman

We like

A perfect driver’s car
Easy folding soft top
We like less

Aged infotainment
200 hp would be nice
Premium fuel recommended     

The competition

Honda Civic Si
Hyundai Veloster N
Mini Cooper Convertible
Subaru BRZ
Toyota GR 86
Volkswagen Golf GTI

2022 Mazda MX-5, rear
2022 Mazda MX-5, rear | Photo: D.Heyman
2022 Mazda MX-5 pictures
Dan Heyman
Dan Heyman
Automotive expert
  • Over 12 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 70 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 150 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists