The 2022 Mazda MX-5 is a genuinely thrilling sports car that doesn’t cost the world to own.

Can money buy happiness? For centuries, men wiser than I have argued that the answer to this age-old question is no. Nevertheless, sagacious as they were, philosophers like Epicurus, Schopenhauer, and Diogenes lacked one thing they may have convinced them otherwise: a 2022 Mazda MX-5.

Mazda’s renowned two-seat sports car has been freshly updated for 2022, although many of the changes it’s received are ones you’ll find under the skin – chiefly, updated suspension and more active safety tech made standard across the range. The Platinum Quartz paint of my tester is one of the more visible updates, as is the Terracotta leather in RF GT models. However, prices are up and the bargain-bin 1.5-litre model has disappeared; yet, here in Australia, pricing still starts at just $37,990 before-on road costs for the base Roadster tested here.

The MX-5 is certainly a dainty thing – and that’s coming from someone who daily drives a Kia Picanto – but it is beautifully proportioned and, to my eyes at least, looks rather pretty. Larger rims would help eliminate some of the space in the deliciously flared arches, but I suspect they would also ruin the MX-5’s remarkably supple ride (more on that later). The MX-5’s angered smile has proven an acquired taste, although I happen to find it rather endearing. 

From a design standpoint, the MX-5’s interior is perfectly agreeable. However, it falls short ergonomically – though this may have something to do with the MX-5 not exactly being built for a man of my 6’2″ stature. The footwell is cramped, the base model’s dashboard feels as plasticky as a child’s toy, and its seats are about as comfortable as a cushionless church pew.

Mind you, Drive Section editor Patrick who also stands at the same height has no trouble folding himself into the MX-5 – it’s all down to whether your height is in your legs or your torso, and in his case it’s the former. The leather-clad seats in GT models are also a bit nicer than the cloth items in the base Roadster and RF. There’s not much in the way of storage space either, although the deep 130-litre boot will easily swallow a couple of weekend bags.

The infotainment screen in the MX-5 is also feeling ancient by today’s standards. It comes with satellite navigation, but the graphics would have looked dated had they debuted on the Nintendo 64. Thankfully, the MX-5 does now come with wireless Apple CarPlay as standard, but even this proved to be fiddly to operate.

The MX-5’s screen is touch-sensitive, but the moment you set off it falls into a coma and becomes entirely unresponsive no matter how hard you prod it. This means that you’re forced to use the MX-5’s rotary dial to navigate the screen menus. While the dial is perfectly intuitive to use, it’s mounted so close to your seat that you practically have to fold your forearm in half just to reach it.

And yet, all of the bugbears melt away the moment you take the MX-5 for a proper, scruff-of-the-neck drive. Despite its hairdresser image, the MX-5 is less My Little Pony and more Arabian thoroughbred.

Mazda doesn’t quote an official 0-100km/h time for the 2022 MX-5, but independent testing suggests it takes around seven seconds for it to reach the metric century. Regardless, it feels noticeably quicker than the numbers suggest. The MX-5’s 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine may only produce 135kW and 205Nm, but it only has to push around 1081kg worth of metal.

It’s a raughty unit that buzzes like a hive of mechanical bees all the way to its 7500rpm redline. The MX-5’s diminutive size paired with its closely stacked six-speed manual transmission makes it a thrilling thing to wring. It’s efficient, too, sipping a mere 6.8L/100km. Greta would approve – this is guilt-free motoring at its finest.

That said, it’s the way the MX-5 tackles corners that is its pièce de résistance. For the 2022 model year, Mazda has given the MX-5 an inside-rear-wheel braking system called Kinematic Posture Control (KPC) that helps alleviate body roll in aggressive driving. It still rolls, mind you, but it feels well-judged and flows from corner to corner in an almost poetic fashion. However, in tighter chicanes, the MX-5 can lose composure.

Be that as it may, the upside of such soft suspension is that the MX-5 is perfectly usable day-to-day and will handle road imperfections with ease. If you’re planning on tracking your MX-5 it may be worth shelling out extra for the top-of-the-range GT RS model which comes equipped with track-ready Bilstein dampers and lightweight BBS wheels.

The MX-5’s beautifully weighted and communicative steering system is also a highlight. It constantly lets you know what the front tyres are up to without becoming tiresome. It is spectacularly confidence inspiring and allows you to push the rear-wheel drive MX-5 without fear of it suddenly understeering into a tree.

If anything, the MX-5 prefers to let the rear end slide – while power-oversteer is mostly out of question, a quick Scandi flick is all that’s needed to encourage the MX-5 to dance. Care should be taken in the wet, though, as with such a short wheelbase it will happily hand out punishment if you get ahead of yourself.

But at least you can rest assured that the MX-5 will do its best to keep you safe. Against the older 2016 ANCAP criteria, the MX-5 scored 35.20 out of a possible 37 marks and was awarded a five-star rating. Standard safety features include six airbags, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear-cross traffic alert. Rear AEB, driver attention monitoring, lane departure warning, rear parking sensors, and LED daytime running lights are also now standard across the 2022 Mazda MX-5 range.

It also comes covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, along with five years of capped price servicing. Servicing itself is required every 12 months or 15,000km, with an average cost of $413 per service for the first five visits.

I adore this car. I love how it looks. I love that it doesn’t cost the world to own. I love that every time I parked it, I wanted to instantly get back in and set off for another drive. 

If money doesn’t make you happy, then you’re not spending it right. What you need is a Mazda MX-5. Epicurus, Schopenhauer, and Diogenes I’m sure would all agree. 

2022 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Manual List Price: $37,990
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Ride & Handling - 9/10
  • 7/10
    Tech & Features - 7/10
  • 6.5/10
    Practicality - 6.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value for Money - 8.5/10

Pros: Intoxicating to drive, superb steering, compliant ride, will keep you young
Cons: Interior is an ergonomic nightmare for those over six feet tall, little storage space, infotainment system is feeling outdated

In a nutshell: The 2022 Mazda MX-5 is a thrilling sports car that somehow doesn’t cost the world to own – and that makes it worth every interior foible.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Mazda Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel expenses were covered by the author.

Noah Charalambous
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