2024 Mazda MX-5: Little Details That Make All the Difference

Strong points
  • So much fun to drive
  • Steering is even more precise now
  • Perfect driving position
Weak points
  • Limited space
  • Mazda Connect system isn’t very intuitive
  • Touchscreen capability with CarPlay and Android Auto only
Full report

Los Angeles, California—The fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 (codenamed ND) has been around for nearly a decade and is still going strong. But why did the Japanese automaker choose to invite a bunch of journalists to a special test drive on the winding roads surrounding Los Angeles earlier this month?

You see, Mazda engineers have found a way to keep their little roadster fresh and even make it better and more fun for the 2024 model year. How much has the car changed? Read on for our driving impressions and don't miss the video at the end.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

It’s What You Can’t See That Counts

In the 35 years following its original debut at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the lovely Miata/MX-5 has gone through four body styles and very little evolution. Sure, there have been many variations and special editions, but the basic concept is always the same—a modern, more reliable interpretation of classic British roadsters.

The awards have kept pouring, and for 2024, the ND MX-5 gets a series of tweaks that can’t be enjoyed with the naked eye but will definitely please even the most hardcore fans.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

First of all, steering is more precise and quicker than ever thanks to updated control software. Not only that, but engineers have successfully minimized vibration through the steering rack, which reduces fatigue after a long time spent driving or when pushing the car on a track.

The other big news for 2024 is an asymmetric limited-slip differential. This compact and lightweight conical clutch LSD has been tuned to offer a more progressive locking action as torque is applied thanks to a cam mechanism which allows for different ramp angles on acceleration and deceleration. The result is improved precision on initial turn in and the ability to put the power down effortlessly on corner exit.

Finally, while it didn’t add a Sport or Eco mode, Mazda has enhanced the MX-5's Dynamic Stability Control program with a Track mode that can be activated using a small checkered flag button. Basically, it raises the threshold of the DSC system so that the system will only intervene when the driver has lost control. For novice and intermediate drivers, this is a great way to improve their driving skills on a track.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

Updated Cabin With New Tech

The interior layout of the fourth-gen MX-5, including the instruments, dashboard, shifter and manual parking brake, is unchanged for 2024. However, there’s a new 8.8-inch centre display with a slimmer contour improving visibility. Touchscreen capability is available exclusively when using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Meanwhile, Mazda Connect is more advanced and features sharper graphics.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

The cabin offers precious space, but two normal-sized adults will fit snuggly in the seats. Ergonomics are wonderful with easy-to-use HVAC controls, another button to open the power retractable hard top (MX-5 RF only) and a steering wheel that is oh-so fantastic to grab and manipulate.

Driving a Future Classic

Even though the ND is almost 10 years old, the thrills behind said steering wheel are in no way diminished. On the contrary, with small but key changes for 2024, the latest model offers MX-5 enthusiasts more reasons to be happy.

During our test drive in L.A., we quickly realized that Mazda’s efforts to reduce vibration through the steering have not gone to waste. As soon as the road started to twist like overcooked spaghetti, the roadster shined like a thousand stars. Steering is so much quicker and more precise now that we had to adjust input in the first few corners.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

The asymmetric LSD and DSC-Track mode also proved plenty useful in certain situations, such as a hairpin turn where the car largely oversteered yet inspired no fear whatsoever behind the wheel.

The engine? Well, it’s still super-responsive and happy to perform at higher revs. As for the six-speed manual transmission (one of the few that remain in 2024), playing with the stick is an almost orgasmic experience, while perfectly positioned pedals make heel-toe shifting a breeze.

Our Verdict

No car embodies Mazda’s Jinba Ittai philosophy better than the MX-5, which truly and positively feels like an extension of the driver—whether in heavy traffic, on a track or on the magnificent road crossing the Angeles National Forest. The fifth generation of the iconic roadster might be coming up, but in the meantime, those who love to drive and feel the wind in their hair can have a ton of fun.

Watch: A Closer Look at the 2024 Mazda MX-5 in L.A.

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