The Mazda MX-5 has pretty much set the standard for small roadsters. It has good all-around performance, and has always been one of the best-selling convertibles on the market. Being so small, the equipped 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine lets the MX-5 sprint to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 130 mph. That’s not bad, but is the car actually safe? According to the European New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), the MX-5 is reasonably safe, but not as safe as it could be. NCAP gave it four out of five stars, but what does that really mean?
For adult occupant ratings, NCAP’s findings were good overall. Frontal collisions with something that isn’t the full width of the car – like a pole, for example – showed good protection all the way around, but the driver would have only adequate protection for his head, torso, and lower legs. A full-width, frontal impact resulted in good protection all the way around. Side-impact testing showed good protection, except for the torso area. Rear-impact testing showed both occupants would have good protection from whiplash.
For child occupant safety, the MX-5 offers both Isofix and an airbag cut-off switch, so if you were forced to use a child’s car seat, it would be reasonably safe. Pedestrian safety was higher than the other ratings. The bumper received a maximum score, while the “active” hood system, which raises the hood during an impact, offers good protection for the chest and head.
Safety assist is another category NCAP evaluates, and its the MX-5’s biggest weakness. The car comes standard with electronic stability control and a seat belt reminder, and the car can be optioned with a lane departure warning system and driver-set speed limiter. Unfortunately, there’s no option for an autonomous braking system (AEB), and the MX-5 obviously lost a few points there.
Why it matters
Ultimately, the car comes off as pretty safe for what it is. My biggest concern is that the driver-side airbag doesn’t have enough pressure to prevent your head from hitting the steering wheel during a collision. I think the main issue affecting the MX-5’s score is the absence of an AEB system, which is at least an option on most cars in the same segment. Don’t let the four-star rating shy you away from the MX-5, though – the Audi TT, which also lacks an AEB system, also clocked in with a four-star rating.