► Mazda launches limited-edition MX-5
► Icon will be limited to run of just 600
► On sale now, from £20,995
A special-edition Mazda MX-5 so early in our favourite affordable roadster's lifecycle? The new Icon has been launched just a year and a half after the convertible arrived in UK showrooms – proof that the old-school sales trick of dressing up a limited production run is still used to stimulate interest in sports cars. Ever wondered why McLaren and Lamborghini sell so many specials?
This is the fourth MX-5 to wear the Icon name since 2000. Production is capped at just 600 units this time; they’re all 1.5s, not the larger 2.0-litre, and all of them are heading to the UK.
What separates the Icon from a regular MX-5?
If we’re honest, not a lot. The Icon is based on the SE-L Nav spec, so along with toys such as cruise control, LED headlights and a seven-inch sat-nav screen, customers will also benefit from black leather seats, rear parking sensors, dusk-sensing lights and automatic wipers – all included in the £20,995 asking price.
Useful, you might be thinking, but not terribly exciting. What makes the Icon different is its extra visual flair. It’s available in either Meteor Grey Mica or Crystal White Pearlescent (pictured), with selected bodywork – including the door mirrors, rear spoiler and front splitter – finished in contrasting Soul Red metallic. Zingy, isn't it?
There’s even a chequered-flag style racing stripe stretching between the wheelarches along the MX-5's flanks – prominent enough to be noticed, yet stopping short of being OTT to these eyes. Sixteen-inch gunmetal alloy wheels are a lesson in subtle aggression, complementing either of the exterior colours.
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Does the extra kit and race-car stickers add anything significant to the MX-5?
It's marginal stuff. The leather seats keep your posteriors planted in the bends, yet don't leave them numb over a long drive. You might question the need for parking sensors in a bijou sports car less than 4m long, but they make sure you won't reverse your pride and joy into a shopping trolley. Lazier types will appreciate the dusk-sensing lights and automatic wipers too.
And those cosmetic tweaks? For us, they give just enough of an indication that the Icon ain’t no bog-standard Mazda; the exclusivity of the limited-run roadster is instantly recognisable and that will appeal to many buyers.
Mazda has form selling special editions of the MX-5, don't forget – it's a marketplace with magpie-like tendencies, and having something new will be music to many dealers’ ears.
All well and good, but I’m not hearing about any performance upgrades...
That's because there aren’t any: it's boggo entry-level MX-5 engineering here. But the 128bhp 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder remains a highlight of this car, giving a fizzy, electrifying vibe to every run through the gears. There's not a turbo in sight and it loves to rev.
Keep the throttle pedal pinned and 62mph will pass in 8.3 seconds, an enjoyably buzzy crescendo of the Skyactiv symphony making up for any lack of clear-cut pace. Downsizing has other benefits, too: fuel economy remained at a steady 48mpg during our spirited drive, despite many grin-inducing attempts to bring it down.
The low driving position accentuates the length of the sculpted roadster's bonnet, allowing you to line up apices accurately as you thrash the MX-5 across its favourite stomping ground – a twisting British B-road. It’s much livelier than most premium roadsters, such as the Mercedes-Benz SLC.
Is the handling Iconic too?
Turn in and, although steering feel could be improved, the back end is ready to come into play, despite the 1.5’s puny power output. Sling the MX-5 Icon into a series of bends and the grip from the front axle is ample, enough to encourage even the tamest of drivers to prod the throttle in order to push the pointy end of the car through the corner. It's great fun.
Body roll is greater than expected, yet the softer set-up pays off when it comes to cruising manners. The Mazda deals with dips and crests remarkably well, keeping the featherweight roadster firmly in contact with the ground.
If you’re after a new Mazda MX-5 and dig the looks of the limited-run Icon, then this is the one to have. This special edition boasts exclusivity, versatility and charm in bucket loads.
Bear in mind, however, that should you be willing to meet the near-£21,000 asking price, a more powerful 2.0-litre MX-5 in similar SE-L Nav spec can be yours for just £800 more.
Read more Mazda reviews by CAR magazine here