First Drive: The Mazda MX-5 Sport Venture is the latest special edition of this brilliant sports car

What is it?

A grey fabric roof is included on the Sport Venture
A grey fabric roof is included on the Sport Venture

Special editions are one of the automotive world’s wild cards and they can be introduced at any given opportunity to drum up interest in a model.

There are some manufacturers that like to launch special editions more than most, too. Fiat springs to mind first, with its seemingly cyclical limited-run versions of its 500, but Mazda isn’t far behind – especially with its MX-5 roadster. A year truly doesn’t go by without another special version being introduced, and 2021 is no different – with a new Sport Venture trim being launched. But is it worth choosing or is it just another MX-5 special edition?

What’s new?

All Sport Venture editions come painted in Deep Crystal Blue Mica
All Sport Venture editions come painted in Deep Crystal Blue Mica

If you’re thinking the Sport Venture name seems vaguely familiar, you’d be right, as the previous-generation MX-5 benefitted from this trim back in 2014.

Back then, it saw your Mazda painted in dark blue, gaining a range of silver accents and coming with a light leather interior. And with this new model, it’s pretty much exactly the same, albeit with a few tweaks that we’ll get onto later.

This new version is also far more limited than its forebear. Whereas Mazda produced 1,219 examples of the 2014 Sport Venture, just 160 of this new car will be built.

What’s under the bonnet?

A 1.5-litre petrol unit powers the MX-5 here
A 1.5-litre petrol unit powers the MX-5 here

While Mazda does offer its MX-5 with a more powerful 2.0-litre petrol engine, the Sport Venture is only available with the smaller engine of the pair – a 1.5-litre petrol. Power is sent to the rear wheels with a six-speed manual performance, too.

There’s no turbocharger in play here, so the figures of 130bhp and 152Nm of torque seem rather modest – you get more from a low-spec Golf. Yet, thanks to weighing just 1,200kg, it’s still able to reach 0-60mph in 8.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 127mph.

The running costs are also remarkably low, with Mazda claiming 44.8mpg – a figure that’s quite achievable with a mix of spirited driving and gentler jaunts – and CO2 emissions of 142g/km. It really wouldn’t be any more expensive to run than a petrol supermini with similar power.

What’s it like to drive?

The Mazda MX-5 is huge fun to drive in all conditions
The Mazda MX-5 is huge fun to drive in all conditions

Mazda has truly perfected the MX-5 formula behind the wheel, and there’s no change here. It feels light, sharp, nimble and is a byword in everyday fun with performance that you can enjoy without worrying about losing your licence.

You also feel like you can use every single one of those horses under the bonnet, with the naturally-aspirated engine encouraging you to push it to the red line, while the six-speed manual gearbox is a delight to use.

At the same time, the small wheels and overly firm suspension means the ride is surprisingly compliant, even on bumpier stretches of tarmac. It’s little wonder so many MX-5 choose to use their cars on a daily basis.

How does it look?

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Let’s be honest, with no mechanical benefits over the regular MX-5, the only real advantage of choosing the Sport Venture is for the way it looks.

The Deep Crystal Blue Mica (dark blue to you and me) certainly looks fetching, not least in the sun when it lives up to the ‘crystal’ in its name. The colour also contrasts brilliantly with the grey fabric hood fitted on this special-edition, while silver door mirrors and roll hoops help to make it stand out from a regular MX-5. They’re certainly not the most noticeable revisions, but ones that will be spotted by any MX-5 purist, of which there are plenty.

What’s it like inside?

Another feature on the Sport Venture is its light leather interior
Another feature on the Sport Venture is its light leather interior

Jump inside and the only real change on this Sport Venture is the Light Stone Nappa leather seats, which certainly bring some extra light to the interior – especially on the dingier days when the roof might be up. They’re certainly more appealing than the usual black leather that comes on the ‘Sport’ trim on which it’s based.

And while space isn’t the name of the game here, there’s actually a decent amount of room in the MX-5 considering its size, with a six-feet-tall driver able to get quite comfortable behind the wheel with plenty of steering wheel adjustment.

What’s the spec like?

The Sport Venture is based on the regular ‘Sport’ trim
The Sport Venture is based on the regular ‘Sport’ trim

As we’ve mentioned, the Sport Venture builds on the regular Sport grade. For that you certainly get plenty of equipment, including keyless entry, cruise control, adaptive LED headlights and even heated front seats. The latter will come in particularly useful if you intend to use your MX-5 all year round.

There’s also a seven-inch media display that boasts satellite navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay, and though it’s a bit laggy compared to more modern systems, it still does the job well. Impressively Mazda has also managed to cram in all the latest safety tech, including autonomous emergency braking and traffic sign recognition.

In terms of price, you pay for the ability to have features included that you’d usually only find on the top-spec MX-5s – namely the white leather interior. You’ll pay £27,615 for the Sport Venture, which does seem a bit steep considering the Sport costs £1,250 less, and that the dark blue paint on its own is only an additional £570.

Verdict

The MX-5 undoubtedly remains one of the most complete small sports cars on sale today, and feels reassuringly traditional with its rear-wheel-drive, naturally-aspirated engine and manual gearbox. It’s a performance car you can truly enjoy in virtually any setting, and at speeds within the limit, too.

This Sport Venture certainly looks fetching and its limited production will no doubt appeal to the aficionados. Whether it’s worth the extra expense over the Sport trim it’s based on will be down to personal choice, though.