Base Camp: 2021 Mazda MX-5 GS
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This summer, more than ever, gearheads will be anxious to hit the open road after a full year of pandemic-related distancing and the scattered stay-at-home order. When it comes to getting in touch with the act of driving, there are few better tools than a Mazda MX-5.
For the 2021 model year, this famous little convertible is available in a quartet of trims, with the $33,200 GS setting the bar for our Base Camp series. It is powered by a 2.0-litre inline-four making 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. If you don’t think that’s enough, we invite you to take this just-over-1,000 kg spitfire around a damp traffic circle. Turns out, one can have plenty of fun in this thing – even at legal speeds. Naturally, we highly recommend the no-charge manual transmission over the automatic.
The entry-level GS trim is equipped with plenty of active safety tech, including blind spot monitoring, forward=facing smart city braking, and lane departure warning. That’s definitely a plus when the cloth soft up is raised. Lowering the top is a manual affair but can be accomplished in just seconds without ever leaving the driver’s seat.
LED head- and tail lamps are standard on the GS, along with power side mirrors and black metallic alloy wheels. Only the colour of Jet Black Mica is offered at zero dollars, leaving customers opening their wallets if they wish to have one of other three paint options. We will say the dark hue does well with those black wheels, creating an aggressive(ish) looking MX-5, insofar as any MX-5 convertible can look aggressive.
This car isn’t known for a spacious interior but once inside you’ll find a typical Mazda infotainment system packing smartphone integration and speakers in the driver’s headrest. Those are cloth-covered seats, but the steering wheel and shift knob are wrapped in leather. The absence of satellite radio is an irritant but there are USB inputs, and some will argue that we should be listening to the engine note instead.
What We’d Choose
Stepping up to the GS-P trim does bring some creature comforts like heated seats and the ability to spec Mazda’s aptly named Sport Package. This group includes performance goodies like Brembo-branded brakes, BBS wheels, and body-hugging Recaro seats. This requires an $8400 walk in price, however, a sum that will add handsomely to one’s monthly payment and perhaps even require smelling salts.
Sticking with the GS seems prescient, then – particularly when there are ample aftermarket companies which can hook MX-5 owners up with a raft of go-fast goodies for far less than $8,400. There’s an argument to be made, of course, that the original manufacturer knows best when sorting out a car’s handling and aftermarket parts only serve to screw up a good thing. Those people have a point.
In that case, go buy a stock GS and seek out your nearest traffic circle after a rainstorm.