Mazda recently challenged more premium automakers by comparing its new CX-5 crossover to the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. It was a bold challenge but one that actually seemed less crazy once the cars were actually compared. So, since this surprised me, I though that it might be interesting to look at more Mazda/Audi comparison tests. And if we’re going to do that, why not go with the best Mazda currently on sale — the Mazda MX-5.
Mazda’s MX-5 is probably the most fun little sports car on sale at the moment. The only real car that compares to the Mazda MX-5 in Audi’s lineup is the Audi TT Quattro. Admittedly, the Audi TT is far more expensive than the MX-5, but it’s also a punchy little two-seat roadster. And if Mazda is willing to punch in a higher weight class with the CX-5, it should be willing to do so with the MX-5 as well.
The Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring is the highest trim-level MX-5 on the market, with a starting price tag of $30,065. For that price, you get heated leather seats, Bose speakers, LED headlights and navigation. Under the hood is a 2.0 liter naturally-aspirated engine with 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. That buzzy little engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission and powers the rear wheels, like a proper sports car should.
In the case of the Audi TT, it starts life at $43,500, a significant bump up from the MX-5. However, it also comes with a lot more. It comes with heated leather/alcantara seats as standard with LED headlights and taillights and the brand’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster. Powering the Audi TT is a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder TFSI engine making 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That engine is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and Quattro all-wheel drive.
In terms of performance, the Mazda MX-5 can get from 0-60 mph in about 6 seconds, give or take a tenth or two. But the Audi TT Quattro can get it done in 5.3 seconds, which is significantly quicker. However, it’s not that much faster, considering the TT is also quite a bit heavier.
However, as you know, sports cars aren’t about numbers on a spec sheet. Sports cars are about how they make you feel and, to be honest, the Mazda MX-5 takes it here. With its incredibly low curb weight, rear-drive chassis, tactile steering and six-speed manual, it’s just an absolute joy to drive, numbers be damned. There may not be a better smiles-per-dollar sports car on the road. The Audi TT is a fun car, as it’s quick, grippy and accurate but it lacks some of the joy that can be had from the MX-5. The TT is an impressive car but the MX-5 is a happy car.
Though, the Audi TT is also a lot more comfortable, with a far more upscale cabin, far better technology and even more interior space. The MX-5 is a lot more spartan than the TT but that sort of adds to the charm. The whole point of the MX-5 is simplicity and it nails that. It also has the benefit of being a soft-top convertible, whereas the TT is just a coupe. There is a TT Roadster but it costs $47,000 and that’s just too much to compare to the MX-5, as the Coupe is already pushing it.
In a nutshell, it’s actually quite hard to choose. On one hand, you can pocket about $13,000 and buy the MX-5 and have a superb weekend toy that’s more fun to drive than almost anything else when conditions are right. But on the other hand, you can spend quite a bit more but get a much more well-rounded car that can be used everyday, sunshine, rain or snow in the Audi TT Quattro, which also is more comfortable and far more technological.