The MX-5 has had a recent facelift but the body and chassis remains much as it was when introduced in 1989. That being so, the car still proved safe enough to gain four stars, giving a well balanced performance in the frontal and side impact. The passenger safety cell was challenged by the frontal impact, however, and was found to be unstable, post-impact. In the frontal crash, the car was tested with its roof down to give worst-case results. For the side crash, though the top was left up to check for any risk of head injury that the driver might be exposed to. As a two-seater, the car could not be tested with child restraints fitted. While no crash tests were run to assess the safety performance of a child restraint, its fitting and labelling were checked. Finally, protection offered to pedestrians was poor.
The airbag protected the driver's head. However, loads on his chest were relatively high. The car is designed so that impact forces are transferred underneath, through the sills and other structures. The doors are not designed to take any great load, front to back. Euro NCAP criticised this approach because there are accidents where the doors should help 'spread' the loads. The driver's and passenger's knees could cause suffer serious damage if they struck unforgiving components around the steering column and glove locker support.
Loads on the driver's chest were relatively high (increasing injury risks) but were well distributed. Loads on his abdomen were also relatively high but the MX-5's overall performance was thought to be reasonable for a car without side airbags fitted as standard.
A system recognises when a Mazda-branded restraint is fitted to the passenger seat, disarms the airbag and switches on a warning. However this system will not accept non-Mazda restraints, which is hazardous if the driver is unaware of this. Warnings on the driver's sun visor were inadequate.
This is a poor performance despite the MX5 benefiting from not having to have the leading edge of its bonnet tested because of its low profile.