What can I say about the Miata that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by others? It was a dreary, cold October day when I hopped into the little Mazda, and yet, by the time I had exited the garage, the top was down, and I had a huge grin on my face. Remember that old commercial where the guy in the Artic (or wherever) climbs into his Miata to catch one moment of sunshine? For once, I can assert there’s truth in advertising.
Top down and heat blasting, I cruised the highway to a photo shoot in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Unlike other cars the Miata’s size, there was absolutely no skittishness to speak of, and wind noise was perfectly acceptable. As I dropped down two gears for an off ramp and heard that wonderful four-cylinder snarl — thank you, Mazda engineers, for further finessing the engine and gearbox for 2009 — I wondered briefly why anyone would pay six figures for a sports car when one of the best in the world starts at $22,500.
This particular Miata is bloated with rather unnecessary goodies, such as Xenon headlamps, leather seats, and steering wheel controls (redundant controls are a bit, well, redundant in a car this tiny). Still, I challenge anyone to come up with another vehicle that offers this much top-down fun for its price.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
It’s obvious everyone at 120 E Liberty St. has a love for the Miata. Over the years, it’s proven to be an affordable, great handling, great looking, and great performing sports car, what’s not to love?
As Zenlea noted, the brisk October weather may not be the best way to fully enjoy what the MX-5 has to offer, but it made for some interesting looks from other motorists. Our test car’s competition yellow is similar in color to that of most construction equipment. The main difference being, the MX-5 doesn’t want to stay on one side of the orange barrels, it wants to slalom them.
Disengaging traction control and electronic stability control let the little Mazda float its rear end around almost any turn with a blip of the gas; thanks in part to the optional limited-slip differential. Of course, a huge bonus to this sports car is that when you lighten up on the throttle, you can achieve 28 mpg highway.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
It looks like this Miata is quite the seductress, convincing both Zenlea and me to take extended runs with the top down in Michigan’s surprisingly cold October. When I made the 30-minute commute home, the temperature readout indicated it was a nippy 47 degrees. But cranking the seat heaters and blasting the heat kept things bearable, but it’s the fun built into this car that convinced me to put the top down in the first place.
This is one of the best shifters, with crisp flicks to move it around. Effort and throw length are just right. Steering has dead even effort from the moment you move the wheel off-center. These two inputs-steering and shifting-make every reaction of this car that much sweeter. It responds just as you expect.
I won’t call the features on this particular Miata “unnecessary” like Zenlea, but I would pass up a few options if I were buying a Miata. I’d step down from the Grand Touring to the Touring model, saving $1260 and losing only a Bose stereo, automatic climate control and a few other trivial items. I’d also be forced to ditch the $1650 premium package (only available on the Grand Touring), with keyless ignition, satellite radio, and Xenon headlights-all fine by me. The Touring is the cheapest Miata you can buy, and still get the sport suspension, limited-slip differential, and six-speed manual. Buying a Touring model also means you don’t have to hold the stability control button for 15 seconds to deactivate the system. That safety feature is solely offered on the top Grand Touring trim, and then only as an option.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Though the Honda S2000 heads towards the shadow of death, I fear no evil — Mazda still sells the MX-5.
To be completely honest, I’d have opted for the Miata in the first place, as its interior offers shoulder room and storage cubbies the Honda doesn’t, and generally feels more usable as a daily driver. In fact, given the reasonable $23,000 price of admission for a base model, I’d be tempted to do so, but I know I’ll certainly have use for a back seat in a few years’ time.
Like Eric, I can do without a lot of the fanciful features of this Grand Touring model, which commands a $29,310 price tag. A Touring keeps most of my favorite features intact (i.e. manual top, six-speed manual transmission, stiffer suspension), although I do wish the heated seats — key to enjoying an extended topless season here in frigid Michigan — were an option on lower trim levels.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
If we haven’t convinced you yet, here’s another Miata love letter. After
driving Mazda’s two-seater this time around, I am newly smitten. I just
can’t think of anything more natural in the automotive world — sitting in
and driving a Miata just feels so right. It’s your own private heaven, where
it just so happens that anyone can see you. And you can see everyone else
— I can’t think of another new car with such great visibility, and it’s
not just because the MX-5 is a convertible: the beltline is low, the
A-pillars are skinny, and the doors are thin. The MX-5 fits me like the
Furthering the pure enjoyment of the Miata is its fantastic gearbox, which feels superb and works well with the car’s high-revving engine. And the best part, as Preston Lerner explored in his “Slow Cars” story, is that an invigorating run through the gears might not even catapult you above the speed limit.
Not only is it huge fun, the Miata is practical, too. The packaging is fantastic, particularly the perfectly simple fling-back manual roof and the surprisingly large, deep trunk (thanks in part to the car’s standard tire-puncture-repair kit and optional run-flat tires). This Grand Touring edition is a hair on the pricey side, but the fun-for-dollar quotient is still phenomenal. And the hot, hot heated seats that come with this trim level are wonderful (and arguably crucial) in such a car, extending top-down weather deep into autumn.
As the owner of a vintage MGB coupe, I love classic British two-seaters and all they bring with them (the pure joy of driving, the smells, the sounds, the character, and even the reliability challenges). But the Miata, as it’s been said countless times before, is truly the best British roadster ever built. Like my colleagues, I mourn the loss of the Honda S2000, but my universe remains balanced thanks to the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Long live the king!
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Unlike my much younger, more robust colleagues, I decided to do a top up test of the Miata. I’m happy to report that even with the top latched, the driving experience is beyond reproach. Of course, the tiny little Miata feels a bit cozier than with the top dropped but I never felt claustrophobic despite the all black-top to bottom, including the inside of the cloth top-interior materials.
What can I add that hasn’t already been said in the love letters on the previous pages? The Miata is a masterpiece, whether it’s stripped down or dressed up with every available option. I do have one small complaint, though. The shallow, square cupholders are fairly useless for holding circular beverages, a shape which, in my experience, is the standard for most portable liquids. Of course, the cupholders could be triangular and it would be inconsequential.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring
Base price (with destination): $27,160
Price as tested: $29,310
Automatic air conditioning
Heated leather seats
Leather shift knob and hand brake
Auto dimming rearview mirror with Homelink
Tire pressure monitoring system
7-speaker Bose audio system
Auxiliary audio input
Side impact airbags
Options on this vehicle:
Suspension package – $500
Sport tuned suspension
Limited slip differential
Premium package – $1650
Mazda advanced keyless entry
DSC with traction control
Sirius satellite radio
Key options not on vehicle:
Appearance package – $1145
Front air dam
Rear under skirt
Rear spoiler – $400
21 / 28 / 24 mpg
Size: 2.0L DOHC VVT four-cylinder
Horsepower: 167 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 140 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Weight: 2511 lbs
17 x 7 in.
205/45 performance tires