I’ve driven every generation and iteration of Mazda Miata for the past twenty years, and I remain an enthusiastic fan. It’s definitely a car I would like to have in my own garage. I hadn’t driven one in a while and even though my drive this time was in rain, I still came away with a renewed appreciation for the Miata’s purity of purpose, its simplicity, its smallness, and with the way it continues to prove the worth of its original premise: oneness of horse and rider. If you’ve never driven a Miata, you owe it to yourself to do so. There is no other car on the road today like it, especially now that the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky, admirable though lacking competitors that they were, are extinct.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Like Joe, I took the Miata out in the rain. Even the gray sky and wet, pitted roads couldn’t dampen the Miata’s spirit. The exceptional balance and spunky, but not overwhelming, engine take away most of the fear that comes with piloting sports cars in the wet.
I was tempted to argue that perhaps $29,460 is a bit much for a little Miata, but come to think of it, what can you buy for $30,000 that’s more satisfying? Heck, we fawn over the “affordable” Porsche Boxster, which starts at around $50,000. And the interior, while still true to its utilitarian ethos, looks quite posh dressed in white leather.
Addendum: The next afternoon, the clouds lifted and the temperature rose to a balmy 70 degrees. Convertible weather, in other words. Grasping for an excuse to get out of the office, I realized that I’d left some press materials in my apartment. Yes! I scooped up the Miata’s keys, passing over a Bentley Mulsanne’s fob without a second thought. Two minutes later, I was at a traffic light with a stupid grin on my face and some middle-aged woman in a Subaru Outback was hitting on me. A few miles later, the guy in front of me slowed abruptly for a turn, allowing me to show off with a very professional sounding five-to-three-to-two downshift before nailing the throttle. There was construction work in my apartment complex, so I had to take the long way around, engine rasping in second gear, and slither through a cul de sac before screeching into a parking space. Travel time: Fifteen glorious minutes, all traveled at the speed limit (OK, close to it). Why can’t every car be as fun as a Miata?
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
God, I love this car! This generation of the Miata was launched back in 2005, but it’s still incredibly exhilarating to drive and somehow very practical, too, given its usable trunk, piece-of-cake soft top, thread-the-needle handling, and affordable price. I really, really want one…possibly even more than those vintage British roadsters that I lust after (i.e. Sunbeam Alpine, Triumph TR250). The rev-happy 2.0-liter engine sounds throatier than I remember from my last MX-5 experience, too.
Complaints? The steering wheel feels a bit slippery, although that could have something to do with the fact that I had the roof down in sub-50-degree temperatures and my hands were a bit numb. Even at those temps, though, the Miata is more than tolerable, what with a great heater and, in this Grand Touring test car, fabulous heated seats. Clearly, this car was built for brisk fall mornings. Also, the marvelous Mazda has an excellent stereo that’s more than loud enough to hear with the top down. Sing your hearts out, Miata lovers!
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Before the Mazda Miata MX-5 even rolls out of its parking space, I’m already impressed. I am absolutely enamored with the MX-5’s clever, simple soft-top roof. And while I’ve driven Miatas before, it’s such a delight to pull the release and casually push the roof back in one fluid motion. It clicks into its stored position so neatly that there’s no need for a tonneau cover. In many ways, it’s a symbol for the entire Miata philosophy, with a design built around simplicity, minimalism, and functionality. I pray that we never see a day when the Miata is only offered with a power retractable top, because that’ll be the day when the little roadster delivers more power than grip, puts comfort before handling, and is morbidly overweight.
For now, though, the Miata is nearly perfect. It is lithe, balanced, and inviting. You’ll rarely have to move your hands from nine-and-three on the small steering wheel and the humble engine begs to be revved over and over. The shifter is perfectly located and the snappy short throws can be directed without lifting your forearm from the central tunnel. The Miata is a rare vehicle that brings a type of joy typically reserved for children at Christmas. The wrapper just barely accommodates my 6’3″ frame and I have trouble seeing traffic lights with the top up, but that’s a compromise I’m willing to live with to keep the Miata’s dimensions-and manners-so tidy.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
It’s difficult to add anything to the comprehensive comments penned my colleagues. I, too, dropped the Miata’s top on a late evening drive home in 45-degree weather and had to repeatedly turn down both the heated seat and the HVAC temperature. Because the roof area is so small, when the top is down and the windows are up, air flow in the cabin is near zero making the Miata a true three seasons convertible. However, the next morning the rear defroster struggled to melt off of the paper-thin layer of ice that have formed overnight.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring Soft Top
Base price (with destination): $27,310
Price as tested: $29,460
2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Tilt, leather-wrapped steering wheel
Power locks and windows
Auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Homelink
4-wheel disc brakes
Auxiliary audio input jack
AM/FM/MP3/6-disc CD changer
Bose audio system with 7 speakers
Heated leather-trimmed seats
Leather shift knob
Leather trimmed hand brake
Automatic air conditioning
Tire pressure monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
Premium package — $1650
Mazda keyless entry system
DSC with traction control
Sirius satellite radio
Suspension package — $500
Sport tuned suspension
Limited slip differential
Key options not on vehicle:
6-speed automatic transmission — $1100
Appearance package — $1145
21 / 28 / 24 mpg
Size: 2.0L DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 167 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 140 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Curb weight: 2542 lb
Wheels/tires: 17 x 7.0-inch alloy wheels
205/45R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE050A high performance tires