2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT: Around the Block

If you've been following the crew here at Automobile for the past few years, then you know we love the Miata, and for good reason. Several staffers own Mazda MX-5s and take them to autocrosses and other events. So, given the team's affection for the legendary Japanese roadster and with the debut of the all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata around the next bend (world reveal is September 3), it seemed like a perfect time to get myself reacquainted with the last of the third-gen MX-5 Mohicans before the all-new car arrives.

The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT that rolled up to our L.A. HQ looked pretty stealthy in jet black, its silly grin more like a smirk. The car's overall stance is impressive, and its diminutive profile is instantly recognizable. For as small as it is, I'm reminded as I step in just how easy even 6-foot-plus 'Mericans fit in this thing. The seats were dipped in spicy mocha, which contrasted well with the black, and they proved both comfortable and relatively supportive. Given this 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata is the Grand Touring version, the focus is on the former, as it should be. While some of the interior is dated, the instrument panel is still a thing of beauty, with simple, elegant, masterfully arranged gauges. That said I'm not in love with the steering wheel. It needs to be smaller, with a thicker rim.

The hardtop's operation is a no muss affair. Simply unlatch the lock at the middle of the roof's leading edge right above the rearview mirror, press the electronic button and down the roof goes in about 10 seconds or so. Then turn the fob of the ignition key and it's happy-go-fun time. I'd barely pulled out of the parking lot and was already gunning the revs up, notching the amazing, crisp-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. It has been several years since I'd driven a Miata in anger and I was taken aback by how forceful it feels, the 167 horses and 140 lb-ft of fury from the 2.0-liter four proving exhilarating at the outset. Sure, the engine starts to feel more pedestrian after a while in the saddle, but not much in modern automobiledom beats the sonorous buzz of the hardworking four with the top down and tach needle pegged, or the joy of attacking a hairpin onramp and then blasting out into traffic. Then there's the magnificent balance and poise the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata exhibits during aggressive cornering maneuvers, or the ease with which you can simply slow down your roll along a sun-drenched shoreline boulevard. These are the thrills that urban road warriors live for, and the Miata has been delivering them for 25 years now.

I do not envy what Mazda has ahead of it when it comes to the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata. It must satisfy two camps. First, the hardcore faithful who race it, worship it, never want it to change. And then there's the shiny new crowd, looking for the next white-hot thing. Everyone will likely cry for more power. No one will likely miss the present look. But whatever you do, don't make it much bigger, or especially heavier. Oh, and do it for $25K or less to start, plus better gas mileage. Rock, meet hard place. I wish Mazda well, and I have a sneaking suspicion that while they have their roadster cut out for them, they're not going to forget what makes the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata and all the Miatas before it so special.

2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT

Base Price $29,450
Price as Tested $32,285
Engine 2.0-liter DOHC I-4
Power 167 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque 140 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Drive Rear-wheel
Length x width x height 157.3 x 67.7 x 49.4 in
Wheelbase 91.7 in
Curb Weight 2593 lbs
Cargo Capacity 5.3 cu ft
Fuel economy 21/28 mpg (city/highway)

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