It had been quite some time since we had driven the Mazda MX-5 Miata, so with a ?new from the ground up? fourth generation MX-5 introduction just around the corner it seemed like a good time to revisit the world?s best-selling two-seat roadster. It was also the 25th Anniversary of the popular two-seater.
When we were much younger the affordable sports cars in the U.S. wore names like MG, Triumph and Austin Healy, and as delightful as they were, they can?t compare to the simplicity, dependability and practicality of the Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Since it debuted in 1989, the MX-5 Miata has been the icon of affordable sports cars and there have been more than 900,000 sold worldwide, landing it a spot in the Guinness record book as the World?s Best Selling Two-Seat Roadster. Mazda also claims to be the most-raced nameplate on any given weekend nationwide and much of that has to do with the popularity and affordability of this car.
We ran the Mazda MX-5 Miata through our unofficial test track ? the windy mountain roads near our home in Southern Washington. The handling is precise and the car is very well balanced (nearly 50/50). It almost begs to be driven more quickly through the corners. Actually the Miata is a refreshing car to drive; with so many cars pushing 500 plus horsepower, it?s nice to have a car that you don?t have to worry about spinning when you pound the accelerator or getting slowed down for the safe traverse of a corner.
Sure we can dream about the extra power of a turbo charged engine but it?s really not needed. The little 167-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder fills the range of each gear nicely up to the 7,200-rpm redline. The six-speed manual transmission adds confidence making quick positive shifts to maximize performance.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata is available with the classic soft top or the sophisticated Power Retractable Hardtop. The soft top is standard on all three models ? Sport, Club and Grand Touring, while the two upper level models, the Club and Grand Touring, can be ordered with the hard top. The cloth top operates manually folding neatly behind the seats in seconds, and the hardtop also folds into the same position, in just 12 seconds, with the push of a button. Neither top takes away from the Miata?s already small 5.3-cubic foot trunk space.
The Sport model comes with a standard five-speed manual transmission, while the upper level Club and Grand Touring models both have a standard six-speed manual transmission. All three models have an available six-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, but somehow an automatic just doesn?t seem right for such a pure sports car. The automatic models also have a slightly less powerful 158-hp version of the same engine. Fuel economy is 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway across the board, with only deviation being one mile per gallon better on the manual transmission Sport in the city. We actually averaged 24.7 mpg after a week of exuberant local drives.
Models equipped with the six-speed manual also have an Induction Sound Enhancer, which consists of a series of tuned pipes and a passive resonance membrane. The system pipes the engine?s natural induction sound to the cowl, just ahead of the windshield to provide the occupants with pleasing but unobtrusive engine sounds,
While Mazda has done an outstanding job of maintaining the simplicity of the Miata it isn?t falling behind on the technologies. Engineers have added many of the latest safety, comfort and communications features that consumers want. The latest Miata models have available features like Xenon headlights, advanced keyless entry, Bluetooth and Bose audio.
The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata pricing ranges from $24,515, including the destination charge for the soft top Sport trim level with a five-speed manual transmission up to $31,345 for the Grand Touring MX-5 Miata with the hard top and the automatic transmission. Because all the models are very well equipped, option and accessories choices are limited and inexpensive.
Few cars offer can offer the thrill of the open road better than the Mazda MX-5 Miata. It?s one of those classics that puts a smile on your face each time you drive it.
It will be fun to see the new generation 2015 MX-5 Miata when it debuts next year, but in the meantime the current model is still one of the best on the road. Here?s a photo of the fourth generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata.