Test Drive: 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT

?Mazda?s 2011 MX-5 Roadster: If it ain?t broke??

The Mazda MX-5 Miata, after more than 20 years, continues to, provide sports car enthusiasts with a pure and simple, fun-focused roadster at an affordable price. The experts at the Guiness Book of World Records, proclaim the MX-5 to be the most popular two-seat convertible sports car in the world, with more than 900,000 produced. Is Miata by any other designation still a Miata? Definitely! The latest generation of the popular roadster now referred to as the MX-5, literally revived open-air motoring on our shores, and now happens to be better than ever. Did it make sense to drop the Miata name reference that has built such positive brand equity? Probably not, but in the final analysis, true aficionados will still revert to using the Miata name when talking about the MX-5 anyway.

The Miata was first introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February, 1989, and the focus of the car remains on driving that is FUN and exhilarating. The emphasis in all phases of development for every generation MX-5 has been “Jinba Itai”, which translates into western culture terminology as ” Horse and Rider as One”. Key elemental issues in building the MX-5 continue to be: a body structure utilizing new weight-saving technologies and materials that improve crashworthiness while increasing rigidity; freshened interior and exterior styling and design that remain true to the car’s original concept with slightly enlarged exterior dimensions that yield more room for taller occupants with greater comfort and safety; livelier, linear engines; better steering response; improved suspension componentry and enhanced braking systems; and finally, workmanship indicative of higher quality with added feature content.

At first glance from a distance, the MX-5 doesn?t appear to be radically different from its forbears. Upon closer scrutiny however, even though it is an evolutionary advancement of the 2-seat icon, it seems to continually evolve into a new vehicle done in the basic style and concept of the original. The synergy of the original remains, with all elements continually revised for the better.

As if that weren?t enough, in 2008, Mazda took the concept of the two-seat roadster and advanced it to the next level of refinement by adding a Power Retractable Hardtop convertible design to its model offering. The MX-5 Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT) features a roof consisting of three major parts?a front section, a middle section, and the rear window?which hinge and move tonest atop one another in exactly the same space as the soft top. No trunk space?is sacrificed, and the top mechanism only adds 78 pounds over the cloth top model?s weight.

The two roof sections fold in clamshell fashion; with the window separating from the middle section and moving forward to the in-between space, descending into the same storage well located above the rear axle and the fuel tank where the soft top would have resided. A deck cover mates with the top when closed, shrouding the folded top from view. A center-locking handle secures the PRHT to the windshield header. Two buttons positioned on the instrument panel operate the top ? one for up, the other for down, activating four small, quiet-running electric motors?two for the folding hard top, two for raising and lowering the deck cover. The entire operation takes a mere 12 seconds, but the motor must be running with the transmission in neutral (or Park with the automatic transmission), the brake applied and the header latch released ? windows lower partially automatically, but remain in that position and won?t function further until the top operation is completed. The PRHT offers the security of a Coupe when closed, is certainly more convenient than a removable hardtop and is the fastest power-operated retractable hard top in the U.S. An indicator lamp and warning beep advises the driver when the top operation is complete. As with the soft-top MX-5, the PRHT edition provides a wind deflector to block cockpit drafts.

Power is still provided by a 2.0-liter DOHC, 16-valve VVT inline four-cylinder engine that generates 167 horsepower and 140 pound feet of torque routed through either a six-speed short-throw manual gearbox as standard, or optional 6-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, to the rear wheels. The engine is longitudinally mounted forward, driving the rear wheels.

My latest test 2012 Mazda MX-5 PRHT was finished in a Crystal White Pearl (metallic) exterior, with a Gloss black top and mirror caps, and a complementing Black interior. The base price was set at $28,660. while the optional features and equipment and Delivery, processing and handling charge bumped the final sticker to $33,823.

SUMMARY:? The 2012 Mazda Miata PRHT (Oops, MX-5) has lost absolutely none of its appeal. In fact, there are virtually no changes from last year?s model except in the option change department ? the Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control have been removed from the optional premium package and are?now standard fare and the diminutive roadster has, in essence, gained a higher status across the board. The 6-speed manual gearbox delivers a positive response in the driving experience without question.

Acceleration, while perhaps not blistering to some, is quick enough, even if the engine is slightly on the “buzzy” side when prodded with gusto, but it doesn?t rate as offensive at all. A throatier note from the four-banger as well as from the exhaust would surely contribute considerably to even wider smiles and perhaps even a little giggling.?? Handling is crisp and precise with pleasing throttle steer properties, and the car exhibits a very nice front to rear balance.

The biggest plus for me in driving the MX-5, was the added interior volume that accommodates my 6’4″ frame more readily than before. The trunk capacity was increased by four percent over that of the second generation. It’s still not huge, mind you, especially with the top down, but I was able to stash two full size bags and a full-face motorcycle helmet without a problem.

? The MX-5 remains a true sports car with heart in conjunction with Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom” spirit.? In my mind, it’s still really a Miata, (MX-5 or not) regardless of the top configuration. Kudos for the genuine sports car feel and looks, the slick, fast operating retractable hardtop and the totally adequate and comfortable interior accommodations for two. Essentially, the 2012 MX-5 Miata PRHT is race ready off the showroom floor. Okay, you will probably need to add a roll bar and five-point harness.

SPECIFICATIONS:?Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT-?12

Base Price:?????????????? ??????????? $28,660.

Price as Tested:??????????? ??????????? $33,823.

Engine Type and Size:??????????? 2.0-liter DOHC, 16-valve Inline VVT four-cylinder with multi-port fuel injection.

Horsepower (bhp):??????????? ??????????? 167??????????? @ 7,000??????????? rpm (158 w/ 6AT @ 6,700 rpm).

Torque (ft./ lbs.):??????????? ??????????? 140??????????? @ 5,000??????????? rpm

Transmission:??????????? ??????????? Six-speed short-throw manual.

Drive Train:??????????? Longitudinally mounted front engine / Rear-Wheel drive.

Suspension:??????????? Front ? Double wishbone with forged aluminum control arms, gas-filled twin tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.

Rear – Multilink with tubular control arms and aluminum knuckle, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.

Brakes:??????????? Power-assisted hydraulic four-wheel discs (vented front) with ABS, EBD.

Tires:??????????? Bridgestone Potenza 205/45 R17 84W mounted on 5-?V?-spoke black painted alloy wheels.

Wheelbase:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ? 91.7??????????? inches

Length Overall:??????????? ??????????? 157.3??????????? inches

Width:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ? 67.7??????????? inches

Height:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ? 49.4??????????? inches

Curb Weight:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? 2,562??????????? lbs.

Fuel Capacity:??????????? ??????????? ? 12.7??????????? gallons

EPA Mileage Estimates:??????????? ? 21??????????? mpg city / 28??????????? mpg highway

 

Drag Coefficient:??????????? ??????????? 0.32

0 – 60 mph:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Not tested.