Track Tested: 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata


2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Edmunds tests hundreds of vehicles a year. Cars, trucks, SUVs, we run them all, and the numbers always tell a story. With that in mind we present "Track Tested," a quick rundown of all the data we collect at the track, along with comments direct from the test-drivers. Enjoy.

Mazda's iconic roadster celebrates its 20th birthday in 2010, as the first MX-5 Miatas that rolled off the line in Hiroshima, Japan, were 1990 models. This seriously entertaining little car has proven to be a real survivor, particularly in the always fickle U.S. market. Other automakers have tried and failed to break into the affordable roadster niche (which now hovers around the $25,000 mark), and only the Mazda Miata keeps on keeping on.

Since we're feeling celebratory, we took a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring to our instrumented-testing facility and drove it to the limit and a bit beyond. Make the jump to see the numbers.

Although the MX-5 received minimal changes for 2010, the car benefitted from significant upgrades in 2009 that set it apart from the earlier third-gen Miatas we've tested. The redline for the car's free-revving 2.0-liter inline-4 went up 500 rpm to 7,200, so the engine was fortified with a new forged steel crankshaft, forged steel connecting rods with floating wrist pins, revised pistons with stronger wrist pin bosses, stiffer valve springs, and an oil cooler. Mazda also did some fine-tuning on the induction sounds to improve the Miata's natural soundtrack.

Additionally in 2009, the six-speed manual transmission (standard on the Grand Touring) was fitted with larger-diameter 3rd and 4th gear synchros, and the syncros for 1st through 4th all got a carbon coating which Mazda hoped would improve shift feel. Sixth gear got a little taller, too (0.787 vs. 0.832 in 2008), to promote better fuel economy and more relaxed cruising. "Relaxed" is a relative term, of course, as no Miata past or present has ever been anything close to a cruiser.

Regarding the chassis, engineers repositioned the front suspension's outer ball joints, effectively lowering the car's roll center 1 inch. Compression damping was increased in the rear, and the stability control system was recalibrated to intrude less into the fun.

Finally, slightly wider bumpers (complete with euphoric smile up front) lowered the 2010 Miata's coefficient of drag by 0.01 to 0.34.

Vehicle: 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring
Odometer: 718
Date: 4/27/2010
Driver: Chris Walton
Base Price (with destination): $27,310
Options: Premium Package ($1,650), Suspension Package ($500)
As-Tested Price: $29,640

Specifications:
Drive Type: Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: 6-speed manual
Engine Type: Inline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,999/122
Redline (rpm): 7,200
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 167 @ 7,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 140 @ 5,000
Brake Type (front): 11.4-inch ventilated disc w/single-piston caliper
Brake Type (rear): 11.0-inch solid disc w/single-piston caliper
Steering System: Hydraulic-assist power rack-and-pinion
Suspension Type (front): Independent double-wishbone, coil springs, optional Bilstein dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, optional Bilstein dampers, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front/rear): 205/45R17 84W (29 psi cold spec)
Tire Brand: Bridgestone
Tire Model: Potenza RE050A
Tire Type: Summer
Wheel Size: 17-by-7-inch
Wheel Material (front/rear): Aluminum alloy
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 2,516

Test Results:
0 - 30 (sec): 2.4
0 - 45 (sec): 4.3
0 - 60 (sec): 6.8
0 - 75 (sec): 10.1
1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 15.1 @ 90.2
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.6
30 - 0 (ft): 28
60 - 0 (ft): 113
Braking Rating: Very Good
Slalom (mph): 65.7 (63.9 ESC on)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.87 (0.84 ESC on)
Handling Rating: Very Good
Db @ Idle: 46.4
Db @ Full Throttle: 84.1
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 75.1

Acceleration Comments: Tricky but not impossible to launch with just-right wheelspin to maintain revs and momentum. Shifter is good but not great like a Honda S2000's. Longer throws than I remember. Linear power doesn't wane near redline.

Braking Comments: Good fade resistance, talkative pedal. Some dive, but always predictable, confident and straight.

Handling Comments: Slalom: As addictive as any car could ever be in the slalom -- "Just one more and I know I could get that 6.0-second pass." The car is so malleable and responsive that it feels more capable than it actually is. Quite a lot of suspension windup/release for the sake of compliance, and ultimately, this slows its responses in quick transitions -- result is frustratingly close to awesome. Skidpad: Almost invisible hand of God keeps the car spot-on the circle with ESC on. Shutting it off results in an exceptional ability to dangle the tail out ever-so-little, but wow, what control and balance despite the so-so 0.87g. Steering is near perfect -- a little heavy.

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