Full 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Mazda Miata gets a few updates this year. The exterior receives a mild face-lift (a more aggressive grille, headlights and taillights), and the engine gets a one-horsepower bump along with slightly improved fuel mileage. The Miata's features list has also expanded. Highlights include an auxiliary input jack and two more speakers for the base audio system, an auto-dimming mirror for the Touring trim and automatic climate control for the Grand Touring version. Finally, the Special Edition model has been dropped.
Sadly, many people today treat driving like an afterthought, something that has to be done while talking on the phone or doing some other form of multitasking. Seemingly inspired by this show of apathy, carmakers have come up with a wealth of technologies to save distracted drivers from themselves, ranging from "smart" cruise controls to lane departure warning systems. However, there's at least one affordable convertible that remains true to motoring's pre-digital roots: the 2009 Mazda Miata.
Inspired by the small, nimble British roadsters of the 1960s, the Mazda Miata comes equipped with rear-wheel drive, sharp handling, an easy-to-drop top and lean and classic roadster proportions. The latest (third-generation) Miata has also upheld the car's reputation for above-average reliability, which is something that can't be said for those old Triumphs and MGs.
Customers who like the idea of combining open-air exhilaration with fixed-roof refinement had their wishes granted a few years ago when the Miata became available with a power-retractable hardtop. The "PRHT" might seem to run counter to the Miata's "less is more" approach, but its simple design adds just 70 additional pounds to the car's curb weight while transforming top-up motoring into a much more pleasant and secure experience.
Regardless of which version you lean toward, the 2009 Mazda Miata is a fantastic choice for an affordable roadster. There are few rivals. General Motors' twins, the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky, are the only other games in town. These suavely styled siblings share an available turbocharged engine that blows away the Miata's prosaic naturally aspirated four-cylinder. However, the turbo doesn't come cheap, and we still feel that the Mazda is the superior car. Refined, balanced and eager, the 2009 MX-5 Miata is always a willing partner when one needs to unplug from the plugged-in world.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Mazda Miata lineup consists of four trims: SV, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring.
Aimed at racing enthusiasts, the lightly equipped SV (available in soft-top form only) comes with a black vinyl convertible top, 16-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker audio system with a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary input jack, a height-adjustable driver seat and power windows and mirrors. The Sport keeps to the same basic formula but adds air-conditioning and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Step up to the Touring and you'll get 17-inch alloy wheels, a strut tower brace, cruise control, power locks, keyless entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink, a trip computer, a six-CD changer and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The Grand Touring trim adds a cloth convertible top (in black or parchment), automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated seats, a seven-speaker Bose audio system and silver interior accents. Retractable-hardtop (PRHT) models are offered in the top three trims and are otherwise identical in terms of equipment.
Options are grouped in numerous packages. Available on the Sport, the Convenience package provides most of the convenience features found on the Touring. Available on Touring and Grand Touring trims, the Suspension package features a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks and a limited-slip differential. The Grand Touring qualifies for the Premium package that adds stability control, keyless entry and ignition, xenon HID headlights, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio. Stand-alone options, depending on the trim, include an appearance package (which adds a front airdam and lower-body skirting), run-flat tires, satellite radio and a rear spoiler.
Powertrains and Performance
All Miatas come with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 167 horsepower (158 with the automatic transmission) and 140 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission drives the rear wheels on SV and Sport trims, while a six-speed manual is fitted to the Touring and Grand Touring trims. A six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is optional on all but the SV and the Sport PRHT.
Brutal acceleration isn't exactly the Miata's forte, but the MX-5 is still respectably quick -- we've timed a six-speed manual Miata at 7.5 seconds for the 0-60-mph dash. Mazda estimates fuel economy at 21 or 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway, depending on the transmission.
Antilock disc brakes and side airbags are standard; however, stability control is available as an option on the Grand Touring model only.
Interior Design and Special Features
Even though the current Miata is larger than previous generations, the cockpit remains a snug fit. However, it can be comfortable enough for two on a weekend getaway, and the well-shaped 5.3-cubic-foot trunk can hold a couple days' worth of luggage, provided you pack light.
The simple controls and no-frills design serve the Miata and its driver well. Fit and finish are very good throughout. Dropping the manual top can be done in seconds from the driver seat. Those who would use their Miata as a daily driver should consider the PRHT because of its better noise isolation and greater security.
The Miata's peppy four pulls willingly and revs freely, but horsepower junkies will find its straight-line acceleration lacking. Nonetheless, the Miata's engine is a delightful instrument to play, especially with the manual gearbox, which makes snapping off rev-matching downshifts a breeze. Although tuned for a smoother ride than before, the Miata still changes direction with the immediacy of an NHL all-star and speaks to you clearly through the steering wheel and driver seat. With a lowered top and a twisting, scenic road stretching out before it, the 2009 Mazda Miata has no equal at this price point when it comes to sheer entertainment.