Full 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review
What's New for 2010
After a mild refresh last year, the 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata remains mostly unchanged except for the deletion of the SV and Sport PRHT trim levels.
It's been two decades since the first Mazda Miata wowed the general public and critics alike with its elegant simplicity, grin-inducing performance and budget-friendly price. An instant hit, the Miata singularly fed a hunger for sprightly two-seat convertibles that had otherwise gone unsated for many years.
The Miata has seen many updates and additions over the years, but it has held on to its core principles with dogged determination. The 2010 Mazda Miata continues the original formula of light weight, engaging driving dynamics, simplicity and, above all, fun. This year sees little in the way of change, which is a good thing since the Miata is still considered one of the best roadsters to ever hit the pavement.
Under the hood is a 167-horsepower 2.0-liter engine. While 167 hp might not sound like much in today's world of 270-hp family sedans, it's also tasked with motivating less metal -- a base Miata weighs only about 2,500 pounds. The power-retractable hardtop model weighs a bit more, but in return it grants extra top-up security and noise reduction. No matter what Miata you choose, you'll get lively performance, a decent complement of features and respectable comfort for all but the largest of drivers.
All of this combines to make the Miata our favorite affordable roadster. It also happens to be just about the only affordable roadster on the market for 2010. All three of the Miata's main competitors -- the Honda S2000, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky -- have been discontinued. Previously, a lightly equipped base version of the BMW Z4 roadster was a higher-end rival, but its subsequent redesign and price increase have pushed the Z4 into a much higher price bracket.
For alternatives, you'll need to expand your search to other, larger sporting convertibles. Cars like the Ford Mustang and Mini Cooper convertibles offer many creature comforts and plenty of personality, but they can't match the 2010 Mazda Miata's simplicity and agility. For a fun, zippy and affordable roadster that provides plenty of top-down enjoyment, the Miata is the best out there. Twenty years, it seems, have done nothing to diminish this cheeky car's great appeal.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a two-seat roadster that is available with either a soft top or power-retractable hardtop (PRHT). It is offered in three trim levels, from the base Sport model to the Touring and range-topping Grand Touring variants. In Sport trim, standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, a black vinyl convertible top with a glass rear window, air-conditioning, cloth seats, a six-speaker sound system with a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary input jack, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and power windows and mirrors.
The Touring model adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a front suspension tower brace, foglights, cruise control, power door locks, keyless entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer, a six-CD changer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a leather-wrapped shift knob. The Grand Touring steps up with the choice of a cloth black or beige top, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated seats, a seven-speaker Bose audio system and silver interior accents. The PRHT models are identically equipped but are only offered in Touring and Grand Touring trim.
Most options are grouped in numerous packages. Sport models can be equipped with the Convenience package that includes most of the Touring upgrades (this package is included in Miatas with automatic transmissions). Touring and Grand Touring models can increase the Miata's already nimble handling with the Suspension package (only available with a manual transmission), which includes a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks and a limited-slip differential. The Grand Touring qualifies for the Premium package that features stability control, keyless ignition/entry, xenon HID headlights, Bluetooth and satellite radio.
Stand-alone options, depending on the trim, include an Appearance package (which adds a front airdam and lower-body skirting), a removable hardtop, a chrome fuel filler door, run-flat tires, a portable navigation unit, satellite radio, aluminum pedals and a rear spoiler.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Mazda Miata is powered by 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 167 hp (158 with the automatic transmission) and 140 pound-feet of torque. Sport models come standard with a five-speed manual transmission while Touring and Grand Touring models receive a 6th gear. All models have the option of a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
In testing a manual-equipped Miata, we found the car could sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in a reasonably quick 6.9 seconds. Fuel economy is also impressive at an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 24 mpg in combined driving for the five-speed manual. The six-speed manual and automatic sacrifice only a single mpg in city mileage.
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
Sitting behind the wheel of a 2010 Mazda Miata, you'll get the feeling that you're wearing the car, rather than sitting in it. The fit is snug for average-sized adults, but not cramped. Taller drivers, however, have found that the seat runs out of rearward travel. As with previous Miata cockpits, the latest version features simple and legible gauges along with user-friendly and well-placed controls.
The manual convertible top's operation is as simple as it gets -- push a button, pull a lever and toss the top over your shoulder. Dropping the top takes only a few seconds, and raising it is just as easy. With practice, some longer-limbed drivers can raise the roof without even leaving their seat. The retractable-hardtop version takes a bit longer to transform from coupe to roadster, but the added security and noise isolation make it a good choice as a daily driver.
One of the biggest drawbacks for small convertibles is a lack of trunk space, and the Miata is no exception. The 5.3 cubic feet of trunk space is barely enough for a weekend getaway and golf bags take quite a bit of wrestling to stow -- if they fit at all. Points are also deducted for the disappointing top-down stereo performance. Even the upgraded Bose system suffers from poorly aimed speakers that fail to envelop the occupants.
One of the Miata's greatest attributes continues to be its ability to bound from corner to corner on a tight and winding road. This ability is due in no small part to a suspension and steering feel that are as communicative as a political pundit in an election year. The seat-of-the-pants feel and feedback from the wheel give the Miata the goods to satisfy nearly any driving enthusiast, though some horsepower junkies may yearn for more under-hood punch. Still, the free-revving peppy four-cylinder always seems eager to play and the short-throw manual gearbox is as good as it gets. Drivers with less sporting intentions will likely find the 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata easy to live with and comfortable for long stints in either top-up or top-down mode.