Full 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review
What's New for 2014
The Mazda MX-5 Miata receives no significant changes for 2014.
New car models are launched every year, and with each model's unveiling, its automaker will proudly count off the ways in which this fresh arrival is an improvement over others in the market. In such a competitive and ever-changing environment, longevity can be hard to pull off, but that's exactly what the Mazda MX-5 Miata has managed to accomplish. The 2014 MX-5 Miata marks the 25th year of the model's existence. While it's no longer the brash young upstart it once was, the Mazda Miata still has the goods to distinguish itself as a canny choice for drivers seeking a rear-wheel-drive sports car that offers engaging driving dynamics at an affordable price.
First and foremost on the MX-5 Miata's list of positive attributes is its entertaining disposition. This is a car talented enough to spike even the most mundane excursions with ample doses of pleasure and excitement. Steering is sharp and precise, communicating information with an immediacy that never leaves the driver guessing. Handling is just as dialed in, making this Mazda an ideal companion for wind-blown jaunts down winding canyon roads. Operating either the soft or hard top is an exercise in simplicity, and each may be raised or lowered in just a few moments with little effort. Best of all, you don't have to pay through the nose for all this driving enjoyment. A new MX-5 Miata starts at under $25 grand and operating costs are agreeably low.
The MX-5 Miata is not without competition. A few drop tops in this price range have come and gone in recent years, but three Miata rivals are still standing: the convertible versions of the Fiat 500, Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle. While each has its own uniquely quirky appeal, none boasts the sort of unflappable handling (nor the rear-drive layout) for which the Miata is known. Another option would be a larger and heavier sport convertible such as the Chevrolet Camaro or Ford Mustang, though their increased size and heft mean they're not nearly as tossable as the Mazda is around turns. In the end, the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata continues to cruise in a league of its own, offering good times behind the wheel for relatively little coin.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a two-seat roadster offered in three trim levels: base Sport, Club and range-topping Grand Touring. All come standard with a manually operated soft top, while the top two trims can be had with a power-retractable hardtop (PRHT).
Standard features for the Sport trim include 16-inch alloy wheels, a vinyl convertible top with a glass rear window, foglights, air-conditioning, cloth seats, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, power windows and mirrors and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
The Club trim adds 17-inch wheels, sporty front and rear fascia treatments, black exterior trim, a black cloth convertible top, cruise control, power door locks, keyless entry, unique interior trim, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a trip computer and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
The Grand Touring offers the choice of a black or beige cloth top and adds automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a seven-speaker Bose audio system with a six-CD changer and silver interior accents. The PRHT models are identically equipped.
Most options are grouped in packages. Sport models can be equipped with the Convenience package that includes most of the Club's upgrades (this package is standard in Miata Sport models with the automatic transmission). Club and Grand Touring models can enhance the Miata's already nimble handling with the Suspension package, which includes a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks and a limited-slip differential (only available with a manual transmission). The Grand Touring qualifies for the Premium package that features keyless ignition/entry, xenon headlights, Bluetooth phone connectivity and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering all 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miatas is a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 167 horsepower (158 with the automatic transmission) and 140 pound-feet of torque. Sport models come standard with a five-speed manual transmission, while Club and Grand Touring models come with a six-speed manual transmission. All trim levels have the option of a six-speed automatic with shift paddles on the steering wheel, and all Mazda Miatas are rear-wheel drive.
In Edmunds testing, a Miata with a five-speed manual transmission sprinted from a standstill to 60 mph in a reasonably quick 6.8 seconds. Fuel economy is about average, with an EPA-estimated 25 mpg combined (22 city/28 highway) for the five-speed manual. The six-speed manual drops slightly to 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway), while the automatic is rated at 23 mpg combined (21/28).
Standard safety features on all 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata models include antilock disc brakes, side airbags and stability and traction control. In Edmunds braking tests, various Miata models turned in stopping distances from 60 mph between 110 and 116 feet, which are very respectable numbers for a sports car.
Interior Design and Special Features
Average-sized drivers will find the 2014 Mazda Miata's cockpit on the snug side, but still very comfortable. Taller drivers will likely run out of legroom, though the current-generation MX-5 is significantly roomier than older versions. The interior itself is rather basic in terms of design and materials, with legible gauges and controls that are user-friendly and well-placed.
Those who choose the manual convertible top will appreciate its ease of use; all it takes is the push of a button and the tug of a lever to liberate the lightweight top from its moorings. It takes just a few seconds to lower the top, and raising it is just as quick and easy. With practice, some longer- and stronger-limbed drivers can raise the roof without even leaving their seat. With the power-retractable hardtop it takes a bit longer to transform from coupe to roadster, but the added convenience, noise isolation and security make it a good choice if you're using your Miata as a daily driver.
Convertibles are notoriously short on trunk space, and the Miata is no exception, but to its credit, the PRHT doesn't require any additional sacrifice. With just 5.3 cubic feet of total trunk space available for either hard- or soft top models, there's barely room for a light traveler's luggage and it takes some effort to get golf bags to fit ? if they fit at all. Points are also deducted for the disappointing stereo performance when the top is down. Even the upgraded Bose system suffers from poorly aimed and comparatively weak speakers that fail to fill the cabin with sound. The lack of a USB/iPod interface or Bluetooth audio connectivity for either system is also problematic.
The Mazda Miata is legendary for its ability to squeeze maximum enjoyment from winding blacktop, and it owes much of this skill to its communicative steering and suspension. Experienced drivers might find the car's body roll to be excessive when driving hard around corners, but just about everybody else will enjoy its tidy handling. Overall, the 2014 Mazda MX5 Miata is one of the best-handling cars you can buy for the money -- and if you've never owned a rear-wheel-drive car before, it's a great starting point.
The free-revving four-cylinder engine doesn't pack a whole lot of punch compared to some other sports cars, but it's always eager to play, and the short-throw manual gearboxes are simply as good as it gets. On a daily basis, the Miata is easy to live with and comfortable for long stints in either top-up or top-down mode.