The MX-5 Miata is a throwback to two-seat roadsters of the past with its light weight and modest power. Yes, creature comforts are few for this final run of the current generation car. But while coupes like the Scion FR-S offer stronger performance, the Miata remains the only choice for spirited rear-drive open-top affordable fun.
PerformanceThe Miata is a driving dynamics benchmark for good reason. You feel a level of connectedness that's rare in any car, regardless of price. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder only makes 167 hp, but it's plenty to move the 2,560-pound roadster.
0-60 mph takes only 6.7 seconds, which is comparable to a Mini Cooper S. The manual transmission is as good as they get with perfectly spaced gates and gear ratios that make the most of the available power.
Stopping from 60 mph requires 118 feet, which is expected from sports cars with summer tires. Even with pronounced nosedive, the car remained stable and distances consistent after repeated runs.
Steering response is immediate and predictable, with an abundance of driver communication. At the same time, it never feels busy or taxing on rough pavement or during long trips.
Body roll is prevalent but not alarming. The Miata slices through turns with uncommon urgency, precision and controllability. This is what it does best, and it is pure joy.
Despite its athleticism, the Miata is easy to drive every day. Its compact size makes it easy to park, and it never feels high-strung. One downside is that the engine revs high on the freeway.
ComfortTaller and/or larger drivers will find the Miata cramped, but for the average-sized adult, it'll feel like it was built to their exact specifications. There's enough seat padding and ride compliance for road trips, but the car is loud.
The side bolstering does an admirable job of keeping you anchored through turns, and there's enough padding to provide hours of comfortable touring. Larger adults will find the seats confining, though.
Even though the Miata is entertaining to drive on twisty roads, it doesn't sacrifice compliance or ride quality. Bumps and ruts are effectively (and impressively) smoothed over for such a sporty car.
Even with the retractable hardtop up, road and wind noise are ever-present and sometimes intrusive. The engine note, while enthusiastic, is also loud and can drone on the highway.
InteriorCreature comforts and convenience take a back seat to performance in the Miata. The interior is primitive by current standards, lacking many features that are standard on other cars. And there's an overabundance of hard plastic surfaces.
One good thing about having so few contemporary features is that the cockpit is nice and simple. Controls are easy to operate and placed right where they should be.
Small doors make access easy in narrow parking spaces, but the tight entrance requires some twisting and contortions to get seated. This becomes a non-issue with the top down.
The diminutive cabin has just enough space for those of average height and below. Even then, there's little room to stretch out, which can be problematic after several hours behind the wheel.
Thin roof pillars and a glass rear window make for exceptional all-around visibility. Combined with the small dimensions, drivers know exactly how close they are to other objects.
The 5.3 cu-ft trunk is almost comically small and shallow. To its credit, the retractable hardtop has no effect on this space. Interior storage is also sparse, with small bins and cupholders.
One latch and one button retract the hardtop in just 11.5 seconds (13.2 to raise it). There's a healthy (but not objectionable) amount of buffeting top-down at highway speeds.
ValueWith a starting price of $24,515 for a soft-top Miata, few cars can deliver this kind of fun behind the wheel. But you also won't find the modern features found in other cars, even if you spring for a fully-loaded $34,085 Grand Touring model.
Build Quality (vs. $)
With an as-tested price of $29,460, the Miata in Club trim will likely disappoint with its hard plastic interior, and lack of refinement and sturdiness. Hard-core enthusiasts might not care.
For the price, this test vehicle was noticeably lacking Bluetooth and satellite radio. You have to step up to the Grand Touring to get those, and a USB port and navigation aren't even an option on that model.
You need to have a singular focus on driving dynamics to justify the price of a Miata at this trim level or above. And in that case, a base soft-top Miata would make more sense.
EPA estimates of 24 mpg Combined (21 City/28 Highway) were confirmed by our 22.1 mpg overall average and 29.5 mpg on our highway-heavy evaluation loop. Still, it trails the Mini Cooper S Roadster by 6 mpg.
Mazda's 3-yr/36,000-mi bumper-to-bumper and 5-yr/60,000-mi powertrain warranty is comparable to Mini's 4-yr/50,000-mi basic and powertrain coverage. An extended factory warranty is available at extra cost.
3 yrs/36,000 miles of roadside assistance is included and pre-paid maintenance is available. Mini provides 4 years of roadside assistance with unlimited miles and includes 3 yrs/36,000 miles of free maintenance.
Fun To DriveFun-to-drive is the whole idea behind the Miata, and it certainly delivers. While it's not very fast, it's as engaging as any sports car out there. But we do recommend springing for the optional Suspension package that quells body roll in corners.
Many sports cars battle with balancing ride comfort and performance, but the Miata does it with ease. If you can live without most creature comforts, it will definitely hit your brain's pleasure centers.
The Miata is eager to please and playfully nimble. It's one of those cars that you look forward to driving and provides hours of entertainment. This is a "driver's car" that won't actually break the bank.
† Edmunds.com received the highest numerical score in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study℠. Results based on responses from 3,381 responses, measuring 14 companies and measures third-party automotive website usefulness among new and used vehicle shoppers. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of owners surveyed from January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.