2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

Good things, small packages. The 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata is about as good as small convertibles get.
7.9 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Jonathan Elfalan
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

The Mazda MX-5 Miata was completely redesigned just two years ago, so it's no surprise the 2018 model receives few changes. Mazda did its homework with this Miata generation, improving the interior quality and accommodations while making it lighter and quicker than its predecessor. There is perhaps no better Mazda model that currently embodies the "Zoom-Zoom" spirit more than the MX-5 Miata.

Miatas are best enjoyed when the road turns twisty. A peppy yet fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine provides enough power and a delightful soundtrack to keep you entertained for as many miles as you can handle. And on that note, if you want the best version of the Miata for such activities, we strongly recommend the Club trim and the six-speed manual transmission. Mazda also offers an automatic transmission, but it doesn't come with many of the Miata's dynamic-enhancing goodies.

As always, though, there are downsides to Miata ownership. Taller individuals might find the cabin confining and particularly difficult to enter and exit if the top isn't down. Trunk capacity is a laughable 4.6 cubic feet, so packing light is a requirement for any road trip. And lastly, in the interest of saving weight, the lack of sound deadening results in a fair amount of road and wind noise at speed with the top up.

Still, few cars are more rewarding and fun to wheel around than the Miata. If you can live with the size limitations, you have little reason to consider anything else in this segment for the pleasure of driving.



What's new for 2018

Most of the updates for the 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata are minor, with the biggest news being optional heated Recaro sport seats for the Club trim; they are available with the new Brembo/BBS Recaro package. Advanced keyless entry is now standard across the board, and the base Sport trim gains the 7-inch infotainment interface. The Club trim now gets heated leather seats if you opt for the package with the upgraded Brembo brakes and BBS wheels.

We recommend

You could go in a few directions with the 2018 MX-5, but we think the Club trim best embodies the Miata's ethos. In the Club, you'll get a performance-enhancing upgraded suspension with Bilstein dampers, a limited-slip differential and a shock-tower brace. More aggressive front styling and an engine sound enhancer help augment the experience. You'll also benefit from a nine-speaker Bose audio system among other amenities. The one caveat is you have to get the manual transmission or you'll forfeit the performance hardware.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a two-seat roadster offered in three trim levels: Sport, Club and Grand Touring. All three trim levels are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (155 horsepower, 148 pound-feet of torque) that drives the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The Sport trim offers a more bare-bones motoring experience; the Club is for sport-oriented driving, with a number of mechanical upgrades and added interior features; and the top Grand Touring trim focuses on providing comfort, convenience and technology.

Standard features for the Sport trim include 16-inch alloy wheels, a manually retractable black soft top with a glass rear window, LED headlights and taillights, air conditioning, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, keyless entry with push-button ignition, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, cruise control, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.

The Club trim includes everything from the Sport but comes with different equipment depending on the chosen transmission. With the manual shifter, it includes a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, a shock-tower brace, a limited-slip differential and an engine sound enhancer. Opting for the automatic negates these features.

Otherwise, all Miata Clubs get 17-inch wheels with summer performance tires, a sportier front fascia, a rear lip spoiler, black mirror covers and roll hoops, red interior stitching, upgraded interior trim panels, a nine-speaker Bose audio system (with headrest speakers, satellite radio and HD radio, and dual USB ports), voice controls, and a 7-inch touchscreen interface with an auxiliary control knob mounted on the center console. The Club also gets a safety-oriented bundle that includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

The Grand Touring loses the manual-transmission Club's performance upgrades except for the sound enhancer, which remains a manual-only feature. But it gets adaptive headlights with automatic high-beam control, auto-dimming mirrors with exterior heating, lane departure warning, body-colored mirror covers, automatic wipers, a cloth-lined top, leather upholstery, heated seats, automatic climate control and a navigation system.

A Brembo/BBS package is offered on manual-transmission Club models, and it includes 17-inch forged BBS wheels, more powerful Brembo front brakes, an aero body kit and heated leather seats. For 2018, this package can also be enhanced with Recaro sport seats.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our Full Test of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club Convertible (2.0L inline-4 | 6-speed manual | RWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current MX-5 Miata is fundamentally unchanged. Our findings remain fully applicable to this year.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall7.9 / 10

Driving

9.0 / 10

Acceleration8.5 / 10
Braking8.0 / 10
Steering9.0 / 10
Handling9.0 / 10
Drivability9.0 / 10

Comfort

8.0 / 10

Seat comfort9.0 / 10
Ride comfort8.0 / 10
Noise & vibration7.0 / 10

Interior

7.0 / 10

Ease of use8.5 / 10
Getting in/getting out7.0 / 10
Roominess6.5 / 10
Visibility9.0 / 10
Quality8.0 / 10

Driving9.0

The Miata might not boast big power numbers, but it's small and light, so it always feels exceedingly nimble. You won't find many cars that put the driver more in touch with the driving experience or that are more entertaining to drive on public roads — especially the twisty ones.

Acceleration8.5

In our testing, a Miata with the manual transmission reached 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. You won't be blowing doors off V8 Camaros, but it's nonetheless appropriate acceleration for the car's zippy character. There's plenty of midrange torque. Accelerating quickly is as pleasurable as it is easy.

Braking8.0

Our test car stopped from 60 mph in 111 feet, which is slightly longer than we'd expect given that it had the optional Brembo brake package installed. The distances and pedal firmness remained consistent, though, and it stayed composed in full-panic braking.

Steering9.0

Steering effort is lighter than we're used to from a Miata, and feedback is a little muted, too. Even still, it remains one of the best steering examples available today. It reacts with immediacy and is very accurate. The steering wheel feels perfectly shaped in your hands.

Handling9.0

Few cars feel more light and nimble than the Miata. Precise and predictable are the operative words. There's more body roll than expected when cornering aggressively. But overall, driving a Miata along a curvy road is an absolute blast.

Drivability9.0

Even though the Miata is capable of entertaining performance, it is still easy to drive in everyday commuting situations (yes, even with a manual transmission). The small footprint is well-suited to tight city confines and parking spaces.

Comfort8.0

Roadsters aren't known for being comfortable, but the Miata bucks that trend with compliant suspension tuning and seating for the long haul. There's a noticeable amount of noise, but for some, that's part of the allure.

Seat comfort9.0

The seats cradle occupants with just the right amount of support. The side bolsters provide ample lateral support without being intrusive. After hours of driving, you should still be pretty comfortable.

Ride comfort8.0

Despite its small dimensions and sporty intentions, the Miata isn't punishing. There's plenty of compliance to smooth over bumps, but bigger potholes will send a good thud through the chassis. Long road trips won't be a problem.

Noise & vibration7.0

Road and wind noise is prevalent at highway speeds with the top up, but not to the point that it's intrusive. The pleasant exhaust tenor is loud enough to make it sound special, but it's not so loud that it's obnoxious.

Climate control

The Miata's simple climate control interface, with its three large and knurled knobs, is easy to use. However, the system has trouble regulating temperature even with the top up, especially on very hot or very cold days.

Interior7.0

The Miata's interior is well-crafted with a pleasing and relatively ergonomic design. But a small car like this comes with the typical drawbacks, such limited cabin space for bigger-than-average people.

Ease of use8.5

The primary controls are well-placed around the driver, and the gauges are easy to read. But the infotainment system's controller knob is in a spot where drivers might place their right forearm and it doesn't fall readily to hand.

Getting in/getting out7.0

The average-size adult will have no problem slipping in and out. Taller drivers will have to curl themselves through the opening if the top is up. Short doors aid access in tight parking spots.

Roominess6.5

Six-foot-tall drivers will reach the size limitations of head- and legroom. Even for the typical adult, the cockpit is snug enough to feel as though you're wearing the car. But it doesn't feel claustrophobic.

Visibility9.0

Forward visibility is as good as it gets nowadays, thanks to favorable windshield positioning and narrow roof pillars. As small as the car is, there's very little guesswork with rear visibility, too.

Quality8.0

The interior materials have improved significantly from the last Miata and now meet the standards for this price point.

Convertible top

The manual cloth top drops quickly and easily without leaving your seat, but it requires a final push to latch in place. Deploying it is easier than in previous Miatas thanks to some assistance from lifting springs. Buffeting is not excessive.

Utility5.0

A tiny trunk, no back seat and limited cabin space mean that this isn't the best if you need to transport large items. Small items and soft duffels are more easily accommodated.

Small-item storage

The tidy bin between the seats serves as a less convenient glovebox (because there isn't one). It's your primary place to store your items, and its holding capacity is about average. That's helpful because the removable cupholders are good for holding cups only.

Cargo space

A significant drawback. The Miata's 4.6-cubic-foot trunk is comically small, and there's no glovebox. The bins behind the seats are small, and the other pockets are tiny. The removable cupholders can obstruct shifting.

Technology

In Club and Grand Touring trims, the Miata comes with an easy-to-use infotainment interface. There's also a respectable number of advanced driver safety aids. The sound system's quality, however, is unimpressive.

Audio & navigation

Mazda's infotainment system is easy to navigate and use. But even with the nine-speaker Bose stereo upgrade, the sound quality is only middling and is easily overwhelmed by wind and road noise.

Smartphone integration

The Miata has two USB ports but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Playing media stored on your phone is fairly easy with the native system, though. The 12-volt outlet is strangely and inconveniently hidden deep in the passenger footwell.

Driver aids

Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert now come standard on most Miatas. But adaptive cruise and forward collision warning aren't available.

Voice control

As long as the cabin isn't too noisy, voice recognition is accurate, and on-screen prompts simplify use. Using voice commands to enter an address is as easy as with any other system.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.