2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata: What's It Like To Live With?
We spent a year with the recently refreshed 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Do the updates make a good car even better? How practical is such a small focused sports car? How is the fuel economy on a cross-country road trip?
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Latest Highlights (updated 01/07/21)
- Make the most of it
- What we got and why
- Fuel economy
- Maintenance and upkeep
What We Bought And Why
• Our test vehicle: 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata
• Base MSRP: $26,650
• MSRP as tested: $30,510
There’s nothing else on sale today that’s quite like the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata. The current MX-5 Miata roadster is simple and focused, building on years of experience without losing the charming, fun-loving nature that made us all fall in love with this little rear-wheel-drive sports car 30 years ago. The current Miata was already one of our favorite cars on sale today, and the updates for 2019 only improved the car further.
What Did We Get?
The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes in two basic flavors: the soft-top MX-5 Miata and the retractable hardtop Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. We went with the soft top since we prefer that car's classic lines and simple, easy-to-operate manual-folding top. All MX-5 Miata models are powered by a 2.0-liter non-turbocharged inline-four making 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque paired to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic transmission. While the automatic nets marginally better fuel economy and may ease our commutes in Los Angeles' notorious traffic, it's not half as enjoyable as the Miata's slick stick shift, so we opted for the latter.
The MX-5 Miata roadster is available in Sport, Club and Grand Touring trims. The MX-5 Miata RF is only available in Club and Grand Touring trims. A base Miata Sport comes fairly well equipped with features such as LED headlights and taillights, a heated glass rear window (a boon for anyone who's ever dealt with an old convertible with plastic windows), keyless entry and ignition, a rearview camera, and two standard USB ports.
We went with the midlevel Club model. The Club offers a number of performance upgrades over the Sport — a retuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, a limited-slip differential, a shock tower brace, and 17-inch wheels with Bridgestone summer tires — as well as some additional creature comforts such as a Bose audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and heated seats. The Club also gets some small visual touches such as LED daytime running lights, a black lip spoiler and a black front airdam.
For 2019, you can combine some of these performance upgrades with the top-level Grand Touring trim. But we wanted to keep the as-tested price relatively reasonable and didn't think the Grand Touring's other features — automatic climate control, leather seats and navigation — were worth the extra cost. To that end, we passed on the Club's optional Brembo/BBS package. The extra $3,770 (or $4,470 with the available Recaro sport seats) didn't do enough in our minds to improve the car.
Our no-option MX-5 Miata Club in Ceramic Metallic White comes in at $30,510.
Why Did We Get It?
The current MX-5 Miata has been on sale since 2016, though there's been some important and noteworthy updates since our last long-term road test. A telescoping steering wheel does a lot to improve driver comfort, and the optional GT-S package on the Grand Touring model is a good option for those who want to combine sport and comfort. But the biggest and most notable improvement is to the Miata's engine.
In addition to 26 extra horsepower and 3 extra lb-ft of torque, the 2019 Miata's 2.0-liter gets a few more revs at the top end, pushing redline from 6,800 to 7,500 rpm. Those 700 revolutions do a lot to improve drivability, as do the lighter engine components, dual-mass flywheel and a new exhaust system. The Miata just feels a little lighter and a little more peppy.
Will we still love it after 20,000 miles? Probably. There are few cars harder not to love than this little Mazda. The real question is whether it's better than the pre-update model and does it still shine bright among the latest crop of affordable performance cars. Stay tuned for the next 12 months to find out.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
What Did We Learn?
The Miata is gone from our garage, and we're left with a small, roadster-sized hole in our hearts. This isn't the first MX-5 Miata to pass through our long-term fleet, and each one seems to have charmed us more than the last. Do the new updates make a difference? Can you really live with such a small car day-to-day? Scroll down the page to see our thoughts.
We found the Miata to be a lovely companion. The ride is reasonably comfortable, even with our Club trim's sportier suspension setup and Bilstein shock absorbers. The Club also includes a limited-slip differential, making it the trim to choose if you want to maximize your enjoyment. Despite it's diminutive dimensions, there's a decent amount of storage. There's a deep pocket between the seats, and the trunk will fit several bags of groceries or enough luggage to last a weekend.
Wherever you decide to go, expect excellent fuel economy from the Miata's 2.0-liter inline-4. We averaged 31.2 mpg, slightly better than the EPA-estimated 29 mpg combined. We regularly saw highway tanks in the high 30s, with our best tank just cresting 40 mpg. The small tank also means full fills won't break the bank, even if you have to run premium gas.
Much of our time with the Miata overlapped with COVID-19. That means the car passed through fewer hands than it normally would have, and miles didn't accumulate as quickly as this car deserved. But for those of us that did drive it, the Miata was a welcome reprieve from being stuck at home. It was great to take advantage of the updated car's extra power. It's a car that feels fun everywhere, from a short trip to the store to an afternoon on a winding mountain road.
And, if you're lucky and get good weather, it takes one hand less than 5 seconds to lower the manual convertible top.
Is The Answer Always A Miata?
The Miata is a car full of intangibles. Yes, it's not the most powerful or the most advanced sports car around, but there are few that feel as engaging and purposeful. Nail the gas and ring the 2.0-liter inline-four out to its 7,000 rpm redline and we challenge you not to smile. The short gearing makes it feel eager to play. But that sporty nature doesn't come at the cost of comfort and fuel economy. If you want something fun and can live with just two seats, we think the Miata is absolutely worth your time.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Real-World Fuel Economy
A few road trips with favorable conditions nets us the best fuel economy we've seen in our little roadster.
Average lifetime mpg: 31.2
EPA mpg rating: 29 combined (26 City/34 Highway)
Best fill mpg: 40.5
Best range (miles):: 396.1
Current odometer: 10,693
"An impromptu road trip meant I needed to get back to St. Louis, Missouri, to see my family. I was traveling alone and already had the keys to the Miata, so I figured why not take it on a road trip. Since Covid-19 has severely limited our drive time, I wanted to put some miles on the Miata before it heads back to Mazda. I ended up adding 3,823 miles over the course of the trip. I also managed to set some fuel-economy records while I was at it.
Before the trip, the Miata's best tank averaged 36.9 mpg, but it was a short fill that used less than half of the Miata's total capacity. I ended up beating it the first leg of the journey. I left early on a Saturday morning and made it from my apartment in Los Angeles to some small town in Nevada off I-15 northeast of Las Vegas. 396.1 miles and 9.789 gallons for an average of 40.1 mpg. For reference, the Miata has an EPA-rated estimate of 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. We've exceeded the highway fuel economy rating on a handful of tanks, but we'd never crested 40 mpg. That also proved to be the longest stint on a single tank of fuel.
The rest of the trip was good, but crossing the Rockies and driving into a headwind across Eastern Colorado, Kansas and Missouri meant the little roadster that could never matched that first tank. The overall average for the trip was 35.3 mpg, and that included a significant amount of city driving once I got to Missouri.
Fuel economy isn't the most exciting thing to discuss when it comes to sports cars, but it's worth noting that the Miata won't break the bank when it comes to fuel stops." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor
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Items we're keeping an eye on
• Uneven trunk lid
Recalls performed on this vehicle
"I said it almost four years ago [https://www.edmunds.com/mazda/mx-5-miata/2016/long-term-road-test/2016-mazda-mx-5-miata-the-s2000-problem.html], and I'll say it again: I just can't see buying a new Miata over a nice low-mileage Honda S2000. I was hoping the 2019 Miata's newly raised 7,500-rpm redline would change my mind. It doesn't. Although there are more revs now, they're not thrilling. They're just an extra helping of the same growly, vibrating revs that the current-generation Miata has been serving up since 2015. Buzzing around town at 4,000-5,000 rpm, the 2.0-liter inline-4 sounds and feels like it's suffering. You want to upshift just to ease its pain. The fact that you've got a few thousand revs in reserve at that point is merely academic, because there's nothing pleasant about exploiting them. Great sports-car engines make you want to stay in gear as long as you can and explore the limit; this one begs you for a mercy shift when you're barely halfway there. The S2000 engine in either AP1 (2.0-liter) or AP2 (2.2-liter) form is one of the greats, as I argued in detail in my original post. Surprisingly, you can still pick up a lightly used, mint-condition S2000 for under $25k today. It's a no-brainer for me until the Miata gets a motor that matches the model's illustrious heritage." — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy
"I'll take the counter-argument to Josh's "get an S2000 instead" line of thought. I will gladly trade off a screaming redline, nicer sounding engine and "future classic" status for a nicer ride quality, modern amenities and a warranty. With ther S2000, you're looking at a 10-15-year-old cars, many of which have likely seen their share of bad mods and hard-driving. I don't want to deal with the hassle of finding the diamond in the rough and any normal issues that would naturally come up with an older vehicle. Give me a back up camera, apple carplay, blind spot monitoring any day of the week and the MX-5 is still a blast to drive." — Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor
"I've been down on manual transmission cars as of late. Living in perpetual Los Angeles traffic, I felt like there was no joy to be had on your daily commute. But this Miata might have me second guessing this conclusion. The manual transmission in this car is easy to shift and the clutch feels light enough that it never got tiring during my drive home. I may change my tune after a full weekend with it, but so far I'm glad we passed on the automatic." — Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor
"I spent a few weeks in the Miata over the holidays. Few cars are as infinitely enjoyable as the Miata. It's small and geared short enough to make it easy and fun to blast through traffic. The clutch is light enough to make my slow commute relatively painless, but there's enough feel through the pedal that it doesn't feel vague. My biggest complaint is the shifter. The throws are short, but it feels clunky. Still, it wouldn't keep me from buying one." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor
"I saw Josh's comment about how the current Miata's engine is inferior to the one Honda put in its S2000 so many years ago. Oh, and I read Ron's counterpoint, too. And I'm with Ron on this one. I'd much rather have a new ND Miata than a used S2000.
Plus, I don't agree with Josh's assessment that the Miata's engine sounds like it's suffering. It's a little buzzy, sure, but it pulls hard and happily zings all the way to redline. It also has something the S2000 never had: midrange torque! I can work the low-end to the middle of the tach all day long and have plenty of power for squirting through city traffic." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
""What's it like driving a Miata for multiple hours on the highway, Brent?" So glad you asked! It's actually kind of a hard question to answer. Like, compared to driving a luxury sedan, the Miata is a miserable little car. Normally, you don't want wind and road noise on a long drive. Well, you get plenty of that in the Miata. The stuff you do want — stretch out space, lots of cubbies for your stuff, a sweet stereo — is MIA. Blargh, this car doesn't even have adaptive cruise control!
OK, so there's that. But is the above a fair observation? You don't buy a Miata to make regular cross-country trips. So how about from a lowered expectations standpoint? Well, it's not too bad! I fit in the driver's seat, and I can see out easily. (I'm skinny and 5-foot 10-inches, so your results will vary.) The suspension tuning is firm but not uncomfortable. Plus, the Miata's nimble and direct steering, and the fact that it's not a complete isolation bubble, kind of makes it fun, in a different sort of way." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
"I wish these seats were better. There was some debate over what seats to choose now that Mazda offers a set of Recaros. The optional seats are expensive, and some of us feel like they sit higher than the standard seats. Losing headroom isn't good in a car this compact, but the Recaros fit my body better than the standard seats. It's been a few years since I've done a road trip in this car, so I'll see if my complaints from past Miatas still hold true." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor
"I've always been a huge fan of the Miata and in this congested world, it's simple formula makes more sense than ever, delivering big fun at small speed. But, and it is a big 'but', I couldn't own one. I'm 6ft 4in and can barely fit behind the wheel.
Being conscious that some members of our team are vertically-gifted, we specified the trim with entry-level seats, which tend to take up less room than the Recaro chairs fitted to posher versions. It helps, but my knees still make regular contact with the fascia. I wouldn't be comfortable driving it for more than an hour, and I don't feel particularly safe.
I recognise that diminutive proportions have always been part of the Mazda's appeal, but surely a couple of extra inches in the wheelbase wouldn't have ruined the aesthetic. It's hugely frustrating because it ruins my enjoyment of the car.
Anyone out there have any solutions? Maybe we should try some racing shell seats and to hell with the comfort?" — Alistair Weaver, vp, editorial & editor-in-chief
"I do love a good road trip, but the Miata would not be my first choice. Well, as long as that trip involved a lot of interstate action. And that's because the Miata is, well, loud. The top is the real culprit here, specifically the part of the top right behind the driver's (and passenger's) ear. After 2.5 hours at elevated highway speeds, I had a bit of headache. Luckily, that's how long it took to reach our destination, but if I had to get back on the road after a quick fill-up I would not have been looking forward to the next stint." — Kurt Niebuhr, vehicle test editor
"A few weeks back, I took the Miata on an unexpected road trip to see family back in Missouri. That meant driving from my apartment in Los Angeles to my mother's house in the St. Louis metro area, racking up a few thousand miles in between. Now, I admit the Miata isn't the ideal road trip car. It's small inside, has limited cargo space and it's quite loud on the highway. I'm also not the biggest fan of the seats in our Club model (I'm one of the few people at Edmunds that prefers the optional Recaros). All that said, I was pretty impressed at the end.
The size might have been an issue if my wife had come along, but as I was alone, the compact size was really only a problem when I wanted to stretch out. There's more space in the trunk than it appears, so I was able to load three weeks worth of clothes as well as my backpack and camera equipment. I had a bag of snacks on the passenger floorboard, and because it's so narrow I could reach in easily without taking my eyes off the road.
The ride wasn't smooth, but it was fairly composed all thing considered. You feel bumps, but it's not crashing over everyone of them. The steering is fairly light, but it has good on-center feel, so it's not really work to keep it straight. Once exception: I saw some nasty crosswinds while driving across Kansas. I never felt unsafe, but there were a few strong gusts that nearly put me over in the other lane.
My biggest complaint is the noise. Now, I hate to harp on this too much. You can't expect much from an affordable convertible. It's not going to be dead quiet like some luxury convertibles will be. Still, it's loud, especially at highway speeds, and I had to have the volume cranked way up just to hear my podcasts or audiobooks. Lots of wind and road noise inside. Kansas got me again on the way home. Just past Topeka, I ended up in a hail storm. The sound of those little balls of ice slamming on the roof was nearly unbearable. Luckily it stopped quickly.
The Miata is far from my first choice for a road trip, but I wasn't regretting it either. If I was single, I could live with this being my sole vehicle, though any road trips would have to be solo adventures." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor
"The manual rearview mirror is a mixed bag in our Miata. On the plus side, at night manual mirrors are generally better at dulling bright lights than auto-dimming (or electrochromic) mirrors, and auto-dimming mirrors tend to have bezels of un-dimmed glass around the edges. Since the Miata is about as far off the ground as a toddler, the manual mirror is much better at keeping you from being blinded. But only if the top is up.
If the top is down, the manual mirror reflects every overhead lightsource. So if you're driving through an area with tall, lit up buildings and lots of streetlights you have to sort through a ton of visual noise to distinguish cars from scenery. In most cars, having one type of mirror or the other is just an issue of convenience, but in the Miata it's practically calculus." — Will Kaufman, content strategist and news editor
"The rearview mirror on this Miata seems to be magnified more than normal. Cars behind you appear to be tailgating you when in reality, they're at a normal distance. I'm not sure if this is standard for a convertible, but it'll take some getting used to." — Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor
"The cupholder situation in the Miata is... not ideal. And it gets even less ideal when you bring a passenger along. Thankfully, the storage cubby behind and between the seats does hold a fairly standard size of insulated drink bottle. The lack of a decent cupholder should in no way, ever, keep you from buying a Miata, it's just a minor inconvenience every so often." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor
"Our Miata has Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, which I like because I am connecting my iPhone almost all the time when I'm driving. CarPlay is meant to work like a phone, so its interface is touch-oriented. But using CarPlay is unusual here because of the Miata's touchscreen.
It has touch functionality only when you're stopped. Once you're on the move you have to use the Miata's rotary knob controller to interface with the infotainment system. Mazda does this to reduce driver distraction, presumably. But operating CarPlay with the knob — you have to spin it to move a cursor around the app icons, and then press the knob down to select — is actually more distracting than just touching the screen. This would work better if Mazda just let you use touch functionality all the time." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
"At 4.6 cu. ft. the Miata's trunk is not big. But it is practical for its size. I have no problem fitting a week's worth of groceries in the back. And when a short road trip opportunity presented itself, two overnight bags, jackets and personal bags had plenty of space. If the Miata fits into your life, your life will fit into a Miata." — Kurt Niebuhr, vehicle test editor
"OK, so here's another entry that's akin to complaining that you don't like your cat because it doesn't bark. Does the Miata have lots of space to store your personal items? No, it's terrible at that. There's no glovebox. The Miata's equivalent, a lockable storage bin located between the seats in the rear bulkhead, is small and hard to reach. The center console bin is so small that it says, "No thanks, I can't eat another bite" when you try to shove in something else besides a key fob. There are no door bins or bottle holders. More often than not, the passenger seat and/or floor is your storage area. Kate Spade is your co-pilot.
But would you want the alternative? A bloated blob of a roadster that holds all your stuff but is hundreds of pounds heavier? No thanks. You accept these limitations because the payoff is an elemental driving experience no other similarly priced car comes close to offering. Your cat meows. Be grateful for it." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
"I know it's been said before, but the Miata is a surprisingly practical vehicle. I — a 30-something with a wife, a dog and no kids — could totally get away with using a Miata as a daily driver. My wife drives a Honda CR-V, but, if I was single, I could realistically make a Miata fit my lifestyle.
I used to own a Volkswagen GTI. I loved that car and would own one again, but I never used the backseat and only rarely filled up the hatch to capacity. Sure, the Miata is small, but the trunk is more spacious than you think. Check out the photo. That's two weeks worth of groceries. Kurt and I have both used the Miata for long weekends away, which means filling the trunk with luggage.
Then there's the fuel economy. We've averaged about 29 mpg so far, right on the EPA combined estimate. And that's with days at the track and weekend drives on winding canyon roads.
And it's easy to park, too, thanks to the extremely small footprint and relatively light steering. It seems no space is too small.
Outside of taking my dog somewhere, I haven't been in a situation since I moved back to California where I needed something larger than a Miata." — Reese Counts, vehicle testing editor
"At 6-foot-4, I'm essentially all wrong for the Mazda Miata. My hair brushes against the roof, even if I slouch in my seat, and when I do finally get in, I look like the guy in the Beetle from "22 Short Films About Springfield." And yet, the Miata is so satisfying to drive that the fact I don't fit is of no importance. The quick steering response, satisfying gearshifts, relatively powerful engine and intuitive rev-matching coalesce to form this utterly engaging two-seater. I couldn't daily drive the Miata given my specs, but I want to." — Cameron Rogers, reviews editor
"I'm inclined to say the Miata's (or MX-5 or MX-5 Miata, whatever) exhaust pipes are the best in the business. They stick out just far enough beyond the rear bumper, they're stainless, thin walled and straight cut. Perfect." — Kurt Niebuhr, vehicle test editor
"Of all the cars in our long-term fleet, this is easily the one I'd prefer to be stuck with during the pandemic. Yes, over our shiny new Tesla Model Y or the bonkers Shelby GT500. Why? Because it's the only car in our fleet that is all fun all the time, even if I'm just doing a lap of the city to get out of my apartment. We all need an escape right now, be it bingeing a TV show or playing video games for hours on end. The Miata is mine. Sure it doesn't have a back seat for friends or a quiet and isolating highway ride, but neither one of those things matters right now. All that I care about when I choose to get behind the wheel is if I can forget about what's going on and do the one thing that I know I love: driving." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor
"I absolutely love our long-term Miata. My wife and I have seriously considered getting one, though it would be a terrible replacement for her Honda CR-V. She loves the idea of owning a convertible in California and is fine with the Miata's slick, easy-to-operate manual transmission. That's good news for me as I would loath owning this car with the automatic.
It's small and easy to park, a big boon in Los Angeles where parking spaces are small and street parking is a frequent necessity. Fuel economy is excellent, too. We're just a hair behind the EPA combined rating of 29 mpg, but I guarantee it could match or beat it if I quit revving the engine out or upshifted more frequently. The biggest flaw is the lack of power, so I usually leave it in a lower gear around town to make the car a little more responsive. In other ND Miatas I've driven, I've seen 38 mpg over a full tank of highway driving, much better than the EPA-estimated 34 mpg.
But good fuel economy is a boring reason to buy a sports car. I want a Miata because I don't think you can have more fun in a new car for less money." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor
"I had the fortune of living with our long-term Miata for a little over a week. Now I am someone who has never wanted a convertible, but for that entire week, I never once put the top up unless I parked it. Why? It's quick and effortless to put up and down, and because of that, you don't draw attention to yourself. And this car is so good at being a convertible, too. I know that sounds dumb, but the Miata was designed to be a light, easy and fun convertible while most convertibles are simply converted coupes with showy and complicated top mechanisms - they're just not the same. The Miata is the only convertible I would buy. It's perfect." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor