What can I say about the Mazda MX-5 Miata that hasn’t been said before? It is the best-selling two-seater sports car in history, with over 1 million units sold worldwide. It has been called the answer to everything and the greatest car ever made. We at Roadshow like it so much that we have five in our personal car fleet, and I own two: a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata and Buddy,. Suffice it to say I love this car.
- Excellent handling
- Happy, high-revving engine
- A lot of smiles per gallon
I do not like
- Lacky infotainment
- Taller drivers are excluded from the fun
But the Miata isn’t perfect. If you appreciate the latest technology, ergonomic comfort or oodles of storage space, you will surely be disappointed. If you are taller than 6 feet, you will have a hard time living with one. But if you have overcome these obstacles and are still okay, you will be rewarded with an unrivaled driving experience.
Weighing in at 2,339 pounds, the 2021 Miata pushes 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque from its naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine. The power goes exclusively to the rear wheels, and while you can opt for a six-speed automatic transmission, as far as I’m concerned you’re legally obliged to buy a Miata with the six-speed manual. It’s just better.
With its tight gearbox and perfect clutch, I want to row as much as possible with the manual gears. But hop on the freeway and put it into sixth gear, and you’ll be cruising at a low 70mph in the engine’s rev range. My old Miata sounds like an angry hornet on the freeway, and the gas mileage reflects that. The 2021 Miata, meanwhile, is cool and collected, and can return up to 34 mpg on the highway, which I have no trouble seeing in regular use.
The Miata asks to be revved up at all times, and maximum power reaches 7,000 rpm. While this fourth-generation Miata is still the most powerful, it’s still not exactly a high-powered sports car. Instead, it’s what we call a momentum car, something you can keep on the boil all the time. Never lift, use the brakes sparingly, and you can attack corners at speeds that will make Mustangs cry.
The Club trim is the best way to experience the Miata, with its limited slip differential, Bilstein suspension, front shock mount, Brembo brakes and 205/45 series Bridgestone Potenza summer tires wrapped around 17 inch forged BBS wheels. inches. All in all, the MX-5 is easy to drive to the limit. Sure, its rear will pop out from time to time, but it’s all a lot of fun, and a quick flick of the steering wheel fixes any playful skidding.
On my favorite back roads I can keep the Miata in third gear, snaking through the curves without worrying about the world. On some straights I manage to take fourth gear for a while, but then brake, downshift to third, float around corners and accelerate with all the torque from the engine easily accessible right under my foot. Foam. Flushing. Repeat.
There are no driving modes either. The shock absorbers are always stiff, the electric power steering is quite heavy and talkative, and the throttle is consistently good. The Miata is set up from the start for maximum driving fun and I’m totally here for it. However, you will not break any records on the drag strip. It takes nearly 6 seconds to hit 60mph, which can feel like an eternity when modern sports cars can do the same sprint in half the time.
However, the experience is pure joy. Better yet, it is accessible joy. My Club setup starts at $ 31,285 including $ 995 for the destination, and if you don’t need all the performance extras, a basic MX-5 Sport costs $ 27,825.
As I said earlier, the MX-5 has its weaknesses. I don’t expect huge amounts of space in a small two-seater car, but the fact that the Miata doesn’t even have a glove compartment is crazy. There is a lockable storage compartment built into the vertical space between the seats, but it is inconvenient to access when seated.
The trunk has a tiny 4.5 cubic foot space, hampered by a small opening. However, I am able to accommodate my carry-on with some free space. Pro tip: It’s always easier to pack a Miata trunk with soft-sided containers or use no containers at all, filling individual cans of Diet Dr. Pepper into any small space available rather than leaving them in a 12-pack box.
There are only two USB-A charging ports, but then there are only two places. The cup holders are removable and drivers will inevitably want to use the passenger-side holder that attaches to the center console rather than the fold-out position of the arm on the driver’s side. Wireless charging is not available and only some driving aids are offered. The only driver assistance systems offered are lane departure warning, rear cross traffic warning and blind spot monitoring, and the latter is particularly sensitive.
The Mazda Connect infotainment system comes on a 7-inch display and is arguably the worst thing about the Miata. When it’s stationary, I can control it via the touchscreen, but as soon as I start moving, I have to use an awkwardly placed rotary knob on the center console. The menu layout is difficult to navigate and the graphics are far from impressive. However,And are now standard and any incoming text messages are read through the headrest speakers. It seems like a good idea until I fine-tune the tunes, which play through the door speakers. Siri doesn’t adjust the volume automatically and blasts those words right into my eardrums.
As for overall ride comfort, taller people will struggle in the MX-5. I’m 5 feet 9 inches tall and wouldn’t want to be much bigger. My tester’s heated Recaro seats are supportive, but some people may have a hard time getting out. Myself? I have a patent pending front leg stretch and cross system that I have perfected over the years.
The manual soft top is easy to use, even when seated, and while it definitely keeps more road and wind noise out of the cabin than in previous years, you will still need to raise your voice to have any kind of conversation with your passenger. If you want a quieter ride, look to the MX-5 Miata RF with its retractable hardtop.
The Miata is arguably one of the best cars on the road today, even if it’s not perfect. But if what you want is pure driving pleasure, in terms of smiles per dollar, it’s hard to beat the MX-5.