Not much changes from year to year with Mazda’s MX-5, commonly known as a Miata, although there’s nothing common about this cute roadster.
First, if you know what a Miata looked like when introduced 28 years ago, you’ve got a good idea of how sharp the new one looks. This little runabout was restyled a couple years ago, actually shrinking a bit, and getting more muscular rounded fenders and slim LED headlights. But really, you know immediately that this is a Miata, er, MX-5.
The test car was an attractive machine gray, which is really a dark sparkling metallic gray, not dull as its name might imply. Add to that a dark cherry red drop top and this delivers both a sporty and sophisticated look. However, this paint job adds $300 to the cost. I’d prefer a dark metallic red.
Oh well, the MX-5 is still relatively inexpensive, especially considering the limited number of convertibles offered these days. Usually they are reserved for the pricy German makes, or luxury Japanese brands. Cost of entry is often $50 grand or more.
A base MX-5 Sport lists at $26,170 and the tested Club version started at $30,045. For that price bump you get a blind spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert, a Bose premium sound system with HD radio, a second USB port and a sport suspension, if you go with the slick 6-speed manual transmission. Wisely, the test car did.
There were absolutely no surprises when it came to performance this week, the Miata, er MX-5, behave just as past models have. The responsive 2.0-liter I4 churns out a peppy 155 horsepower with a 148 torque rating. That’s enough to instill some fun in a car that weighs in at just 2,330 lbs., the same as it did two years ago. And who among us can claim to have gained no weight in two years?
Handling is the highlight, along with the easy shifting of the Mazda’s 6-speed manual. Miata is the embodiment of light breezy handling that is responsive and easy to flick around corners. It’s a pleasure on winding roads and begs to be taken out and tossed around rambling country roads.
As before, this sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks is choppy on our area’s crumbling streets. You’ll want to seek out smooth blacktop as much as possible when driving your Miata. Sorry, MX-5!
This bad boy also added the new Brembo/BBS/Recaro package that includes red Brembo brake calipers to spiff up its looks, but also provide top-notch stopping power. With 155 horses it’s not like you’re driving a prototype rocket sled, but it’s always good to be able to stop quickly. The $4,470 package also adds snazzy BBS alloy wheels and heated (three settings) Recaro sport seats, which guarantee you’ll feel racy once inside the cockpit.
These offer excellent side and hip support. They hug you like your first girlfriend/boyfriend did back in junior high. The seats are manual, but that’s OK as you likely are happy not to be adding extra weight to your sports car. This model featured black cloth seats with leather trim around the edges including magenta stitching to complement that dark cheery red of the soft convertible top.
This being the soft-top (the RF has a retractable hard top), the interior is a little noisier than in the RF. But if you’re the outdoorsy type, and you know you are if you’re considering a drop-top, you’ll not care.
This ragtop’s best feature is its quick one button release and the fact you can toss the roof back from the driver’s seat to put it down. Likewise, once released via a latch behind and between the seats, the roof is easy to pull up and latch back into place. I found it especially handy when a sunny late afternoon ride turned rainy suddenly.
There’s a 7-inch touchscreen display mid-dash and three big manual knobs for setting the climate controls. Button pushing is minimal here.
Naturally the steering wheel has a full complement of buttons for radio volume, cruise control, trip computer and phone access. However, the steering wheel has only a tilt adjustment. It really needs a telescoping feature, plus a flat-bottomed wheel would ease entry and exit for us shorter folks who keep the seat in a more forward position.
Sun visors are minimal and won’t flip to the side too and while I’m whining, this trunk is still mighty small. It’s about right for a small piece of luggage, so pack light!
Head and legroom though are good, even when the top is raised. Mazda figured out how to add an extra click to allow tall folks to further recline the car’s seatback. Smart move!
This model also added an interior package that included alloy gas, brake and clutch pedals, plus a red anodized oil cap and stainless steel door sill trim plates. The package costs $425, so just a bit to add a little bling.
Gas mileage remains good too. Mazda uses its advanced SkyActiv engine technology to help it burn fuel cleanly and efficiently. That, along with its light weight, allows it to earn an EPA gas rating of 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. I managed 32.0 mpg in about an even split of highway and city driving. The car prefers premium petrol too, but will run fine on regular.
We touched on pricing earlier for the base and tested model. After options the test car ended up at $35,240. Moving up to the Grand Touring model pushes the starting price to $31,070. So even if going high-end and adding options the soft-top MX-5 can be had for less than the average new car price these days.
To me that makes this the ultimate affordable fun drive, still. You can pay more for horsepower, but you’ll not have any more fun tossing a car into a tight corner and zipping out the other side than with this Mazda. Still plenty of zoom-zoom left in the Miata.
But I loved the retractable hardtop model when I drove it last year. It’s quieter inside and offers a sportier overall look. An RF (Retractable Fastback) will run you $32,785 for a Club model (heated seats standard) and $33,625 for the Grand Touring model.
I’m pretty sure you can’t lose, no matter which model you choose.
FAST STATS: 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club
Misses: Ride remains choppy, like other small cars. Trunk is small, minimal sun visors and tilt-only steering wheel that should also be flat-bottomed.
Made in: Hiroshima, Japan
Engine: SkyActiv 2.0-liter I4, 155 horsepower
Transmission: SkyActiv 6-speed manual
Weight: 2,332 lbs.
Wheelbase: 90.9 in.
MPG: 32.0 (tested)
Base Price: $30,045 (includes delivery)
Machine gray paint, $300
Interior package (alloy pedals, red anodized oil cap, stainless steel door sill trim plates), $425
Brembo/BBS/Recaro package (Brembo brakes, heated Recaro sport seats), $4,470
Test vehicle: $35,240
Sources: Mazda, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage