What it is: You don’t get the Miata until you drive it. Cars are often referred to as a “driver’s car” because their chief goal is to provide pleasure for the person driving the car, and that’s basically what the Miata is all about. In a world that has fully embraced the horsepower wars, where you can waltz down to your local Ford dealer and get a 760-horsepower Mustang or even to your Dodge dealership and get a 707-horsepower Durango (coming early next year!) you might think that Miata’s 181-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder falls flat. And if you are an acceleration junkie, that might be the case.
In reality, the Miata is an absolute blast to drive. Weighing only 2,332 pounds, it feels like a scalpel instead of a clunky sledgehammer like the current generation of pony cars. It’s a world of simplicity: just you and the open road, and that is immensely refreshing. Cars have become rather bloated in their size, so driving the Miata has become something unique. It does handle wonderfully, and it’s a pleasure to wind up the engine to its 7500 RPM redline. Even if you aren’t accelerating as fast as a fighter jet, there is still plenty of power to make you feel excited.
The convertible top is manually operated, but takes just a moment to undo the single latch and click it shut behind the two seats. It takes seconds, and can easily be done from inside or outside the car. Cool day but you are worried about a storm popping up? No real concerns when you are back to being enclosed in five seconds or less. Mazda does sell a Miata with an electric convertible hardtop (deemed the RF: Retractable Fastback) but it does come at a roughly $3,000 price premium.
The other benefit of the quick and easy soft top is that your trunk space is unencumbered even if the top is down. I successfully made a Costco run in the Miata, and while you won’t be able to fit a 20 pack of paper towels, the trunk is surprisingly useful. There is of course a slight social stigma to the Miata, that it’s a “chick car,” and while I don’t think that the current Miata will hearken the end of fragile masculinity in America, the revised appearance has certainly made it more appealing to everyone.
The Miata is offered in 3 trims: Sport ($26,580), Club ($30,290), and Grand Touring ($31,670). The Sport trim is the base model that is reasonably well equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, 7” infotainment screen, etc. The Club trim is focused at maximum driving performance with a limited-slip differential, sport-tuned suspension, shock tower brace, and extra niceties like Bose 9-speaker stereo and heated seats. The Grand Touring drops the suspension modifications, but adds leather seats, special 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and climate control, etc.
My test model was the Club trim painted the absolutely jaw-dropping Soul Red Crystal Metallic ($595) and equipped with the $4,450 Brembo brakes, BBS forged 17-inch wheels, black aero kit, and black heated RECARO sport seats. The black accents from the interior and exterior really set off the red exterior.
MPG: 26 city/34 highway
Price: $26,580 base price. $35,335 as-tested.
Upsides: Tremendous fun.
Downsides: Hard to be your primary car.
Wrap-up: Mazda has now manufactured more than one million Miatas worldwide, and that’s because they are a relatively affordable sports car that’s fun and reliable. I think the comfort that the new Miata provides makes it nice enough to be a long weekend road trip car or a fun daily driver, but getting in and out may become tedious over time. If you’re tired of the status quo, and want something fun without breaking the bank, it might be time to give the Miata a chance.