Miata Has More Power, Refinement
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review:
To look at Mazda’s MX-5 Miata you’d think little has changed since its introduction nearly 25 years ago.It’s the quintessential two-seater with a simple layout, lines, controls and a simple price tag. The base Sport with a soft convertible top goes for $23,470, and the tested Special Edition with a power hardtop lists at $31,225. Add in the $795 destination charge and you’re looking at $32,020. That’s hardly an economy car, but there aren’t many convertibles available in this price range anymore.
Miata is a pleasant mixture of change and stability.
Styling has been cleaned up a touch, so now it reflects a bit more crispness.
What started as a milder sports car (116 horses) now features a 2.0-liter I4 with variable valve timing. When I last tested a Miata five years ago it boasted 166 horsepower. Now it’s rated at 167. Some might not consider that a lot, but in a sports car weighing just short of 2,600 lbs., it’ll scoot away from a stoplight quicker than most.
This model touts a slick shifting 6-speed manual with short sporty throws that allow you almost a casual shift with the flip of the wrist.
The flashy Velocity Red Mica (a deep sparkling red) test car was just 157.3 inches long and still rides on a 91.7-inch wheelbase. There’s only so much you can do to smooth out the ride with such a modest wheel spread. But the test car features a double-wishbone front suspension with multilink rear, both with coil springs and sporty Bilstein shocks. There are stabilizer bars front and rear and a front shock tower brace to firm the chassis.
Ride is well controlled but firm and can become somewhat choppy on city streets. Still, you’ll be having so much fun tossing this around corners that you’ll forget any ride imperfections. Handling is light and easy with a precision that gives the car a crisp, performance feel.Early Miatas came with a soft convertible top, and then a snap-on hardtop became available so the car could be used year-round. For the last five or so years a power hardtop also has been offered.
Like the flip and drop soft top, the hardtop is easy to operate. Press a button in the center latch, turn the handle to release the roof and push a button on the dash. The top powers down in about 10 seconds, stashing itself neatly below a hard tonneau cover.
Inside, Miata remains simple and fairly comfortable, although snug. There’s a bit more room for the driver than passenger, so straightening long legs is more possible.
This one had black leather seats with white stitching and a gloss black trimmed dash. Five round main gauges are directly in front of the driver, easy to see and read. The car’s thick leather-wrapped steering wheel will tilt but does not telescope.
Radio and climate control knobs are simple with wide buttons and moderately sized knobs for the radio and three larger knobs for the climate system. These are controls you can use while driving and without taking your eyes off the road. This keeps with the Miata designers’ philosophy of this being a driver’s car.
Miata’s manual leather seats are easy to adjust, although a bit of a tight squeeze for your hand between the seat and door. I like the seats’ supportive shape too, with particularly good back side support. The Special Edition also comes with five-speed seat heaters.Overhead, the hard plastic sun visors are useless because they will not flip to the side, but then if you don’t care for sun, a convertible probably isn’t a good choice for you.
Wind protection is excellent, the Miata featuring small fixed side vent windows and a wind deflector behind the seats. But even without using it, the wind buffeting the interior is minor.
Obviously, this being a two-seater you’re likely not going cross-country with a load of luggage. Two small bags will fit for a weekend trip, the cargo area being just 5.3 cubic feet.
Miata uses premium fuel, and this edition is rated 21 mpg city and 28 highway by the EPA. I managed a very respectable 27.9 mpg.