2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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Review: 2007 Mazda MX-5 Miata

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2015.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

New retractable hardtop gives Miata open-air driving enjoyment and all-weather security.
Pros:
  • New retractable hardtop
  • A blast to drive
  • Lots of trim levels
Cons:
  • Cupholders interfere with shifting
  • Stiff clutch
  • Thinly padded seats

One might have thought that Mazda's MX-5 Miata would be one of the very last convertibles to get a retractable hardtop because it's traditionally been a no-frills throwback to elemental British sports cars of the 1960s, some of which even lacked roll-up windows.

But it's a tough market out there, and the two-seat MX-5 Miata must compete with other under-$30,000 retractable hardtop convertibles such as the Volkswagen Eos and Pontiac G6—not to mention the Chrysler Sebring Touring convertible with a retractable top, which just barely crosses the $30,000 list price line.

Appealing Rivals
None of those "retractables" are pure sports cars like the Miata, although their sporty image, rear seating and retractable top still make them competitors to many folks. Mazda gave the Miata a retractable to satisfy American customers who want the car with more nonessential luxuries.

Mazda is staying ahead of the game by giving the Miata (Mazda now mainly refers to it as just the "MX-5") an affordable retractable top that doesn't spoil the car's sporty styling when raised. (An optional lift-off hardtop is still offered.).

No Space Eater
The retractable top adds only 75 pounds, enhances structural rigidity and doesn't eat up any of the car's 5.3 cubic feet of cargo space in its nicely shaped, reasonably sized (for a small two-seater) trunk. In fact, the Miata has the industry's only retractable top that doesn't consume cargo room.

To lower the top, a driver just releases a single latch and pushes a button. The cleverly engineered retractable top then splits in two and tumbles into an area behind the bucket seats in 12 seconds.

Variety of Trim Levels
Miata prices range from $20,585 to $27,115. The car comes in a variety of trim levels: SV, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring.

The power retractable top is offered for all, except the entry SV. The SV has an easily worked manual folding soft-top with a heated glass rear window, which also is offered for all other Miata trim levels.

The soft-top actually is simple to lower or raise and is more in keeping with the Miata's basic personality. But then, it lacks the retractable top's advantages.

Lowest-Cost Retractable
The lowest-cost Miata retractable is the Sport version, which costs $24,400 with a manual transmission. One then can move up to the Touring retractable, which costs $25,260 with a manual and $26,360 with an automatic. The Grand Touring retractable is $26,520 with a manual and $27,620 with an automatic. (I drove the Grand Touring retractable with the manual gearbox.)

The SV and Sport have a 5-speed manual transmission, while others have a 6-speed manual unit. The manual has a delightful short-throw shifter, but it works with a rather stiff clutch. A 6-speed automatic with manual shift capability is optional for all except the SV.

Lower Horsepower Ratings
The Miata has a traditional sports car's rear-wheel-drive layout for good weight distribution. Its sophisticated 2.0-liter dual overhead camshaft engine produces 166 horsepower with the manual and 163 with the automatic. (The 2006 Miata's ratings were 170 with the manual, 166 with the automatic.)

Fuel economy is pretty good: an estimated 25 mpg in the city and 30 on highways with the 5-speed manual and 24 and 30 with the 6-speed manual. The figures are 22 and 30 with the automatic. Premium fuel is recommended for the best acceleration.

A Kick to Drive
The Miata, as always, is a kick to drive. It has super-quick steering, which some may feel is rather heavy at low speeds, and sharp handling reminiscent of a go-kart's. The brake pedal allows progressive action, and the car stops quickly and surely.

The ride is supple for a car with only a 91.7-inch wheelbase, although the optional sports suspension, which enhances handling, lets the ride become a bit jumpy on some roads and doesn't handle bumps as well as the standard suspension.

Lively Acceleration
The Miata only weighs 2,551-2,602 pounds with the retractable top (or 2,441 to 2,527 pounds without it). Acceleration thus is lively: 0-60 mph in 7 seconds with the manual gearbox.

However a downshift from sixth gear to fifth or fourth gear is needed for fast 65-75 mph passing. Also, engine revs are high above 65 mph for the manual transmission model despite its overdrive sixth gear—which makes one wonder how much better highway fuel economy ratings would be with more economical "taller" gearing.

Looking Back
All Miatas are much better equipped than the first model, which arrived for 1990. It cost $13,800 and replaced Volkswagen's Cabriolet convertible as the high school and college car for mainly young women.

The first Miata also drew former owners of sports cars of both sexes who had given up on seeing an affordable, fun-to-drive two-seater again.

One "drops in" and "climbs out" of the low-slung car, which has large outside door handles. Shorter drivers may have a hard time seeing over the high dashboard, but gauges can be quickly read and nicely placed controls are easy to use.

Limited Room
However, there's limited room to put things in such a small cabin, so the console's twin cupholders interfere with shifting if they contain beverages, and cupholders molded into the front door panels are awkwardly positioned.

Two tall adults easily fit, although they have little room to spare. The bucket seats are supportive in curves, but some may feel they're rather flat and need more padding.

The retractable hardtop allows a quieter interior, although tire and wind noise are a bit noticeable above 65 mph with it raised. Normal conversation is easy with the top down at normal highway speeds. The exhaust system emits a genuine sports car sound, but it may be bothersome to some on long drives.

Many would probably be happy with the standard Miata SV, which has standard items including a tilt wheel, power mirrors and windows, AM/FM/CD player, intermittent wipers and fairly wide 50-series tires on 16-inch alloy wheels.

Added Features
The Sport with the manual gearbox adds air conditioning, while the Sport automatic gets cruise control and power door locks with remote keyless entry. The Touring provides steering-wheel radio controls and wider tires on larger (17-inch) wheels. The Grand Touring adds leather upholstery, heated seats and a Bose sound system.

Safety Items
All trim levels have anti-lock disc brakes and side airbags that protect the head and torso.

A $1,250 Premium Package containing traction/anti-skid control and remote engine start is optional for the Grand Touring. And the $500 sport suspension with a limited-slip differential to more effectively shoot power to the road is offered for the Touring and Grand Touring trim levels with a manual transmission.

The retractable hardtop probably seems superfluous to some Miata fans, but it's a feature that doubtlessly will help sell more MX-5 Miatas.

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BB01 - 8/31/2014 2:07:39 AM