Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Mazda MX-5 Miata still defines what a pure sports car should be: A two-seat roadster with rear-wheel drive that's fun on the street and on the track. Mazda Miata is attractively priced, relatively easy to maintain, and won't break you at the gas pump. Adding to its attractiveness, the MX-5 Miata is a superbly engineered sports car when it comes to acceleration performance, braking, gearbox operation, suspension actions, and cornering behavior.
Except for new color options, nothing has changed for the 2014 model year. For 2013, the MX-5 earned a mild refresh, including redesigned front and rear ends. A new Club trim level replaced the prior Touring version, joining the Sport and Grand Touring editions. An all-new MX-5 Miata is scheduled to debut in the first quarter of 2015 as a 2016 model.
Miata was launched in 1989 as an early 1990 model and in all those years its character has not changed. Although Mazda has improved the Miata (while adopting the MX-5 designation, in accord with other models in the lineup) and updated the sports car over the years, its spirit remains intact. Most notably, this two-seater will still leave its drivers grinning.
The Mazda MX-5 rewards its driver with loads of satisfaction and excellent value. In fact, it remains the standard by which affordable sports cars are judged. With a weight distribution of 51 percent over the front wheels and 49 percent over the rear in the power hardtop model (52/48 in the convertible), the MX-5 offers marvelous agility and balanced handling.
The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata is powered by a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine that makes 167 horsepower (at 7000 rpm) with manual transmission and 158 hp with automatic. Both powertrains are good for 140 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is about average for this league, with an EPA-estimated 22/28 mpg City/Highway for the 5-speed manual. Both automatic and manual 6-speed transmissions are rated 21/28 mpg.
Roof choices on the MX-5 include a simple vinyl or cloth top, which operates manually; or a Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT), which features a composite roof that lowers in seconds at the touch of a button. The hard top offers reduced wind and road noise over the soft top, as well as increased security and a sense of solidity. Drivers concerned with weight should note that it does add about 80 pounds to an otherwise very light car.
A variety of MX-5 models, along with two suspension setups and dozens of dealer-installed options and accessories, allow for plenty of personalization. Track-day warriors might opt for a basic Sport model with cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning, a simple stereo, and 5-speed manual transmission. Those looking for a more luxe experience might choose leather upholstery, automatic climate control, the automatic transmission, and the upgraded Bose audio system, which remixes sound in real time to compensate for ambient noise with the top down.
It's tough to name any direct competitors to the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata. This car offers the fun of more expensive roadsters such as the BMW Z4, but without the hefty price tag. Size-wise, the MX-5 has an edge over the Mini Cooper Convertible and the Fiat 500C. Both of those have a small back seat, while the MX-5 Miata is strictly a two-seater. Also, those other cars are front-wheel drive whereas the Miata is rear-wheel drive, which is why it is so much fun to drive.
On another level, enthusiasts might also want to look at the Ford Mustang V6 convertible, which offers track-worthy performance with larger dimensions and greater mass for a very different driving experience. Those who aren't attached to a topless sports car might also consider the Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ, rear-wheel-drive coupes that are the closest to the MX-5 in terms of driving fun.
The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata is available with a manual folding soft top or a power-retractable hard top. All variants are powered by the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Sport models come standard with a 5-speed manual gearbox, while Touring and Grand Touring models get a 6-speed manual. A 6-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles is optional on all models.
The MX-5 Sport ($23,720) comes with a vinyl soft top and a 5-speed manual transmission. Standard features include air conditioning, power windows, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, single-CD audio with six speakers, power mirrors, various interior storage pockets and 16-inch aluminum wheels. All MX-5s come with a tire-puncture repair kit, as opposed to a spare. MX-5 Sport is available with a 6-speed automatic ($25,980), which also includes a Convenience Package. Available as a separate option for the manual-shift Sport, the Convenience Package ($1,080) adds fog lamps, power locks with window operation from the remote key fob, a trip computer, cruise control and steering steering-wheel audio controls. Among the few options are an Appearance Package ($650), clear-film front/rear paint protection ($595), and Sirius satellite ratio ($430).
The MX-5 Club ($26,905) upgrades to a 6-speed manual transmission and comes with a Suspension Package, cloth soft top, 6-CD changer, and 17-inch wheels with summer performance tires. The MX-5 Club also is available with a 6-speed automatic transmission ($27,505).
The MX-5 Grand Touring ($27,550) adds heated leather-trimmed seats, a nicer fabric soft top, automatic climate control and a Bose audio upgrade with subwoofer. The MX-5 Grand Touring may be fitted with a 6-speed automatic transmission ($28,650). A Premium Package ($1,390) includes Xenon HID headlights, keyless ignition and anti-theft alarm, Bluetooth connectivity and Sirius satellite radio capability.
MX-5 PRHT Club ($28,665) and Grand Touring ($29,450) come with the Power Retractable Hard Top. Automatic-transmission versions are offered, too: Club ($29,265) and Grand Touring ($30,550).
Option groups for the Grand Touring include the Suspension Package ($650) with a sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein gas pressure shocks, and a limited-slip differential. The Appearance Package, for Sport or Grand Touring ($650) dresses the exterior in a front air dam and rear under skirt. Dozens of port- and dealer-installed options range from a cargo net to door edge guards, all-weather mats, chrome fuel filler door, splash guards, a rear spoiler, and wheel locks. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Safety equipment includes two-stage front-impact airbags; seat-mounted, side-impact airbags designed to protect the chest and head; anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution; dynamic stability control; and a tire-pressure monitor. The passenger-side front airbag has an on/off switch, and that seat is fitted with LATCH child safety seat anchors. Traction and stability control are standard on all models.