Mazda MX-5 Miata

Two-seater sports cars are a thrill. There's nothing like taking tight corners in a car that is more go-kart than sedan. From 1940 to the 1960s, the classic era of early sports cars included such amazing cars as the MG Midget, the BMW 328, The Jaguar XK120, the Austin-Healey Sprite, and the Triumph TR2. These early roadsters paved the way for the Porsche 911, the Lotus Elan, the dashing Jaguar Model E, and even the Chevy Corvette. Four wheels, two seats, a tank of gas and an inviting stretch of road is all that was needed to put these thoroughbreds through their paces.

A Racing Pedigree

The Mazda Miata is a pure sports car. In fact, if you Google "sports car" the MX-5 Miata is the first image that pops up along with the caption, "the world's best-selling sports car." The Miata has every attribute affixed to a sports car. It is light and nimble, with a curb weight of just 2,332 pounds. It's a two-seater with an engine in the front and rear-wheel drive, and that is the very essence of what makes a proper sports car. The position of the motor offers a perfect 52/48 weight distribution to really make you feel one with the car. It is available in both a convertible and as a retractable hard top for lovely drives with the top down.
The original idea was to build a modern-day British Sports Car similar to the Lotus Elan that echoes the feeling of oneness between a horse and rider; a four-wheeled motorcycle. Interestingly, the name Miata comes from Old High German and literally means "reward." In 1976, motor-journalist and gearhead Bob Hall met with Mazda's Research and Development team and lamented that no one was building a simple, bugs-in-the-teeth, wind in the hair British sports car anymore. By 1981, Hall had joined Mazda in production planning and was given the green light to explore the creation of a roadster.
Mazda's design studio in Santa Monica, California, literally bought an old Lotus Elan as inspiration and they began work on the new lightweight, inexpensive Miata. The first model year appeared in 1989 and was an instant hit. Today, well over a million Miata's have been produced and the current MX-5 is in its Fourth Generation.

Pure Fun

The 2023 Miata has refined all the excitement of open road motoring in a compact, lightweight package. Let's be clear, this is a two-seater that can be cramped for some, and there is little room in the trunk for suitcases, but that is entirely the point of this roadworthy racer. It is perfect for two people to throw a small bag or two in the back, drop the top, and enjoy the drive to some scenic weekend getaway. Every incarnation of the Miata has gotten better at honing its performance skills and this car is all about taking the wheel and having a blast.
It is still available in a soft top convertible or a retractable hard top (known as the RF) and is delivered with a smooth and rev-worthy 181 horsepower four-cylinder motor and a standard six-speed manual transmission. Yes, an automatic tranny is available but why would you want to do that? The whole point of this car is to become one with it. There is nothing more fun than to pop the very forgiving clutch and go through the gears whilst traversing twisty canyons. The chassis is tuned to perfection offering go-kart-like thrills in a silky roadster wrapping.
While the cockpit is a bit sparse and tall drivers may feel cramped, there is nothing more fun than shaking this little car around by the neck. It gives you all the essentials and little else, but that is more than enough to ignite your passion for driving. We're talking about really driving; with the feel of the road just inches beneath you, shifting gears and taking turns low and fast with an enormous grin pasted to your face. With the top down, you see all the sights, inhale all the scents, and if it's a cool day, turn on the heated seats. You'll be just fine.

Under the Hood

No matter which trim level of Miata you choose, all 2023 models come with a tried-and-true SKYACTIV-G 2-liter DOHC 16-valve, four-cylinder engine known for its quick revs (7,500 rpm redline) and more than ample acceleration. It manages 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm with 151 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Electronically controlled fuel injection makes for instant oomph and the silky smooth six-speed manual transmission is an absolute joy. Those who choose the optional automatic will find the shifts perfectly timed, quick, and remarkably sporty.
Performance is perfectly placed with zero to 60 mph happening in 5.7-seconds. The RF model with its retractable roof weighs a bit more and adds an extra second to the zero to 60 times. Light cars make for excellent fuel economy and the Miata will take you an EPA-rated 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway. We averaged a few miles more with the Club version we tested with its manual tranny.

Inside the Cockpit

Ever wonder what it would be like to fly around with an actual, fully functioning rocket jet pack strapped to your back? Driving the Miata may be the closest you'll ever come to achieving that goal. The cabin is like a fighter plane cockpit, with everything you need at your fingertips and little else. For instance, there's no glovebox in the front but rather a small storage space behind you, between the amazingly supportive and comfortable seats.

A 7-inch color touchscreen delivers all the Mazda Connect infotainment and driver assist features, controlled by the convenient multi-function commander knob and buttons behind the gearshift. Bluetooth connectivity is standard along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All trim levels come with a CD player and the Grand Touring variant includes GPS Navigation as standard.
A suite of driver assist safety features include automated emergency braking with forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert.

Our Pick
The base model MX-5 carries a starting MSRP of $29,115 and of the five trim levels, we would pick the mid-range Club ($31,550) which we think offers the best blend of performance and upgrades such as a limited-slip differential, 17-inch wheels, a nine-speaker Bose stereo system that even has speakers in the heated seats. It should be noted that the Club is only available with the six-speed manual gearbox. All versions of this sports car are affordable to own and operate, hold their value well and offer great fuel economy. It's easy to see why the Miata has earned its well-deserved cult-like following.

2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata
MSRP starts at $29,115.
EPA rated at 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway