EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: With the somewhat recent introduction of the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, we've seen the old stalwart among cheap sports cars, the Mazda MX-5, be ignored by a lot of press and enthusiasts. That's a real shame, because Mazda's continued to be there for enthusiasts with its little roadster since the early 1990s while almost every other car maker has been content to make an appearance from time to time.
Part of the reason Mazda has been able to do that is that the MX-5 is and always has been a great little car. And, yeah, this one's not as little as some of the ones that have preceded it, but it's still relatively light, rear-wheel drive and it comes with a manual transmission.
The Club edition that we recently tested had a folding hardtop roof, which I could go without, even if it would be invaluable for “Miata as only car” types in rainy or occasionally cold climates. Don't laugh, they're out there. The interior in the Miata is pretty well dominated by hard, cheap plastic, but it's not uncomfortable and frankly, the interior isn't the point.
The point is in driving it, and driving it is a real joy. It's taut, but not too stiffly sprung. I drove it over some of the nastier potholes in my neighborhood expecting a jolt, only to be surprised when it glided through without much trouble at all. The soft suspension doesn't hurt the car, it actually makes it more fun to drive because it's pretty slow and it imparts some drama.
Even with the next Alfa/Miata coming down the pike, I don't have any qualms about recommending this one. It's one of the last great joy-makers out there. Go drive an MX-5.
The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata is equipped with a 2.0-liter I4.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I just can't imagine anyone being angry in a Miata. Cynics will say the MX-5 isn't as pure as it once was, that it gets bigger and heavier with each generation, that it doesn't have that “will it even start today?” character of a British Leyland product. The truly uncivilized will call it a “chick car,” or worse, before attempting to peel away in their faded Chevy Camaro IROC-Zs.
But cynics will always find something to complain about, and even though this car is a bit bigger all around than its predecessor, there's still no room in the trunk for cynical baggage.
It's not a perfect car by any means. Interior material quality is right at the Mazda 2 level -- lots of hard plastic, no infotainment system in the stack. I suspect this will be different when the new Miata debuts soon. Either way, the hard top retracts quickly, and you're up and running with no drama.
The engine doesn't have a very well-defined note; it kinda sounds like a 2.0-liter Mazda 3 for some reason. Or perhaps Mazda would say that the rest of its fuel-sipping lineup is imbued with the sporty spirit and sound of the Miata? Whatever. I'd be looking into aftermarket exhaust options if I owned one.
Peak torque is at 5,000 rpm and peak horsepower at 7,000. There's a lot of room to wind it up, and you're not going to be rowing through the gears like crazy when you want to make a quick getaway from a stop.
One of the big complaints I anticipate is that it's underpowered. OK, fine, 167 hp doesn't seem to get you far where performance cars are concerned. But remember, the MX-5 isn't really a performance car in the modern sense: it's a modern interpretation of the classic British roadster
Once you understand that, you realize that its output is perfectly adequate for spirited driving and just low enough to make such driving challenging. You can't just mash the pedal and feel like a hero, at least not in a six-speed manual car (and why go with the automatic here?). Nor can you wail away on the gearbox, as whoever had this tester before us must have. I'm sure the gear selector isn't this notchy from the factory.
Instead, be precise, be deliberate, plan ahead and you'll be rewarded with pure driving enjoyment that's not too hard on the wallet at the dealer or the gas pump. Even if you can't fit a true two-seater into your lifestyle or would prefer something with a few more horses under the hood, you'd have to be a real grump to not get a kick out of this 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club.
The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club Power Retractable Hard Top comes in at a base price of $29,460.
2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club Power Retractable Hard Top
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I'm with Graham nearly 100 percent on the MX-5 Miata. Like a Jet Ski, there's just no way you won't smile while driving this car. Pop the top, which is quick, toss on some sunglasses and head out. I was cruising through some local twisties and turned the radio off, just to enjoy the nature. Sure beats walkin'!
Power isn't exceptional, but I'm pretty sure buyers know what they're getting with the MX-5. It does “feel” quick, which is the most important thing. Getting onto the expressway, accelerating from 10 to 70 mph, is a total body experience. You feel the vibration from the engine, hear the exhaust, smell the city passing by and taste the pavement dust blowing through your nostrils. The power curve feels flat once you hit about 2,500 rpm, and pulls all the way to redline.
I didn't have too much trouble with the shifter. The throws were nice and short, and there's no flex in the stick. I noticed it hanging up a little bit, but I didn't think it was thrashed or anything.
The suspension is hard. Nearly every bump is felt in your rear end and through the steering wheel. That's great for an enthusiast, but if you're just a Sunday driver, this may not be your car. I hit a big pothole early in the weekend; it nearly rattled my fillings out. I spent the rest dodging the big ones, which isn't easy in Michigan.
Mazda always comes through with a good steering setup, even in its 2s, 3s and CX-5s. The Miata, though, is the godfather of them all. Visibility is obviously great, and looking, then pointing the front end at an apex is easy. That's why these things are so fun at the autocross course. You also really have to goose it to get the tail out; I tried a few times with only a slight chirp from the rear.
The radio isn't fancy, but it's loud. Even with the top down on the expressway, you can hear it. And the bass from the speakers was particularly impressive.
The price, of this Club Power Retractable Hard Top, is a little high. I literally just bought a 2014 Ford Mustang GT with 425-hp for $29K plus tax. Sure, there are a lot of differences, and these cars are probably for different audiences. Still, that's a lot more performance for nearly the same money.
Base Price: $29,460
As-Tested Price: $29,460
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter I4; RWD, six-speed manual
Output: 167 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 140lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 2,593 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 21/28/24 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 24.6 mpg
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