The old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies in spades to the Mazda MX-5, or Miata as many of us still call it.
Yes, it’s changed over the years – it’s a little bulkier and more upscale than it used to be. But, more than three decades after its introduction, it remains a well-built sports car that’s a pleasure to drive and fun to spend time in.
It remains faithful to its original design, ticks all the boxes and is as much fun to drive as anything out there.
You could argue that affordability has become a bit of an issue, but it’s on par with most of its competitors.
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Offered in three trim levels, plus the surprisingly ugly hatchback RF, the 2022 MX-5 is still the car it used to be. It’s still powered by a two-litre, 16-valve twin, four-cylinder engine that develops just over 180 horsepower and is matched to a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic.
It comes with a traction control system as standard, as well as Bilstein shocks, 17-inch wheels and tires, air conditioning, and a fairly long list of performance/handling enhancements. With 50-50 weight distribution, it is, in the truest sense, a traditional sports car.
You can also get it with Brembo front brakes, special forged alloy wheels and leather Recaro seats – not to mention the “soul red crystal metallic” paint of my tester.
It starts at just over $33,000 and can get up to $40,000 easily with options and other extras.
Although it’s still a reasonably handsome car, the MX-5 has lost some of its character. It looks much more generic than it used to and lacks the elegant simplicity of its predecessors. On the other hand, the hatchback derivative RF is arguably the ugliest car on the road.
Nonetheless, this is still a fun car to drive. Peripheral visibility with the top up is surprisingly abundant, and the shift mechanism, with its rifle-bolt precision, is a treat. With 180 horsepower on tap, this is also a lively car – more than enough for most people.
Elbow room and cargo space are at a premium. There’s just one cup holder and the trunk will take just 130 litres of stuff. This is strictly a two-seater and a little tight for space.
But it has a full complement of modern conveniences, including a manually-deployed top that can be raised or lowered in 10 seconds. This top is the best designed and most user-friendly of its kind.
The MX-5 is also dependable and has an enviable reliability record. After all these years, it still gets top marks from institutions like Consumer Reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S.
It can easily provide day-in, day-out transport. It’s not exactly a people-carrier, but it is incredibly dependable and loved by motorsports buffs because of its cast-iron durability. Drop into any motorsports facility and you’re bound to find a Miata being put through its paces.
In terms of bang for the buck, it’s still a category leader.
The years have also been relatively kind to the MX-5. If a new one is out of your reach, you can pick up older models for a song. Decent first-generation models can be had for as low as $5,000, which is a bargain.
And let’s not forget fuel economy. With the manual gearbox, the MX-5 is arguably the thriftiest sports car on the market, but it does require premium gas.
Base price: $33,300
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Transmission: six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Horsepower: 181 at 7,000 rpm
Torque: 151-foot pounds at 4,000 rpm
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.0 city and 7.0 highway, with manual transmission and premium gas
Some alternatives: Fiat Spider, Nissan 370Z Roadster, Audi TT, Porsche Boxster
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.
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