Ride Review: 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Twenty-five years later, this car defined what a roadster should be.
It was 1989. Up until this time, roadsters were at least semi-reliable and required a lot of love and maintenance. Yet, there was still a generation that never had a real chance to experience the roadster during its heyday – the late 1950s through the 1970s.
With help of a team of visionary and nostalgic men and women at Mazda, the original MX-5 Miata was born. From that point, it became the bets selling car of its kind of all-time. We GLBT folk had plenty to do with that milestone. The Miata became one of our favorite cars throughout its run – enjoyed by everyone in our community.
I want to admit to one thing. Since I am the “car guy” at Lavender, I never drove a Miata. Silly? Yes, but I needed to do something about it.
It was time to finally experience perhaps the greatest roadster of them all.
In over twenty-five years, Mazda stuck to a formula that has worked over time. It is easily identifiable, despite various changes over three generations. The latest MX-5’s gaping mouth with fixed headlamps is an evolution of the original Miata. It gives the MX-5 an identity that is unique, as the car itself. A long hood stretches to the windshield with small doors that open wide for anyone wishing to ride this car. The rear end is not exactly short, but it allows enough space for roof stowage and a small trunk. The trunk lid opens high for 5.3 cubic feet of space for a couple of bags for the weekend.
This tester came with a power retractable hardtop in the Grand Touring trim. When the roof is down, it folds into its own compartment between the cabin and the trunk. It takes about 15 seconds for the roof to retract into this compartment, as well as for it to come back up. When it does, it creates a racing look covering the cabin perfectly. The Grand Touring model adds seventeen-inch alloys to complete this look.
The cabin in the MX-5 is pretty small – it is only a two-seater. Yet, it will fit a majority of bodies the Miata will see in its seats. Once the leather seats “knows” you well enough, it will do its best to accommodate you. The seats are firm, but are bolstered enough to keep you occupied. Taller drivers may have a few challenges, such as headroom when the hardtop roof is up and having the windshield cut off at eye level when the roof is down.
It really does not matter. The optimal experience is with the roof down. You have open sky above and better comfort for everyone. The instrumentation is analog and comprehensive – including an oil temperature gauge. Switches are just fine and are basic. There are a few twists to the MX-5. To open up the gas compartment, the switch is located in the small storage cubby in-between the seats towards the rear.
With either the roof open or closed, there is plenty of entertainment to keep you going. It starts with an audio system that features satellite radio and Bluetooth phone connection. Bose provides seven speakers of sound throughout its small cabin. You also get air conditioning and heated seats in the Grand Touring – both will come in handy for this all season roadster.
Once you turn the key to the MX-5, you will find that it is the most amazing car one should drive. There is a complete sense of purity that combines raw power, immaculate handling and steering and a ride that is balanced and unexpected from a roadster.
It starts with the MZR 2.0liter four-cylinder engine. It will rev to the redline with the perfect note coming from its exhaust. If you have this connected to a six-speed manual, it offers up 167 horsepower. In our tester, it came with the six-speed automatic transmission and an output of 158 horsepower. With either transmission, the MZR only has 140 pound-feet of torque.
Regardless of transmission, the best way to describe this engine is “alive.” The power-to-weight ratio helps in getting the MX-5 the best possible performance in every situation. Power is sent to the rear wheels on all MX-5 Miatas.
If you have never driven a MX-5 Miata, you are missing out on something special. The way it handles corners is amazing. It does so without any roll or lean – completely flat out. The steering is sharp and will go exactly where you point the MX-5. Steering effort is exactly and on-center feel is perfect. Brakes are sharp and reacts well in normal and panic situations.
The biggest surprise about the MX-5 is its ride. One would expect a firm, jarring ride from a sports car. Not at all. It is comfortable, compliant and absorbent. The way the suspension handles cracks and bumps is astounding. There is true balance between ride and handling in the Grand Touring MX-5.
By reputation, Mazda’s MZR engines never got high fuel economy. However, this MX-5 tester yielded a fuel economy average of 25.9MPG.
To get into a MX-5, all you need is $24,765 for a basic Sport soft top with a manual gearbox. This Grand Touring power hardtop sits at the opposite end of the MX-5 spectrum. As equipped, this example stickered at $32,735 equipped with the Premium Package.
The key to the Mazda MX-5 Miata is understanding the payoff in owning one. It is the kind of car you drive when the sun is out and a road happens to call. Once the top is down, everything is released. There is no work stress, no family strife, no trolls on your social media accounts – just a smile on your face. The MX-5 Miata quenches your want of freedom and happiness.
That is why Mazda created the MX-5 Miata so long ago. That is also why we love them so much.