Certain cars come with their own unique aura. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of those vehicles, becoming the most popular two-seat sports car ever sold in the United States.
Still known as the Mazda Miata, it is quick, nimble, and fun to drive, which makes it popular with the shrinking sliver of the motoring population in our crowded world. It is one of the cars still built for the pleasure of driving even if the owner cannot afford to belong to a private track.
The MX-5 Miata is a throwback, a car from a simpler time before roads were crowded with ever-growing utility vehicles driven by distracted drivers carrying on phone conversations, answering emails or ordering a pizza — sometimes attempting all three at the same time.
Besides being nimble, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is balanced, with excellent brakes and a strong sound system, which helps amplify the pleasure of taking it for a short or longer spin.
From the start more than 30 years ago, the Miata and now the Mazda MX-5 Miata fit into the classic envelope created for European, particularly British, sports cars beloved by a significant audience of American motorists decades ago.
The MX-5 Miata has the classic proportions prized by car designers everywhere. Mazda’s designers made the RF even more attractive with sleek, elegant sheet metal covering the hood, the side and rear quarter panels as well as the hard top over the cockpit.
The trunk area is small with perhaps room for a single suitcase, though it was adequate for a few bags of groceries. The only real drawback of the MX-5 Miata’s exterior design is the vehicle’s proportions are so small, they look completely out of place in a world dominated by boxy utility vehicles and pickup trucks. The MX-5 Miata I drove also had 17-inch wheels and LED headlights and taillamps.
The Miata MX-5 Miata is more of a true cockpit rather than the cabin found in utility or even a compact sedan. It is small but I found it relatively comfortable once I got used to it. I was impressed with the quality of the sound system even for a car that is built close to the ground. It also comes with a compact touch screen to display information for the entertainment system and even a map to help with navigation.
The seat is comfortable and most important of all the clutch and shift lever are also comfortable to reach and to manipulate, which is critical when you are driving a car with a manual transmission. There also is a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The visibility is good, but the driver’s seat sits close to the ground, making it difficult for see around or over a lot of the vehicles around you in the traffic stream. Avid coffee drinkers be warned there is no usable cup holder in the MX-5 Miata, though the passenger could use the little basket sitting at the driver’s shoulder in the center of the interior space.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata with its rear-wheel drive layout is powered by a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder and the version I drove was equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission, complete with a clutch pedal. There are no driving modes but there is a tachometer in the car to check on the revs, and a helpful electronic shift prompt from electronic control module.
The 2.0-liter engine produced 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of toque. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the MX-5 Miata a combined rating of 29 miles per gallon, including 26 mpg in city driving and 34 mpg on the highway.
Safety and Technology
For a small car, the MX-5 Miata is well equipped. It comes with airbags to protect against both frontal- and side-impact crashes. It also comes equipped with driver assistance features such as lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
It also is equipped with a nine-speaker Bose sound system, a color touch screen, Mazda navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth as well as a control dial in the slim center console. It also has rain-sensing windshield wipers, traffic sign recognition and a rear-view camera.
As I have stressed throughout, the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata is built to be fun to drive and one of the strengths of the vehicle is its well-honed suspension, which is fortified by stabilizer bars in the front and rear and Bilstein shocks and help deliver the car’s excellent driving dynamics. The suspension fits neatly into the car’s aluminum space frame and power to weight ratio is excellent as is the car’s balance.
The car is equipped with electronic power steering, but it is quite responsive and offers plenty of feedback. The brakes are excellent, and the 2.0-liter engine delivers more than enough oomph. One of the advantages of driving a manual transmission is it requires paying attention to the driving conditions even though the manual the MX-5 Miata, I thought, was easy to use.
2021 Mazda MX-5 RF specifications:
|Dimension||L: 154 inches/W: 68.3 inches/H: 48.6 inches/Wheelbase: 90.9 inches|
|Powertrain||2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine; 6-speed manual transmission|
|Fuel Economy||26 mpg city/34 mpg highway/29 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $26,830; As tested: $35,770 including $945 destination charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
This is never going to be a family car because let’s face it in today’s world it’s not the most practical alternative — although in the future we could have a whole lot of drivers used sporty electric cars for their everyday driving.
But if you don’t have to commute and your hobbies don’t require hauling around a lot of gear and your spouse is okay with driving the other car or switching when you have to serve as the family Uber driver, you might want to stop and fantasize for a while about buying one. The price tag at $35,770 is not at all outlandish by today’s standards.
2021 Mazda MX-5 RF — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Mazda MX-5 RF?
The Mazda MX-5 RF retractable fastback can best be compared with a targa roof. In late 2016, a new MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) model was announced. It features a rigid roof and buttresses that give the silhouette a more coupé-like appearance than the soft top convertible.
How much is Mazda MX-5?
The 2021 Miata range starts off at $26,830 for the Sport trim and go up to $31,770 for the Grand Touring model. An automatic transmission should add either $600 or $525, depending on the trim level. And budget another $2,755 for the RF power-retractable hardtop.
What is a Miata?
It is small, light, quick enough, but not brutal, reliable, easy to work on, and handles better than most other cars on the road. It’s a roadster with none of the vices one would expect with such a driver-oriented car.