Mazda's legendary MX-5 is evolving. First, it borrowed the pronounced fenders and angry, slanted headlights from its RX-8 big brother, and this year it's traded in its old cloth roof for a sleek, retractable hardtop. The 2007 MX-5 Miata PRHT (the acronym stands for "power retractable hard top") is a stylish roadster that looks equally good with the roof up or down. While its new plastic composite roof adds a few pounds to the curb weight, the hardtop Miata retains enough "zoom-zoom" to live up to its sporty heritage. Technophiles and connoisseurs of luxury interiors may find themselves feeling short-changed by the 2007 Miata hardtop, and tall people might find the cabin a bit too cozy for comfort, but for a sub-$30,000 roadster that doubles as a fine-looking coupe, you'd be hard-pressed to beat it.
Test the tech
For our tech cabin test in the MX-5, we were limited somewhat by the scarcity of digital systems. One of the few tech options on our tester was its premium audio setup, comprising a Bose 7-speaker sound system with Audiopilot noise compensation technology. Audiopilot is designed to adjust the level of acoustic output according to the level of background noise; to do this, it makes use of a cabin-mounted microphone to monitor audio output, which it then compares to the music signal, making noise-mitigating alterations if necessary.
For our tech test, we planned to see if Audiopilot worked as advertised. Our intention was to set the stereo to a certain volume, open the top, and drive around at a set speed with Audiopilot on and then off, noting any effects. Using a sound meter, we would be able to determine whether there was any difference between the two settings. In short, we found no difference between the volume levels and EQ settings with Audiopilot on or off.
We did, however, find something very interesting related to the stereo output and the power retractable hardtop. When the hardtop canopy clasp is released--even before the button to deploy the top is pushed--the stereo automatically adjusts the audio output to be more appropriate for open-top driving. According to Mazda, a switch located in the clasp triggers a remapping of the Bose system's EQ tones, but does not adjust the volume. Our test, however, showed a significant difference in audio volume according to the sound meter: with the stereo volume set to 20, the audio output from one of our favorite Stone Roses tracks was 83dB with the clasp closed, and 90dB with the clasp open.
In the cabin
The interior of the hardtop MX-5 Grand Touring is stylish, Spartan, and snug. We're not great fans of ocher plastic panels, but coupled with our test car's "saddle tan" leather seats, the effect was inoffensive, particularly as it was offset by some rather snazzy black lacquer material across the dash. While legroom with the seat fully back is adequate for those over 6-feet tall, the 2007 MX-5 poses a few problems for taller people. Firstly, with the driver's seat fully back, forward visibility is impaired by the rearview mirror, which takes up around a quarter of forward visibility. Secondly, the MX-5's clutch take-up is very high on the manual-transmission model, meaning that tall people will find their left knee wedged between the left door's handrail and the steering wheel before the clutch engages.
Finally, headroom is limited--your 6-foot-4-inch correspondent found that there was barely room to sit up straight with the top on. Rearward visibility is also significantly impeded with the hardtop up, and the stocky B-pillar on the driver's side means that all rear-left sight lines are non-existent. If the view is not great from the inside with the top up, then drivers can rest assured that the view from the outside is a lot better: the Miata PRHT differentiates itself from nearly all its competition by looking as attractive with the roof up as it does with the roof down.
Technologically speaking, there's not much to talk about in the Miata's cabin, aside from an unintuitive stereo and the two buttons that control the power roof. The latter are situated above the stereo head unit, and provide an easy, one-touch means of raising and lowering the roof. Watching the hardtop fold away is a real spectacle as the roof breaks into three panels, which take about 12 seconds to interleave and disappear behind the front seats. If only the stereo were as easy to operate.