The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the best-selling roadster of all time. With sharp handing and a no-nonsense approach to driving, it's no wonder.
For 2009, the MX-5 gains a bit more power and a new look that is either much more refined or much goofier looking, depending on whom you ask.
While available with a powered, retractable hard top, our MX-5 is equipped with the manual Z-shape folding cloth top. The manual top is one of the easiest-to-use convertible tops available today, able to be raised and lowered from the driver's seat in seconds.
Low tech cabin
The MX-5's cabin tech is purposefully devoid of cabin tech, which is disappointing for our purposes, but is a godsend for driving purists looking for a distraction free cockpit.
Starting at the center stack, our MX-5 Miata Grand Touring is equipped with the upgraded seven-speaker Bose audio system of undisclosed power. The system features a six-disc in-dash CD changer that supports MP3 and WMA encoded discs, AM/FM radio, and an analog auxiliary input located at the base of the center stack. Users who want to connect their digital media players will have to make due with that aux-input, as no USB or iPod adapter is available from the factory. A dealer installed iPod kit is available, which will run a steep $300.
The Bose audio system includes a center channel speaker that improves frontal stereo staging a bit. A pair of rear speakers located near the head rests and automatic volume leveling helps top down audio performance, but not much. The system also features two audio processing modes for top up and top down listening. You can hear it subtly switching modes when you hit the roof release button. This Bose system lacks a discrete subwoofer, so it's not as boomy as some of the other Bose systems we've tested--which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The MX-5 is not available with GPS navigation, which seems to have been left out in a bid to keep the MX-5's cabin driver focused and distraction free. However, we think that navigation would come in handy when trying to find your way home after an afternoon of canyon carving.
A Premium package can be added, which includes an antitheft system with smart-key entry and keyless start, Xenon HID headlamps, Sirius satellite radio, and Bluetooth hands-free calling. The Premium package is available only at the Grand Touring trim level, which means that you can have Bluetooth only on the most expensive of the Miatas.
The Sirius satellite radio system seems to be plagued by the same reception problems that we experienced in the Mazda3 Grand Touring. The system often loses satellite reception, even with clear unobstructed skies. Reacquisition of signal takes a few moments, but the constant interruptions are annoying.
The hands-free calling system is controlled completely by voice and can be set up only when the vehicle is stopped. After pairing a phone using a four-digit PIN, users can manually save contacts to be retrieved by voice key, but we found no way to automatically pull contacts or to use our phone's voice activated dialing feature.
Just enough power
Motivating the proper sports car drive wheels--the rear ones--is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with variable-valve timing. The power plant generates 167-horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. This isn't a huge amount of power or twist, but in the bantam weight Miata, it is just enough. 0-60 comes in a little more than seven seconds, which isn't neck-snapping, but is respectable.
Torque is transmitted through a six-speed-manual transmission with a short throw shifter that is an absolute joy to row through the gears. Gear engagement is a bit chunky and you can really feel the teeth of the gears engage through the shifter.
The previously mentioned Premium package adds Dynamic Stability Control to the mix, which helps to keep the power in check when things get slippery. The system has pretty high limits and only interferes when things get really loose. DSC is defeatable with a single button press for when you want to get some tail-out action.