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CNET On Cars: On the road: 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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CNET On Cars: On the road: 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata

6:39 /

After 25 years of Miata, Mazda is perhaps the most successful maker of sports cars in modern history. Brian Cooley takes the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata out for a drive and checks the tech.

[NOISE] This is the benchmark for sports cars. [NOISE] Real sports cars, in the traditional, definitive sense. Small, light, typically open, two-speeded and not overly powered. And the Mazda Miata also outsells all the predecessors it's a tribute to, by far. Basically, they've been getting it right for a long time. Let's drive this 2014 MX5 Miata Grand Touring with a retractable hardtop. Check the deck. Now, the most amazing thing about the Miata after 25 years, it's still a Miata! Most cars after two and a half decades on the market suffer pretty massive category creep, but this is what it was when it hit in 1989, the pure essence of a sports car- not too much of anything. The engine has grown from 1.8 liters to 2, beyond that it hasn't changed much. And you do now have the option of a power retractable hard top. That is new to their DNA, but again you can go with canvas over your head if you like. This is a thing of beauty, though. It tucks away nicely behind the rear seat. Doesn't add a lot of weight. And it doesn't give you a variable trunk intrusion, like a lot of retractables. I like that. The downside is the trunk's really small. Now, to be sure, inside a Miata is tight. It actually makes a Boxter seem fairly spacious. But that's kind of the idea here. Let's give it a little slack on that one. Super clean classic gauge pack. I like that, it's not adorned with anything including an LCD helper display which brings us to the other LCD that isn't here, that one. There is no LCD head unit on a Miata. Not available, optional, standard, otherwise. Unless you want to get the sort of clip on Garmin they offer but don't. Simple LCD readout, for a simple entertainment system. AM-FM with no HD, satellite radio is optional, CD can be six-disc, aux jack down here. There is an iPod adapter, but it's kind of added by the dealer later, and that's about it for advanced media. No apps, no connected anything, except the connection you have to the road. As much as I like this business wise little cockpit, there are a few ergonomic and stylistic gripes that make me nuts. First of all, the style and quality of that center stack. Everything in here is a great classic look, and then this is kinda this weird mushroom shape, and worse than that, it's made out of plastic that should be used to make the packages things. Come in. Not the things themselves. This one really bad, cheap, false not in an otherwise nice cabin. Some other weird ergonomic things. When you get in to the gear shift here and you're in either two, four or six, the bones on my wrist hit the power window switches. Almost every time. I'm constantly wondering, what is that noise? Oh, well, the window's down a crack again. And if you want to open the little door to put gas in it. It would be nice if it was somewhere where I'm looking forward. But no, I've gotta do a 180. Open up the smugglers box, and pull that thing. That's almost like, they don't like me. [NOISE] Our basic theme is very strongly heard under the hood. Two liter and line four. This is a big engine, it used to be smaller than this when they first came out, either a one six or a one eight depending on your market. 167 horsepower, pretty modest number by today's standards. 140 pound feet of torque, very modest number by today's standards, but the car only weighs 2,600 pounds, so 60 happens in a respectable 6.9 seconds. You've got a 21/28 MPG rating. Therein lies the rub. A car this light, with this small of an engine, should get better mileage, but they're not pushing it on the technology front. For example, no turbo. No direct injections. So the first thing you'll notice driving a Miata is that it is not overly powered. You saw those numbers, 140 pounds of torque is not much today. But it's about revving this car- you get it above 3000, you keep it above 3000. That's where the action lives. In fact, it's geared towards that. When you're on the highway at 60, in top gear, in 6, you're still pushing close to 3000 rpm. The gear box is short throw and crisp. A lot of companies will say that about their transmissions, and you get in, and they're not. This one doesn't lie. Traditional hydraulic power steering. You may have noticed the engine is just mostly behind the front axle line. That gives us what you could call a front mid-engine layout. Bottom line is, it gets around a corner fine without feeling long [NOISE] Now, if you don't keep this car revved it is a bit gutless. We've got the sport suspension on this car, gives it a bit of a hard ride. Combine that with the hard bottom seat, and it's a bit of a pain to be driving it every day in crappy pavement. So, just bear that in mind depending on your purposes for this vehicle. [MUSIC] [NOISE] Here's where you're buying the auto. Because you can use all of it. That goes for very few cars today. If you go down a country lane at a good clip in one of these, it's because you've learned how to really use the car, and how to drive. Now there are some wonderful enthusiasts who drive things like BMW Ms and WRX/STIs but. But it is also true that any moron can make one of those go fast with their massive amounts of power, computer controlled all wheel drive and intelligent performance stability control. This car has none of that. When something good happens to one of these [MUSIC] Because you and the car made it happen together. That's what a sports car is all about. [MUSIC] Okay lets price our happy [INAUDIBLE] little friend, a 2014 grand touring retractable hard top miyata is gonna be about 30,000 to deliver. With a manual. If you wanna add the automatic, that's 1,100. Of course, I won't speak to you after that point, so don't do it. Then it's 1,390 for the premium package, which actually brings you a lot of things we take for granted these days, including an alarm system. That's right. Bluetooth hands-free. That's right. Keyless access, satellite radio and xenon headlight 650 more for the sports package, which will get you Bilstein shocks, firmer spring ratios all around, and a limited slip differential. That one's actually a steal, all in about $32,300, the best and perhaps the only $32,300 you can spend on a pure sports car in 2014. [MUSIC]

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