Mazda MX-5 Miata

The 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata, or just Miata, as it's more commonly known, comes with a 166-horsepower, 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, matched with a standard 5-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. A 6-speed manual is standard on top Touring, Grand Touring and Special Edition models, and a 6-speed Sport automatic that includes paddle-shifters beside the steering wheel is available on all but the base SV.

The engine is mounted rather far back to ensure a good weight balance, and it uses a modern aluminum block with chain-driven overhead camshafts, plus variable intake valve timing for better low- and mid-rev response. At least 90 percent of engine torque is available from 2500 rpm up to 6700.

The Miata's driving experience is unlike most other vehicles available, with its exceptionally light weight, tight suspension, direct steering, rev-happy engine, and short-throw shifter combining to create a very direct driving experience that gives a feel of open-air speed without actually having to break the law.

The Miata comes with a standard manual-folding soft top with a centrally located latch handle to make it easy and quick. There's also a Power Retractable Hard Top model, which adds a weather-tight folding hard top that opens or closes in only 12 seconds.

The Miata soft top is available in SV, Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Special Edition trim, while the power hard-top model is offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim. The SV model, which only comes with a manual transmission, is very basic, with no air conditioning or power accessories. At the top of the range, the Grand Touring model does come very well equipped, with air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control, leather heated seats, a 6-disc CD changer and power windows, locks, and mirrors all on the standard equipment list.

A Premium Package on the Grand Touring model adds a keyless entry and start system, electronic stability control, an alarm system, and HID headlights. Other noteworthy options include satellite radio and a limited-slip rear differential.

Editors' Review

The Mazda Miata is a supercar. No, it doesn't have an obscenely powerful 12-cylinder engine, its top speed doesn't eclipse 200 mph and it's not wrapped in aerospace-grade carbon-fiber bodywork. But trust me, nearly everything about this machine is super.

This little Japanese roadster delivers more driving enjoyment than some exotic cars that cost 10 times more. Truth be told, I'd rather have one of these than literally any new Maserati. Sure, Lamborghinis are nice, but they aren't as pure as the humble Miata. Even Acura's NSX, which in its current form is rocket-fast and extremely capable, falls short of the simple joy this Mazda can deliver. If dynamics are a top priority, dollar for dollar, this car can't be beat. 

I absolutely adore how the Miata drives. It's so natural, direct and intuitive. It feels more like an extension of your body than your own right arm. The interaction between its clutch, accelerator and shifter deliver this unparalleled connectedness. The leftmost pedal is nicely weighted, being neither too heavy nor feather-light, plus it has a broad engagement range, which makes my midlevel Club test car effortless to drive. The stubby shifter, which allows you to stir the standard six-speed manual transmission, is crisp, with short throws and zero vagueness. It's just a shame some powertrain vibration can be felt through its leather-wrapped knob. Finally, the engine responds immediately to even minute accelerator-pedal inputs, which makes achieving perfectly rev-matched downshifts child's play.

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The Good ~ Linear engine performance ~ Scalpel-sharp dynamics ~ Sublime shifting ~ It's plenty fast

The Bad ~ The infotainment system blows ~ A tight fit for taller folks ~ Borderline brutal ride

The Bottom Line As always, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is an absolute delight, though the Club model is perhaps a bit too starchy.

Editors' Rating
  • Performance 9
  • Features 8.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Media 6.5

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