Mazda MX-5, 2011 review

James Raia

Since its debut in 1989, The Mazda MX-5, still often known to purists as the Miata, has maintained a strong reputation as among the leading small two-seat convertible sports cars in the United States.

Substantially refreshed for 2009 and updated for 2010, the Mazda MX-5 is unchanged for 2011, keeping its same fun factor and value pricing from previous years.

Change isn’t always a good anyway, and it must present a dilemma for Mazda. With the Mazda MX-5, appropriate updates have been warranted through the years. Then again, since 850,000 Mazda MX-5/Miatas have sold (the most of any sports car in history) why mess too much with a good thing?

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

My test vehicle for the week was the four-cylinder, 167-horsepower grand touring model (lots of option packages) with a retractable hardtop, one of two hardtop trims added in 2007.

Like I have with many other weekly driver test vehicles through the years, I drove the Mazda MX-5 round-trip from Sacramento to the Monterey Peninsula, about a 400-mile trek.

The forecast was for rain throughout the duration of the four-day trip. It rained, yes. But it sure seemed like the meteorologists were doing a lot guesswork. Which was a good thing for my time with the Mazda MX-5.

I had the top down everyday, mostly on cool, crisp, blue sky mornings and while negotiating a short stretch on Highway 1 and then the twists and turns of the famed 17-Mile Drive to Pebble Beach.

Still, about 400 of my week’s 550 total miles with the Mazda MX-5 were on a high-speed stretch of Interstate 5 or secondary state routes with the hard top up.

Mazda MX-5, 2011 review 1

As it would be in any small vehicle, with trucks or large SUVs in the vicinity, driving confidence wasn’t ideal. Nonetheless, the Mazda MX-5 found its way without issue.


Retractable hardtop. Push a button, pull one latch, push another button and the top is securely down in 12 seconds. Or do the same to put the top up. It’s impressive. And with the top down, there’s no loss of trunk space.

Short, smooth shifting.

Maneuvering. Turning radius is superior. Lane changes smooth and confident.

Brisk acceleration.


Spaciousness isn’t expected, but the two-seat cabin is tight for anyone 5-10 or taller or weighing 175 pounds or more.

Not the easiest vehicle to enter or exit.

Limited cargo room. A carry-on size suitcase fit in the trunk, with a pair of shoes on either side. That’s it.

Difficult to shift when secondary cupholders are in use.

GPS system not available.

2011: Mazda MX-5 (Miata) Facts & Figures

Acceleration: 0-60 mph
Airbags: Dual front airbags and side airbags.
Antilock brakes: Standard.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 22 mpg (city), 28 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: Not tested
Horsepower: 167 (156 for automatic)
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $22,960-$29,500
Official Website: www.mazdausa.com
Price As tested: $31,300.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion: 5 years/unlimited mileage; Roadside Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“The 2011 Mazda Miata maintains its position as one of the all-time great roadsters, mixing refinement and excitement in an affordable, compact package.”  —-

“For what the car is, and what it has always been, the MX-5 Miata is essentially without peer. And whether you like the retractable hardtop or not — and I do — the soft top is still available for purists, and the hardtop just adds one more feature that makes the car a little more practical as a daily driver.”
—- Orlando Sentinel.

“The latest generation is spectacularly good, both sweetly rewarding to drive and an excellent value.”
—- New Car Test Drive

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“It’s the best-selling sports roadster in history. It’s priced fairly and drives like great British sports cars of yesteryear, which is to say it’s a lot of fun, soft top or hard top, top up or top down.”

Article Last Updated: November 29, 2010.

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