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2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata: rough, tough roadster endures

Now beginning its second quarter century, the 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata retains its long-time status as fairly priced, fun-to-drive, two-seat sports car. The formula has worked so well, it’s the best-selling roadster in history.

The Miata had its top sales year in 2006 (nearly 17,000) with subsequent sales in some years falling drastically. Beyond trim “tweaks,” most notably in 2013, the just-announced 2016 edition is the first new generation in a decade. The car is approaching one million units sold.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

The rear-wheel drive MX-5 Miata is equipped with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with 167 horsepower. My weekly test vehicle was the top-line Grand Touring edition, one of four available trims. It had a six-speed manual transmission with an optional retractable hardtop (PRHT).

As a small sports car, the Miata shouldn’t be expected to be something it isn’t. It’s a roadster with tight bucket seats. It’s noisy (aren’t all sports cars?) and I felt every bump at 25 mph in city driving or at 70 mph in freeway driving.

As a 6-foot, 190-pound driver, I often felt cramped and after 90 minutes into one test drive, I had knee pains. There’s little room in the MX-5 to stretch out or even to extend limbs.

I suspect any driver my size or larger would be uncomfortable in any sustained drive in the MX-5. And true to sports car form, the Miata isn’t the easiest car to entry or exit.

Convertibles are universal in one respect. They’re more fun to drive with the top down than with the top up. My test Miata, which had handsome exterior paint (meteor gray), was no exception.

While in neutral, the MX-5 Miata easily transitioned from hardtop to convertible. The hardtop retracted by first pushing the latch release button between the visors and then pushing the corresponding button on the console. Thirteen seconds later, the hardtop was securely folded into the trunk.

The Miata drives low to the ground like any roadster and its feel on the road is the antithesis of elegant driving. But in many ways, isn’t that the idea of driving a sports car?

The MX-5 also has a substantial driver’s side blind spot and it’s not particularly quick from a standstill. The acceleration substantially improved approaching freeway speeds or in passing situations.

Throughout its lineup, Mazda has a substantial standard features list and MX-5 is particularly loads with sports car equipment and safety features. It also had suspension, premium and appearance packages that included Xenon headlights to keyless entry and a limited slip differential to upscale Bilstein shocks. The options added nearly $3,000 to the purchase price and all seemed like wise choices at a fair value.

The MX-5 also has adept cornering and steering, further adding to the car’s fun-to-drive personality. Its best trait is as a sports car with a country road on a warm afternoon waiting for it.

Likes:

Efficient retractable hardtop.

Keen handling.

Dislikes:

Difficult to enter and exit.

Technology options need upgrading.

Facts & Figures, 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 6.7 seconds.
Airbags: (4)
Fuel economy: 21 mpg (city), 28 mpg (highway), 24 mpg (combined).
Horsepower: 167.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $29,450.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.mazdausa.com.
Price As Tested: $32,935.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“After 25 years, the 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata is still one of the best roadsters ever built, offering equal parts fun and refinement in a compact and affordable package.” — Edmunds.

“Is the 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata for everyone? Certainly not. But if you have the means, it’s hard to argue against it as a second car.” — AutoTrader.

“The Miata’s potion for emotion goes like this: Start with a 2-seat roadster body that boasts the best handling this side of a go kart, add a zippy engine and rear-wheel drive, give it an attainable price, then let it set you free.” — Kelley Blue Book.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“With the hardtop down, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is a blast to drive, just like it’s always been. With the top up, the 2015 edition seemed noisier than previous years’ models, and for some reason it just wasn’t as fun to drive. All of which could at least be in part because of my changing driving interests as I approach age 60.”

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