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2022 Mazda MX-5 still best-value roadster at age 34

The 2022 Mazda MX-5 is now 34 years old and is still the best-valued roadster.

The Mazda MX-5, then called the Mazda Miata, arrived as a diminutive, lightweight roadster in 1989. It’s now reached relic status, a near automotive dinosaur.

With its attractive design and low-to-the-ground driving, the MX-5 became the best-selling, two-seat sports car in history in 2000. The one-millionth MX-5 sold six years later.

The 2022 Mazda MX-5 has a few upgrades, further adding to the joy of driving the iconic little roadster.
The 2022 Mazda MX-5 has a few upgrades, further adding to the joy of driving the iconic little roadster. All images © Gretchen Gaither/2022.

The 2022 Mazda edition, called the MX-5 since 2006 to appeal to a larger buying audience, is updated and offered toward the end of the car’s fourth generation. The MX-5, by any name, is now 34 years old, Its general consumer appeal is minimal; its enthusiasts remain stalwart and passionate.

Mazda MX-5 Sales Plunging

In 1990, about 36,000 Miatas sold in the United States, still the vehicle’s highest yearly tally. Last year, about 10,500 sold, a 15 percent increase from 2020. But it’s still a troublesome number compared to the ever-increasing popularity of trucks and sport utility vehicles.

Regardless, the Mazda MX-5 defines driving fun, particularly for automotive purists who appreciate a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission at a value price. An automatic transmission (why bother?) is now only available on the top-level Grand Touring trim. It’s a $500 option on the convertible and a $550 option on the retractable fastback (RF).

The 2022 Mazda MX-5 has handsome interior and exterior styling.
The 2022 Mazda MX-5 has handsome interior and exterior styling.

The current MX-5 generation debuted in 2015. Many tweaks and updates later, the 2022 model arrives, as usual, ready for the fun to begin. The reviewed top-line grand touring RF features the standard 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline, four-cylinder engine. It accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.4 seconds, but Miata’s low profile makes it feel quicker. Gas mileage averages are 29 miles per gallon in city driving, 34 mph on the highway.

Mazda Miata: Strong Option Packages

The upscaled Club trim on the RF offering automatically adds a Brembo BBS Recaro package. It includes Brembo brakes, BBS wheels and Recaro seats and further defines the MX-5’s value.

Safety is a strong suit. Forward collision warning, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert are standard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were added in 2020. All Miatas comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity (for phone and streaming-audio functions) as well as a CD player. Navigation is standard on the Grand Touring trim.

The 2022 Mazda MX-5 has an optional retractable hardtop.
The 2022 Mazda MX-5 has an optional retractable hardtop.

Sports cars aren’t often gas efficient, but the MX-5 Miata gets that right. It’s rated at 26 miles per gallon in city driving, 34 mpg on the freeway, top numbers in the segment. The total price is $36,105.

The Mazda MX-5 is available as a soft-top and hardtop convertible. The former’s top functions with ease. Pull a lever near the rearview mirror and the top is released. The black cloth top folds easily in a few seconds and locks in place flush with a firm push. The hard-top retracts and raises in 15 via a lever on the console.

Mazda Miata: Sporty, Fun, Tight Ride

Driving the Miata in city situations is a treat. Parking is simplified, maneuvering through traffic and touring the neighborhood while low to the ground makes the experience less stressful. It’s sporty driving even at low speeds.

Downsides? Sure. A six-foot, 200-pound driver needs flexibility and patience to enter and exit the car and should not suffer from claustrophobia. Storage space is a few small slots and bins and a minuscule glovebox between the backrest of the two back seats. Two detachable cupholders work surprisingly well. The trunk is deep but has a cargo capacity of only five cubic feet.

The shortcomings are all worth the trouble. The MX-5 Miata is at its best while advancing on winding country roads with the top down. It’s the most affordable way for sports car enthusiasts to experience driving at its basic best.

Pick a sunny, warm weekend afternoon and properly retract the top. Lather on sunscreen, securely position your sunglasses and hat and forget the world’s problems — if only for a few hours.

The name Miata, the still often preferred title among the cars’ owners, derives from Old High German for “reward.” Treat yourself.

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