By on March 23, 2009

I’ll come right out and say it: It’s my parents’ fault. You see, my mom’s just a couple of inches over five feet tall and my dad’s only a bit taller than she is. But for some reason they passed genes to me resulting in me growing to 6′3″. It makes for interesting family portraits but when it comes to cars, it sucks. I grew up riding with my knees shoved in the dashboard of whatever bench-seat-equipped sedan they happened to own at the time. And now I’m given a Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring to review. Genetics is a bitch.

Mazda deserves credit for not messing with the genetics of their diminutive roadster. From its inception it’s been true to its original design. While it’s gotten slightly larger over the years—mainly to accommodate safety regulations—it remains the modern-day incarnation of the classic two-seat roadster.

One thing they have messed with, though, is the name. While it’s always been sold as the MX-5 elsewhere, it was introduced in the US as the Miata and that’s the name most people know it by. When I told friends I was driving an “MX-5” they had no clue what I was talking about. When I added “Miata” the light went on immediately. Miata has great brand recognition and why Mazda doesn’t leave it alone is beyond me.

A makeover for 2009 freshened the looks while still leaving it one of the most recognizable cars on the road. However the most questionable part of the facelift is the face. Mazda made the grill bigger and it now looks like one of the talking cars from the Chevron commercials. With a smiley grill and dimpled driving lights, “cute” is the only adjective that can be used to describe its countenance. And it does nothing to dispel the misconception that it’s a “chick car.”

Inside, as you’d expect in a car with a 91.7 inch wheelbase, things are kind of tight. The controls on the well-laid-out instrument panel are all within easy reach. Hell, everything in there is within easy reach. The Grand Touring trim level adds lots of toys like heated seats, cruise control and automatic air conditioning that are nice to have but don’t add anything to the fun factor.

Even though it’s . . . um . . . cozy for someone my size, the seats are quite comfortable (once they’re adjusted to their lowest and rearmost positions). The only real problem: trying to get my size 14EEE feet working the pedals correctly. Once I finally figured the proper two-step to keep my right foot off the gas and brake at the same time I was good to go.

I spent most of my time in Miata with the top down. Thankfully the weather cooperated because the one time I drove it with the top up I had severe MG-B flashbacks. I had to slouch to see through the windshield (as opposed to looking over it when the top was down). At least dropping the top was no problem—the Miata’s soft top has to be the best ever designed. It goes down with a flick of the wrist and can be erected without leaving the driver’s seat.

And top down driving is what this car is all about.  Twist the key (even with the “smart key” there’s a key-like protuberance to twist) and the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata is more eager to play than a Lab puppy with a new tennis ball. There’s no need to turn on the radio; the 167hp, 2.0L DOHC four provides the best soundtrack you could ever want.

Grab the shifter and you discover one reason to spring for the Touring or Grand Touring trim levels: they’re the only ones with a six-speed transmission. The shifter snicks through the gears with Germanic precision. You find yourself taking the long way around even for the short trip to the local Stop ’n Rob, just for the aural delights of the exhaust note and the haptic satisfaction from rowing the shifter.

And then, when the road gets curvy, you’ll find the $500 you dropped on the suspension package was money well spent. The Bilstein shocks and sport suspension tuning give you the sensation you’re in the world’s largest slot car without beating you to death in the process. It may not be the fastest car on the highway but that doesn’t matter. It’s one of those rare cars that’s fun to drive, regardless of how fast you’re going.

The MX-5 Miata was the first car I’ve driven in a long time that had me grinning every time I drove it (although the grin faded a bit as I extricated myself from it). If you’re looking for an antidote for automotive ennui, look no further. That is, if you have the genes for the job.

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86 Comments on “Review: 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring...”

  • avatar

    The suspension was tweaked for 2009. I still haven’t had the opportunity to find out how much difference the tweaks have made. Can anyone else comment on this?

    One thing I am sure of: I’ll fit in this car much better than the author. I had problems with forward visibility in the earlier Miatas, but not in the 2006+ version.

    They’re all enormously fun to drive, with the sort of direct connection and intuitive handling I’ve experienced in very few other cars. My main problem with the car: saddled with kids, I need a rear seat. And so the RX-8.

    No year of the Miata is currently included in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, which provides actual repair rates and promptly updates four times a year. Quite a few model years are close, though. If you have one, or know someone who does:

    We’ll cover any model / model year for which 25+ owners sign up.

    • 0 avatar

      No Wonder you keep bugging me to add data for my ’99 Miata 10th Ann. Edition. :-)

      Ok, my pet peeve is most of these comments are by non-owners:-( I’ve lived every day the last ~13years with 3 Miatas; a ’93 LE bought in 1997, a 2008 GT PRHT bought in 2008 & my ’99 10th Ann. Edition-The BlueJewel-that I bought new in May of 1999 & has 213,000+- daily driven miles on the clock.
      I’m 6′-1″ & 240lbs and am very comfortable in this car.
      The most amazing thing is everything works, it starts every morning, there are No surprises when driving other than the other idiots on the road. The handling is like a slot car, the brakes stop Now, & I get 25-30mpg city/highway. Not bad for a car with 213,000 miles on the clock.
      This car has been awesome. I auto cross it, take it to the mountains where it Really shines, drive it everyday to work & back, take it to the track & generally have a blast with it. It’s comfortable on long trips, can handle a weeks’ worth of clothes for 2 people & if it don’t fit it ain’t going, soft sided luggage is our friend…. There are Laundromats everywhere.

      Problems/maintenance? I blew the 6 speed, speed-shifting at 175,000 miles, my fault, replaced the brakes & fluid first at ~60,000 & every 60k since, replaced the clutch at 135,000, The timing belt & water pump at 100,000 & 200,000 miles, the alternator at 160,000, plugs/wires every 75,000 or so, PCV at 200,000, clutch slave cylinder at 200,000, shocks at 100,000 & again at 200,000.
      Mods are EBC green brake pads, KYB AGX 4-way adjustable shocks, Racing Beat exhaust header & Flyin’ Miata dual exhaust & AEM intake w/ K&N cone air filter. I run CSP in Solo 2 auto cross.

      I didn’t trade “The Jewel” when I bought the ’08 just parked it for ~8 months the thought being a bit of restoration.
      However when I traded the ’08 for a ’08 CX9 for my wife as we could only afford one car payment, I put the “Jewel” back on the road.
      The car is….. It just Is.

  • avatar

    What a horrible refresh. The face, which was controversial but that I liked, was replaced with a goofy sh_t eating grin that nobody will like. And from the pictures it looks like the rather unique piano black trim was replaced with the silver spray painted plastic faux trim that every car unfortunately has.

    Lucky the car is really good to start with, but they could have left well enough alone.

  • avatar
    Paul W

    Where does the front license plate go?

  • avatar

    thumbs down to the restyling job. Thumbs up to this car still existing, and two thumbs up for it staying true to plot.

  • avatar

    The “smile” wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the unctuous chrome border around it. 5 minutes with a foam brush and some flat black lacquer would make it much less noticeable.

    I want this car.

  • avatar

    I love the Miata. Had a `99 myself. Glad to see that Mazda is sticking with the original formula.

    But I don’t like what they did with the face starting with the third generation, and this facelift doesn’t seem to be an improvement either.

  • avatar

    piano black trim was replaced with the silver spray painted plastic faux trim that every car unfortunately has.

    The upper trim levels replace the black shiny plastic with not-quite shiny aluminum-ish trim.

    Paul W
    Where does the front license plate go?

    Unfortunately it goes exactly where you’re thinking. If your state has a white license plate, it makes it look like Mater’s (from “Cars”) cousin.

  • avatar

    I still don’t like it as much stylistically as the previous generation, but I think the ridiculous grin is an improvement over the initial front clip, which was really awkward.

    One thing that dismays me about the current car, though, is the the engine requires premium. I didn’t think previous MX-5s (except the rare turbo) required high-octane fuel, which was part of their appeal.

    The main thing that would dissuade me from an MX-5 is the same downside as the Honda S2000: it’s a convertible. Mazda has teased fixed-head coupe versions of it since the early 90s, but still, no love. A rattly, bolt-on accessory hardtop does not count, nor does a retractable hardtop — I think I dislike retracs even more than I do regular convertibles, because they have most of the minuses with the additional problem of appalling weight and complexity. I’ll pass, thanks.

    What I want is a fixed-head coupe with tiny, folding +2 seats, the kind once found in the Porsche 356 (which some wit described as “seats for legless children”). I wouldn’t actually try to put any living creature larger than a dachshund in the back — the seat’s only purpose would be to mollify my insurance agent.

  • avatar

    The chrome “smile” isn’t really a styling improvement but I still love the car. I used to have a ’99 and it was one of my favorite cars ever.
    Thumbs way up for Mazda for keeping it true to its roots but that doesn’t stop me from wishing for a coupe version or the 2.5l four.

  • avatar

    Miata has great brand recognition and why Mazda doesn’t leave it alone is beyond me.
    Because marketing departments think that alphanumerals are more manly than cutesy names…whatever.

    Great car, although the one time I sat in one, I realized that Japanese+roadster=tight for tall guys like me.

  • avatar

    Re: argentla:

    They call it the RX-8.

    Unfortunately there is this little problem:

    If they ever put a proper engine in the RX-8 it will sell like hotcakes (it will no longer technically be an RX-8, but I can deal with that).

  • avatar

    A friend of mine has an 06 touring with the suspension option. I wasn’t too fond of the damper settings, which gave the car some float on the highway. It sounds like the issue has been resolved in this facelift. The way the car drove reminded me of my friend’s one-eyed jack russel terrier, Captain Jack: A bit deficient in some departments, but always eager and ready to play. It can be a lot more fun than the S2000, which feels stodgy in comparison.

    # argentla :
    March 23rd, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    The main thing that would dissuade me from an MX-5 is the same downside as the Honda S2000: it’s a convertible. Mazda has teased fixed-head coupe versions of it since the early 90s, but still, no love. A rattly, bolt-on accessory hardtop does not count, nor does a retractable hardtop — I think I dislike retracs even more than I do regular convertibles, because they have most of the minuses with the additional problem of appalling weight and complexity. I’ll pass, thanks.

    I think Mazda actually sold a handful of NB Miata coupes in Japan. They looked reminiscent of the older rounded Jaguar XK. Would it help if we kept calling it a ‘roadster’?

    The Miata’s PRHT option adds only 77 pounds and it sits in the center of the car (better polar moment of inertia) and fits into the same space as the cloth top. Here’s JL’s review of the PHRT miata:

  • avatar

    I bet that is a fun car to drive and I’m glad that Mazda still produces it (meaning there are enough people able to buy it).

    In my younger days I owned several first generation RX-7s that the MX-5 reminds me of in size. I can relate to the feeling of grinning every time. What I loved about the RX-7 was it was just big enough to take your girl into the mountains for a weekend get-away and zooming over passes and through canyons. What fun! Thanks for the review.

  • avatar

    I’ll come right out and say it: It’s my parents’ fault. You see, my mom’s just a couple of inches over five feet tall and my dad’s only a bit taller than she is. But for some reason they passed genes to me resulting in me growing to 6′3″.

    Off topic, but …

    The best explanation would be:
    1) Your parents (or just one of them) actually have the “tall” gene. It’s malnutrition that keeps him/her from reaching his/her full potential. You can trace back to their childhood to find out.

    2) Your biological father is not the same person that you call Dad. This may be offensive sounding. But be assured that I meant no harm, because I have no such incentive. It’s just statistics: about 10% of children are not fathered by their “Dad”. This is especially true if the husband is short; women prefer taller men as gene provider.

    These two situations are way more likely than any other explanation.

  • avatar


    That’s what I thought when I saw the new face. Ugh.

  • avatar

    I have really, really wanted a Miata for years. However, every one that I’ve climbed into over the years has just been too snug for me (I’m 6 ft, 185 lbs) including rubbing my left shoulder.

    I just don’t see myself being able to enjoy it. This is one of the reasons I pine for my old Alfa Spider, which did fit, even if it wasn’t so easy to keep fit.

  • avatar

    You know, this is one car I’ll never, ever be able to drive. My spine’s compressed a little as I’ve aged, but at 6’8″ there’s just no way I’ll ever have a Miata.I can’t even ride shotgun without some discomfort.

    Sad, really. Guess I’ll have to settle for a Caterham SV.

    Oh, and Frank? You’re short.

  • avatar

    I actually like the looks – makes it appear kinda friendly, a car with a good sense of humour. Personally, I wouldn’t want a car that looks like a drill sergeant. I’d love to drive something fun like this Miata, but I have the same issue as Frank in the vertical distance department. Somebody should invite Japanese to Europe where tall folks dwell… It’s nice to see a car that doesn’t participate in the rediculous HP game, is fun to drive, and doesn’t cost too much.

  • avatar

    The retractable hardtop weighs 80-90 lbs more, and it does look a little awkward. I love how the removable hardtop looks, but after telling myself I’d get one, I’ve decided I like driving top-down most of all (I have a 2002).

    As for the suspension, it is a big difference. When the NC (3rd-gen) came out, it was widely derided for its soft suspension. Some say it was on purpose – the designers were told not to give it more grip than the old one, so it wouldn’t become one of those cars that was only fun at very high speeds. But everyone who wanted a sports car was putting aftermarket springs and shocks in, and finally Mazda does all that for you. Consensus is that it’s exactly what the car needed.

    This weekend we had a 20th Anniversary party at Laguna Seca, and man, right now I’m so thrilled to be part of the Miata world. I’ve got photos here, though they’re meant more for my friends than for an audience that likes to look at pictures of cars:

  • avatar

    I have a 2008 Miata with a soft top and a 5 speed manual. I’m 5’7″ and I fit nicely, but the seats are hard. The interior plastics are terrible, the radio stinks, it has multiple rattles, the engine doesn’t like to rev, and it’s very noisy with the top up, but I love every minute of it.

    That car is more fun than anything I have ever driven, just driving to the grocery store is a thrill. The pedals, clutch, and shifter are perfectly positioned and all work fluidly. It handles like a go-cart, want to move to the left lane, just imagine it and you’re there.

    I am convinced that if everyone drove a manual transmission Miata for a day they would never drive an automatic equipped SUV again! (unless it was out of necessity)

  • avatar

    wsn :
    Off topic, but …

    The best explanation would be:
    1) Your parents (or just one of them) actually have the “tall” gene. It’s malnutrition that keeps him/her from reaching his/her full potential. You can trace back to their childhood to find out.

    Actually, both my parents took after their mothers’ families with their height. There are taller people on both sides of the family so they both carry alleles for height. Genetic roulette being what it is, I apparantly got them all. And by the way, both of my brothers are six-footers, too.

    2) Your biological father is not the same person that you call Dad.

    And this is totally, blatantly false and I find the inference offensive.

    It’s just statistics: about 10% of children are not fathered by their “Dad”. This is especially true if the husband is short; women prefer taller men as gene provider.

    I’d like to know the source of your “statistics.” And where you received your genetics training. Oh yeah, and what makes you think you know so much about my family when you don’t know jack about us.

    These two situations are way more likely than any other explanation.

    The simple fact is that my parents were the “runts” of their respective families. Like I said, it’s pure genetics.

  • avatar

    “Miata has great brand recognition and why Mazda doesn’t leave it alone is beyond me.”

    Two explanations: (a) Mazda got infected with the name-blunder virus when it got into bed with Ford; and (b) there are always some decisions that fall on the left side of the Bell Curve.

    wsn: “about 10% of children are not fathered by their “Dad””

    True, but more likely it’s just that one or both of Frank’s parents carried a “tall” gene. But wsn makes an interesting point. Lots of people are trying DNA analysis to figure out which line of multiple possibilities they descend from. (In my case, it showed my line is not one of the known 18th century lines. Maybe great-great-grandpa was a space alien.) And often the DNA shows there was a hitherto unknown “non-paternity event.” Usually not a moral issue; in the 19th century and earlier, adoptions were commonly “off the books.” Folks just took in a kid and gave it a new surname. (Not that I’m suggesting you were adopted, Frank!)

  • avatar

    I barely fit in these myself and I’d still buy one happily. Most fun I ever had in a car was a ’91 Miata.

    Why is this segment (<$30k) so underserved by mainstream manufacturers when there’s clearly a dollar or two (and a whole ton of PR goodness) to be had playing the game?

    “Your biological father is not the same person that you call Dad”
    that’s not flaming, that’s nuclear war (and yet cleverly phrased so as not to be deleted). Well-played sir.

  • avatar

    I own a 2004 Miata, I bought it 3 years ago with 8,000 miles on it and it now has 98,000 miles on it.

    As far as reliability, it’s only needed tires, one set of pads and rotors, and a timing belt and water pump.

    It’s very fun, and I’ve hooked 3 of my friends on Miatas with it. They now have an ’05 Mazdaspeed, an ’03 LS, and a ’90 Base model.

  • avatar

    I have missed our 2001 Miata ever since my wife got scared and traded it in. The goofy smile on the ’09 is ridiculous, but is probably appropriate. No other car in its price range (that I’m familiar with, anyway) makes me smile like the Miata. And Mazda, I refuse to call this thing an MX-5, it is and always has been a Miata in America, that’s what it will continue to be to its enthusiasts. Why would you piss away 20 years of brand equity?

  • avatar

    “Why would you piss away 20 years of brand equity?”

    My only guess is they wanted to get away from the “gay/girly” aspects that Miata conjures up among some people. But they kind of failed on that one by giving it a ridiculous grin in the redesign!

  • avatar

    This car is FUN! It’s proof postive that the saying, “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow” is the truth.
    I’m surprised it wasn’t mentioned in the review so I’ll mention it. It’s nice to see a retro touch with the 1 Gen rear tail lights. Per Mazda’s site, they did that to celebrate the 20th snniversary of this extraordinary car.
    …and a decent sized suitcase fits in the trunk!

  • avatar

    Apparently I’m some kind of freaky contortionist with a weird driving position, I’m 6’2, 205lbs and don’t long for more space in my ’03…

  • avatar

    If Sponge Bob boned a whale shark, their offspring’s mug would look like the MX-5.

    But the ass compensates for the butterface. I want one (Miata, that is).

  • avatar

    Ugh I miss my ’06 every day. It was weird looking but I didn’t care, it was just too much fun to drive.

    The snickety shifter, the telepathic steering, the lively handling, it was all just too great for words.

    When I was in a bad mood I’d sneak out at night onto Mulholland Drive and throw the top down. I’d just bounce off the rev limiter for an hour or two kicking the back end out around corners, enjoying the stars and the views of Downtown LA and the San Fernando valley, alternately.

    After a few hours of having the tar beat out of it, the little Miata would just settle into a smooth idle like nothing had happened. No strange noises or smells. I’d park the tiny Mazda in my garage and turn back around to look at it and couldn’t help but to think we’d just had a special moment together.

    Waaayyy too much fun for $27k.

  • avatar

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Miata’s grin–it matches its personality well. On the other hand, a Ferrari F355’s friendly grin doesn’t really correspond with its character.

  • avatar

    It looks just like the hero of Cars. I think it looks cute. Ooops! Although I wish it didn’t have those pokemon eyes.

    I want one too.

    I do share the writer’s problem, in that although I’m only 5’10.5″, I have a long torso. When I had an RX-8 for a week, I had to lean the seat fairly far back to fit. I’m sure I’d have a similar problem in the Miata with the top up. I don’t fit in most cars that have sunroofs

  • avatar

    tedward :
    March 23rd, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    that’s not flaming, that’s nuclear war (and yet cleverly phrased so as not to be deleted). Well-played sir.

    Well, if a Ford Explorer crashed in a pitch, I would say there is x% chance that it’s due to the Firestone tires.

    If a child does not resemble the parents, then I would say there is y% chance that he has another father. Both x% and y% are significant percentages.

    It would be personal attack if I know the person. But it’s only statistical data, if it’s a total stranger. From my LCD screen, the author may just be a super computer generated virtual person.

    If you are still offended, just view me as a computer generated virtual person as well. You know, you kill thousands of those in an RPG game.

  • avatar

    The MX-5 has always been part of the name. It’s always been the MX-5 Miata just as there used to be a 626 Chronos, MX-3 Precidia, MX-6 Mystere, etc. I agree the Miata name should stay too. I love my modified 2006, there’s nothing better to get around a track in and then drive home with the top down. All on the same tank of fuel.

  • avatar

    Back to topic, when I visited my local and only Mazda dealer, there wasn’t a single Miata on display. I guess buyers would have to order it.

    There was an RX8 on display though. It’s so cramped inside, my wife immediately stated “it’s not for us.” The head room was OK when I tilt my seat, but it’s so narrow that my legs are basically rubbing against each other.

    I don’t know if Miata is as cramped. But at least it looks to have a taller profile.

  • avatar

    At 6’2″ I can only think wistfully about owning a Miata. The typical problem is that my right knee, the steering wheel and the gear change lever all wish to occupy the same space. (As for heel and toeing — forget about it, I’m lucky if I don’t mash the gas and the brake at the same time!)

    Or as an even taller friend of mine used to comment about all little 2-seat covertibles: “Of course it handles like a go-kart, it IS a go-kart.”

  • avatar

    Add me to the list of people who would love to own a Miata once in my life, but I’m 6’4″. Every time I’m in a Mazda dealer I sit in a Miata in the hope that they’ve lowered the seats, but no luck, my eyes are level with the top of the windshield…
    How can Porsche make sportscars that tall people can fit in, but Mazda can’t? The RX-8 I sat in was real tight too.
    I guess I need to sit in the Genesis Coupe 2.0 to see if I fit. There’s not much hope for a reborn 924/944, 240sx or Toyobaru Coupe showing up anytime soon….

  • avatar

    oh, how I miss my ’06 MX-5 Grand Touring 6MT.

    This review hit the nail on the head. At 6’3″, the only other complaint I would have added would be that damn cupholder located in the door (unless that was removed for 2009).

  • avatar

    Ahh, the Miata. I just put my ’97 away for the evening. The only good thing I can say about the goofy grin on the 2009 is that it matches the one worn by every Miata driver, but from the inside it’s still the finest driver’s car made today.

    I have to say, though, as an NA owner, that the NC seems a little big to me sometimes. It’s weird how perspective changes. Still, one day I want to own one of each generation.

  • avatar

    I LOL’d when I saw the front. That is the silliest “face” I’ve ever seen put on a car. Wow. What’s next, a tongue flopping out one side?

    Seriously, I would still LOVE to own/drive one.

  • avatar

    Sometimes I can’t wait for my 96 to die so I can have a good reason to pick up a new one….great, reliable, totally fun car.

  • avatar


    Slapping a “proper” engine in the RX-8 has already been done, it’s called a rotary engine. The reason why the RX-8 is as balanced and handles the way it does is a direct result of the compact and light engine. The rotary is cursed with poor fuel economy and couldn’t pull a greased string out of a cat’s ass at low rpm, but you can’t deny that it is the primary reason for the handling of the car. Take that away and it’s just another generic Japanese sport coupe.

  • avatar


    Premium fuel is recommended in the MX-5, but not required.

    I agree with you on the (real) hardtop. I dislike convertibles for all of the usual reasons and would love to have a good replacement for my 2nd generation MR2. The hardtop convertible, I presume, is still pretty noisy and rattly on the Miata.

    Unfortunately, the market doesn’t seem to justify a hardtop two-seater.

  • avatar

    My 2006 has been the most reliable and most fun car I have ever owned, and I’ve owned many from almost every brand. The car has plenty of spunk, and as the author said, unlike many sportscars that you have to exceed legal limits to have fun with, you can take this one on a twisty road at 40mph and just have a ton of fun with it. Every curvy road is a racetrack, every corner an apex to tackle, albeit at sane speeds.

    To whomever said they were distressed about the premium fuel requirement: Miata’s have had a premium fuel “recommendation” since the 2001 year model. The car runs fine on regular, and you won’t void your warranty or damage your engine with regular. However, it isn’t worth running it because you will lose power and also a few mpg as the car turns back the timing, nullifying any money you might save from running it. Keep in mind, with a 46 mile per day commute in Atlanta bumper-to-bumper traffic, I fill the tank once a week at a cost below $23 for premium. If you are lucky enough to have an interstate or rural drive, I get about 35mpg on the interstate in 6th gear. Fuel cost really isn’t an issue. As a matter of fact, the Miata is probably still the cheapest sportscar to own and maintain, made somewhat more expensive this generation than the previous ones due to the larger 17″+ tires.

  • avatar

    Little pimp.

    I watched a video of Miata drifting and it was freaking fantastic. Mazda is a good company. I’ve heard that this is much smoother and more genuinely fun (not to mention much less expensive) than any S2000.

  • avatar


    That’s just not true.

    The RX-8 handles well because it has an amazing platform and is relatively lightweight, not because of the rotary.

    Mazda’s stubborn refusal to offer an alternative to the rotary in a hardtop vehicle based on the RX-8/MX-5 platform constitutes General Motors level mismanagement.

    The rotary provides only marginal benefits while destroying the RX-8’s potential as anything more than a track toy with horrible reliability issues.

    The MX-5 Miata weighs about 500 pounds less than the RX-8, uses a shortened version of the RX-8 platform, and uses a conventional piston powered inline-4, yet still handles amazingly (see review and comments above).

    If the inline-4 does not screw up the balance of the Miata then it definitely would not screw up the balance of the larger, heavier RX-8.

    I’ve test driven the RX-8, and I know about the 100,000 mile extended engine warranty Mazda had to put on. It drives well, but not better than the piston powered Miata. The rotary idles horribly in cold weather, and even with the warranty, the idea of arguing with a dealer over complete engine replacement for a Japanese car with less than 100,000 miles is repugnant.

    Also, what is this “just another generic Japanese sport coupe”? There is no longer such thing as a generic RWD Japanese sports coupe:

    Toyota – no RWD coupe
    Honda – no RWD coupe
    Nissan – only the good, but relatively expensive and slightly portly 370Z / G37 coupe
    Mazda – only the RX-8
    Mitsubishi – no RWD coupe
    Subaru – no RWD coupe
    Suzuki – no RWD coupe

    It’s rather sad that rotary engine issues drive people to buy Zs and Gs, when the RX-8 offers a lighter, less expensive platform. Particularly since, as mentioned above, the MX-5 uses a lighter, more compact version of the RX-8 platform but still maintains amazing balance and handling with a piston engine.

  • avatar

    Great Review! I seriously looked at the Miata before I bought my 2004 (CPO) BMW 325CIC vert 2 yrs. ago, however I too, just could not get comfortable in it. It also felt way too cheap inside for my liking, and of course the lack of a semi-useful back seat was an issue for me. Don’t know if the BMW is faster (it only has 184 hp ) but it is a car that I can take a long cruise in, and still walk properly when I get there. The BMW is also MUCH quieter when the top is up. It will probably not be as reliable as the Miata in the long run, but I do not regret my decision for one second.

  • avatar

    no_slushbox – he might have been writing about the way the rotary is positioned low and towards the driver. That helps the RX-8 pivot and have a decent weight distribution.

    Also, if push comes to shove, you can add the Honda S2000/S2000CR to your list. They keep saying “This is the last year” but they’ve been saying that since 2007.

    I love the smoothness of a warmed-up rotary, and the 9000RPM redline, but after reading long-term tests from multiple magazines and websites, 14 mpg is just so wrong, the constant oil additions caused by a blazing dash light telling you to do so must get old, and worn seals at any time really makes one wonder about how things will hold up over the long haul…especially expensive emissions equipment.

    The Miata…total opposite. From people I know that have Miatas – around 30 mpg, nothing major broke, and everyone raves about the top.

    Oh, and for those who were wondering…

    The 2009 Miata FINALLY fixes the cupholders in the door! They are more flush so they don’t stick out.

  • avatar

    I’m 6’4″, have size 15 shoes and want a two seat sports car. I don’t fit this or the RX-8. So what do I get?

  • avatar

    2 family members are around the same height and they don’t have a problem inside a Mercedes. Of course at 50,000 miles, the “let’s break down and have things fall apart” trigger was activated.

    Scratch the Elise off of the list!!!

    I think torso-wise, you’ll be fine in a BMW but I think the footwell space might not work for you.

    I’d also try the TT. With that being based on a sedan/hatch platform, you might get lucky if the roofline doesn’t chew up too much headroom.

    Otherwise that’s a tough question!!!

  • avatar

    I’m 6′4″, have size 15 shoes and want a two seat sports car. I don’t fit this or the RX-8. So what do I get?

    Corvette! I had no problems fitting into the C5 I drove for 3 years.

  • avatar


    I left out the Honda S2000, and the Miata under Mazda, because I was only talking about fixed roof coupes.

    The Miata is an amazing, perfect car; that is why I wish its engine could go in the RX-8.

    Every time I hear someone complain that there is not a fixed roof Miata I wonder why they don’t just consider the RX-8, and then I remember why.

    Owning an RX-8 is such a miserable experience that RX-8 owners are not even counted when Mazda rates dealer customer service.

    And yet, by simply putting a piston engine in the RX-8 platform, Mazda creates the Miata, a car with amazing handling and incredible long term reliability.

  • avatar

    slush – 100% agree. It is an amazing, perfect car and if one can live with the smallish trunk (like single people/couples with no kids) and take weekend trips, get one now! It is pure driving w/o all of the overdone gizmos in WAY too many cars now. OK…I wish stability control was standard across the board since a light, RWD car in bad weather is no place to find yourself going sideways by accident.

    Of course if you need a car with a larger trunk or back seat for, say, a trip…renting is easy. The money saved on gas by the Miata’s excellent mileage can go towards that!

    Anyone have any new information about the rumored next-generation turbo-rotary for the (maybe 2012 or so) RX-8? I swear I read something about turbocharging and direct injection but that info was older. Hopefully they can bump up at real world MPG.

  • avatar

    I really love the idea of this car, although I wish it could be had as a true coupe. I’ve heard that the high speed grip isn’t all that great either. RX-8 is tantalizing, but the rotary issues are disheartening, and I’d rather it be a 2 seater with less weight (3100 lbs). Regardless, I’ll probably buy an RX or MX if they start piling the rebates on again, unless they go through with the Toyobaru coupe.

  • avatar

    Knowing where the rotary engine is placed in an RX8 there is no way a regular piston engine could not have an effect on the handling characteristics of the car. The weight distribution would most definitely be changed by the installation of a heavier and larger engine in a more forward position. How could it not? Maybe it would be a good trade off, but there is a trade-off involved in replacing the rotary with a piston engine.

    Regarding the totally uncalled for remark regardng the parentage of Frank Williams.

    A) That is quite an insult that would risk bodily harm if you said it to someone’s face (big problem with the internet is a person feels like he can say whatever he wants with no fear of retribution), and I do not know how that got by the anti-flaming/personal attacks policy of the forum.

    B) Your reasoning is totally wrong. The most important determiner (from external appearances) of the likely height of a child are how close in height the mother and father are. You are more likely to be tall if you have two short parents than if you have one tall and one short parent (and more likely still if both parents are tall, of course). At least that’s what they were teaching in biology classes 20 years ago.

  • avatar

    On the Miata – way too tall, RX8 for me if any Mazda sports car. Plus it’ll never escape chick-car status especially in SoCal. For those with enough dough, SLK55 perhaps? At 6’2″ at least I can squeeze in to that.

    To the in-duh-vidual trying to become an expert on genetics, height and the inheritance patterns that have been established almost certainly make it polygenic. With a multitude of genes responsible, predictions for height of an adult based on one generation’s worth of data would be foolhardy and irresponsible for any genetic consult.

    And that is before you start to factor in external factors like nutrition, et al. To summarize, don’t imply that the man is a bastard child – that’s not exactly a great way to start a conversation, even on the internet.

  • avatar

    A flat-4 (like Subaru) or a V4 would probably fit into the RX8, though it would still be heavier they are shorter than any other comparable engine and wouldn’t change the balance as much a straight 4 would. Both would be expensive unless they started using them in all of their cars like Subaru, and even then they aren’t cheap.

    The whole point of the RX8 is that it’s quirky. They wouldn’t be able to wring the same kind of performance out of 4 cyl engine that they can with the rotary at the price they offer the car for. If you want a larger coupe with similar performance you are well looked after by other brands, and they all have relatively gigantic V6’s under the hood and weigh well over 3000 lbs.

    I don’t think at this point Mazda, or anyone else for that matter is willing to invest in building a whole other 2 or 2+2 seat coupe. Atleast not until the market recovers. GM is probably going to have enough problems getting its well known Camaro into customers hands let alone Mazda with a new car no one has ever heard of. A fastback MX-5 2 seater with lots of luggage space would be pretty neato though and would remove any excuse I have for not buying one.

    The Miata fits me like a glove, even sitting in used one that has seen 15 years of abuse has me grinning ear to ear and making “vroom vroom” noises like some 6 year old boy. The only downsides are the miniscule trunk and the steering wheel getting in the way of my longish legs.

  • avatar

    On the Miata – way too tall, RX8 for me if any Mazda sports car. Plus it’ll never escape chick-car status especially in SoCal.

    No one buys a Miata for status. Miata buyers are typically straight men who already have status out the wazoo. They get to have a blast instead of preening. Lucky them.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    On the Frank thing I think it was not meant as Frank-specific, nobody wants to insult Frank. The genome stats are maybe interesting but this is wrong place for genome stats and linking that to any actual person is always risky at best even if you also are simultaneously paying to get them drunk. Maybe especially then.

    Anyway, on the Miata, glad so many people get it. Not surprising here.

    I test drove used NBs last late winter, $12,000 and 70k miles and 2001 range at dealers, and didn’t fit and was turned off by rattles and overall wigglyness / judderyness. I sat in 2008 PRT and did not turn the key, because of the cupholders and low price of clean 2nd generation- NBs.

    I read up on how to do a seat foamectomy to NA and NB, and how to bend pedals forward, before I decided to buy clean low mile 99 for top dollar, privately. It jiggles but doesn’t rattle. Did foamectomy and pedal bend. Now I and others between six and six-three can fit in it and survive comfortably. No place for left arm though with window up.

    I am now working on the flexi-flyer chassis, with FlyinMiata frame rails and butterfly brace. It will help, not cure. I would love a 99 Miata coupe. I also want a v6 manual MX3 but they are all gone.

    Its good clean safe cheap fun. Driving a slow car fast, or even slow. Its a really fun car. Very engaging.

    Only downside is they rust real fast in salt. Mazda is known for this. Body shell wont go but everything else does.

  • avatar

    To those who say they’re too tall for the car – if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and go try one on just to see. I’m 6-0, 200 and was very pleasantly surprised to find that I fit comfortably in the first-generation Miata (so I bought one.) The second generation is a bit tighter, the third generation a good bit more spacious.

    I find it helps if you think of it not as getting in the car but as putting it on.

  • avatar

    285exp :
    “…and couldn’t pull a greased string out of a cat’s ass at low rpm…”

    That is one of the greatest lines I’ve read in a long time! Thank you.

    There’s the “Family Guy” image of Brian, Chris, and mint dental floss.

  • avatar

    Hopefully the new suspension tweaks fix the problem of hitting the bumpstops on long, fast corners. I had an ’06 MX-5 that I loved everything about except: the 6th gear was shorter than the 5spd’s 5th gear; and, the transmission gates were so tight that I could never skip a gear downshifting, like 5-3 or 6-4. I never new what gear I’d be in, and it frustrated me too many times. It’s a great +7/10 driving car, but hard to be smooth in when the pace slowed down.

  • avatar

    Oh yeah, and if people were questioning a male Miata driver’s sexual orientation before the most recent “makeover,” the new s__t-eating grin would leave them no doubt (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Sorry Mazda, your new styling direction has just alienated a significant segment of the male population. The MX5 has officially been crossed off of my list.

  • avatar

    I have a 1990 Miata the first generation. It is everything they say it is and more. It is the most fun car with the greatest pride of ownership of any car I have ever had.

    If you have ever even thought of it, get one of these cars, either new or used. You will never regret it. For the money, it is the most fun you can have driving. Other cars are faster but really not as fun for the money.

    Don’t let anyone talk you out of it.

  • avatar

    Love the car, hate the smiley. And yeah, for my 6-3 and 14 size shoes, the manual version is too tight. Automatic is just fine, but what is the point of Miata with an automatic?

  • avatar

    Haven’t we been seeing this gaping grin showing up on Mazda products lately? It really does look ridiculous here. Maybe paint it the same color as the body and delete the chrome trim. Black on black? That’s all I got, it really is unfortunate.

  • avatar

    i hate Mazdas new design direction with their hideous overstyled front ends. they’re the japanese Peugeot

  • avatar

    I test drove the 08 hardtop and I can’t think of a more perfect accessory than the PRHT. It’s fast, takes up very little space, and only adds about half-a-person’s weight to the Miata.

    Didn’t like the 6-speed too much, though… don’t feel that the extra ratio (which was still very buzzy on the highway, despite allowing an extra 1 or 2 mpg on the EPA test) added enough to the experience to justify the tighter (and easier to mis-shift) gating.

    The softness of the previous Miata was quite nice, personally… lower limits make for more hooliganism at mere double-digit speeds than you get with most cars nowadays. Sad to see they fixed that…

  • avatar

    Needs the “Hello Kitty” exhaust tip (from a newer entry here @ TTAC).

    New Mazda styling slogan: “Turn That Frown Upside Down”.

    Still, a fun car – My company’s Lab Services Group had a Teambuilding event at a local racetrack where we drove stripped, roll-caged Miatas, and it was a total blast. My boss’ wife has a video of me extricating my 6’4″, 230lbs from that little cubbyhole- thank heavens the steering wheel was removable!

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    The PRH on the Miata is the one exception to the “convertable hardtops bad” rule.

    The top is light (only about 75lbs additional weight), fits solid, goes up and down easily, and doesn’t impact the trunk space!

    The only impact is you lose the “Top up grocery shelf” that isn’t official storage space anyway.

  • avatar

    14EEE? I feel for ya. Sometimes my 13Cs feel too big on some pedals/certain shoes. I’m 6’7″ though. I test drove the Miata when my friend was looking at getting the hard top version (she bought it). Fun little car.

    I personally like the facelift, EXCEPT with the license plate. Our auto show had a dark blue hard top (same color as my friend’s coincidentally) and it looked great. They had a red one with the license plate bracket right smack in the middle of the grin and it looked horrible. As a person in a state with a front license plate law, I still blatantly ignore it for looks on 3 of the last 4 cars I’ve owned (one already had a front plate). I would do the same in this car and risk the ticket.

  • avatar

    I don’t see the Mazda RX-8 as a substitute for an MX-5 fixed-head coupe. The Renesis is fun when it works, but its horrific gas and oil consumption and the alarming frequency with which the words “catastrophic engine failure” occur in connection with it makes it a non-sale. The RX-8 is also bigger, heavier, and has the awkward four-door coupe thing, which I still think is the answer to a question nobody asked. I would never buy one, whereas an MX-5 FHC would actually tempt me.

    I think folding hardtops are a really bad idea. I know Mazda has at least kept the weight penalty to a minimum, but what happens when the seals fail or one of the motors die outside of warranty? In places with weather, it also seems to offer a bunch of new opportunities for structural corrosion. Do. Not. Want.

  • avatar

    I’m 6′4″, have size 15 shoes and want a two seat sports car. I don’t fit this or the RX-8. So what do I get?

    Caterham SV.

    Seriously, they rate them to 6’7″ and I can personally attest to fitting in one at 6’8″ and change.

  • avatar

    Now, this is the kind of front end Mazda could put on it…

    They don’t have to openly copy the Aston, but certainly shows you what they could do with it – at least as a limited edition to test the waters.

  • avatar

    “I think folding hardtops are a really bad idea.”

    I don’t have a problem with it in theory, but my thing is, why pay an extra 2.6k and take a weight penalty, when they could have made a true coupe version that would have cost and weighed less than even the soft top.

  • avatar

    I owned 2 new miatas when I was young, thin, and spent too much money on cars. Not that these are expensive, just that I didn’t have much money.

    I am smaller than Frank, but likewise hate getting in and out of one of these cars. When it was easier, it was worth it.

    The downside is that nothing anywhere close to the price compares for driving fun, which is probably why I no longer own a sports car.

  • avatar

    johnny ro:
    “I also want a v6 manual MX3 but they are all gone.”

    There’s a silver MX-3 V6 manual sitting in the yard here at work, under the snow with smashed windows and rusty steering column and parts of the interior dismantled.. I’m not sure if it’s someones project or if it’s waiting to get scrapped though.

    Edit: Apparently stolen, wires hanging under the steering column and police tape inside..

  • avatar

    I drove one of these at one of Mazda’s driving events (anyone of the B&B care to remind me what the event is called?…they’re great fun!)and I agree with you Frank. The Miata would make a great second car if money wasn’t so tight.

  • avatar

    What a great car. I’d buy another Miata in a moment if it came with “mild” hybrid capabilities (could at least shut off the ICE when stopped at traffic lights and railroad tracks).

    I love my Prius and I wouldn’t get rid of it because it’s so utilitarian for me. But my ’93 Miata may have been my second-best car ever, closely tied with my BMW Z3. Of course, the Prius is #1 for me.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned two Miata’s… a 1995 R-Pkg, and a 2005 … they really are about as much fun as you can have behind the wheel on a public road… steering, shifting, etc… but the 06-current left me cold… it just felt more sedan like than my others. Reason? The higher doors and dash. I didn’t like feeling like I was driving from a bathtub.

    As for reliability… the 1995 had just under 100K and nothing EVER broke.

    I didn’t have the 05 long enough to tell…

  • avatar

    I’m sure somebody will design “angry” eyelids for the headlights on this car.

  • avatar

    Im 6-1 and I look thru the top inch of the windshield with my head jammed into the roof supports. Why do they do this? The old MR2 Spyder had oodles of room.

  • avatar

    Yet many taller people fit fine. It stinks, but manufacturers often choose other benefits over fitting some of us comfortably.

  • avatar

    Is the car smiling? It has a face a Miata face

    No thank you

  • avatar

    This car, especially with the ‘baseball glove leather’ interior, has the best gauges, ergonomics and build quality of any car I’ve ever sat in.

    It’s a marvel. Mazda hit a grand slam.

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