By on December 29, 2014

2015 Mazda Miata Grand Touring PRHT

One of the burdens of being right is that people are always trying to prove you wrong.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata knows what I’m talking about. For a quarter century, the Miata has suffered the slings and arrows of upstart challengers. Those others have come and gone while the Miata remains. It’s right and Mazda knows it.

The Miata doesn’t get refreshed often, but it just happened again. Until you can buy that one, this old crock, the “NC,” is your only choice.

How can a car that’s 10 years old with less power than the Scion FR-S (which I have already commented about) and an automatic transmission still be right? I’m sure to like this car even less than I liked the Toyobaru, right?

Wrongo.

2015 Mazda Miata Grand Touring PRHT front three quarter top down

It was disappointing to see an automatic transmission shift quadrant when I looked through the passenger-side window. The fleet driver had left a voicemail telling me he’d dropped off a Miata, so I wrapped up the weekly resource allocation meeting as quickly as possible and headed for the parking lot. I haven’t had a Miata to drive in several years, and with a manual, they are quite the delight.

I became indignant

Why do automakers do this? Why undercut driver engagement? Getting over my precious self, the answer is clear: most people buy cars with automatics. Even tidy convertibles with sporty personalities.

People are stupid. They are both lazy and incompetent behind the wheel. Because people are stupid, I was going to have to suffer a stupid week in this stupid car set up for stupid idiots.

I wasn’t expecting much out of the self-shifting MX-5. Boy, was I surprised.

2015 Mazda Miata Grand Touring PRHT automatic transmission shifter

The Miata is perfect, regardless of which transmission you choose. It’s lively and light on its feet. It’s involving to drive, and it doesn’t give a crap about the numbers that internet racers obsess over.

Whatever spec-sheet triumphs the Miata lacks, it makes up for in personality. It’s a car that wants to play. There’s just 167 hp coming from the 2.0 liter four cylinder, which drops to 158hp with the 6-speed automatic. The power reduction comes courtesy of a redline that moves down from 7,200 rpm with a manual to 6,700 rpm with the auto. Torque stays the same at 140 lb-ft, which makes me think the horsepower reduction is a camshaft/valve timing/redline thing. It also doesn’t matter, because the torque converter does its low-speed multiplication thing. Performance off the line is responsive, and the automatic knows what the hell it’s doing. Call the powertrain dated, I call it well-developed and proven.

2015 Mazda Miata Grand Touring PRHT 2.0 liter engine

There’s only about 2,500 lbs to deal with here. That’s why the Miata feels more lively than you might expect. The Miata is playing with just 10 fewer lb-ft of torque than the Toyobarus, but the Scion FR-S automatic I had a while back was 300 lbs heavier. And it sucked in ways the Miata doesn’t. The Miata’s torque peak is at 5,000 rpm, a full 1,600 rpm sooner than the FR-S, and that translates to more immediate delivery of what muscle there is. When shifted manually, the automatic was even responsive enough to be satisfying. I would have preferred a manual, of course, but the Miata’s glow doesn’t dim with an automatic, and Mazda is smart to offer it, because purists are crappy new car buyers.

The Miata isn’t without some horseshit. There’s a “Induction Sound Enhancer,”  a membrane in the intake manifold that vibrates at specially-tuned frequencies to sound more like an MGB gulping through SU carburetors. More aural snarl enhances the experience, and it’s not as asinine as BMWs that play back engine recordings through the audio system, but it’s still something that took development time and dollars to create an artifice. There are also steering-wheel mounted shift paddles with a learning curve (buttons above for downshift, below for up, you’ll definitely pick the wrong one mid-corner.) That’s about it for shenanigans with the Miata, though, the rest is just solid performance and capability.

2015 Mazda Miata Grand Touring PRHT leather seats

The interior is clearly a 10 year old design and uses materials from another era. The design is a plus, the materials, if you care, are a negative. Three knobs for climate, a pair for the radio, all within easy reach, who needs more? The plastic on the center stack of my test car had picked up a surprising amount of nicks and scuff marks in just three thousand miles; not a good look. The controls feel good, there’s no goddamn touchscreen to confound you, the steering wheel feels good in your hands, and it’s connected to one of the most direct rack-and-pinions in the business.

The Miata Grand Touring like I drove is the most luxed-up model. The seats are done up in leather, a handsome color called Spicy Mocha in this case, with fake cowhide on the door panels. It’s a classy look, especially in a color other than dour black. The snug cabin has all the charm that you’ve been told it does. Because I’m under 6’ tall, it’s a delightfully close environment. Taller or wider folks will bump into the physical limitations of the Miata, but reports are that it can still be comfortable, even for tall folks.

Other Grand Touring features are the Bose audio system, standard 17” alloy wheels, strut-tower brace, automatic climate control, and silver-trimmed rollover hoops. As welcome as the extra filigree is, the main point here is the underlying car. The Premium Package my car had goes hand-in-hand with the Suspension Package. This is where the real action happens. It’s a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein dampers and a limited-slip differential.

2015 Mazda Miata Grand Touring PRHT rear three quarter top down

Despite its senior status, the outgoing Miata feels solid. It’s not as drum-tight as a Boxster, but there’s still a beefy sill to step over. Aluminum is used in the hood and trunklid to keep both weight, and the center of gravity, low. Some suspension components and the rear brake calipers are also aluminum. The strut tower brace under the hood ties the upper mounting points for the front suspension to the firewall for extra rigidity. What that means from behind the wheel is a steering column that doesn’t shake much, and a structure that doesn’t wind up during maneuvering. I was expecting the Miata to feel like a car that had been engineered in the naughties. Not so. It goes down the road with a contemporary attitude that’s relaxed, frisky, and capable, all at once.

That intake manifold honker thing pipes some pleasant growl into the cabin, but it’s still silly. The chassis is tuned with a fine balance between comfort and control. The Miata’s ride is absorbent, but that doesn’t mean the handling won’t make you grin. There’s all kinds of information coming to your hands through the steering column, and the engine’s response is eager and linear. Compared to that FR-S bogey, the Porsche-like precise feeling of the Scion is traded for more comfort in the Miata. It’s a loss on paper that makes the Miata a better car to drive in the real world. The Miata feels more responsive, the power curve doesn’t do funny whoop-de-dos, and it gives you what you ask for.

The Miata’s role as a modern-day MGB means you sit more upright than you might expect. It’s a small car, for sure, but it’s long-haul comfortable. The useable trunk and extra refinement offered by the power-retractable hardtop make the Miata an all-weather, all-seasons car.

2015 Mazda Miata Grand Touring PRHT top down front three quarter

While there are other sporty coupes for not a lot of money, there aren’t many. None are as well-rounded as the Miata. You want to go racing? It’ll do that. Taking your mother in law to the grocery store? It’s got that covered, as well. In Grand Touring trim with the automatic, the MSRP is $30,550, and the final tally was a luxurious $33,000 with my car’s Premium Package (HID lights, Bluetooth, Keyless Entry and start, satellite radio, alarm). That’s about as expensive as you can make it, and it’s not hard to stay in the $20,000s. The Miata won’t embarrass grown-ups, but it’s not dull in the least. There’s a reason why it’s one of the cars I recommend the most. Let’s hope they don’t screw up the next one.

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70 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2015 Mazda Miata Grand Touring PRHT...”


  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’m thinking the writer would be quite surprised by the lively performance of a 100hp Fiat 500 Pop with the 6-sp automatic. In fact, the shift pattern is identical at the lever and you don’t have those confusing hand paddles to concern yourself with, so it feels more like stick-shifting when you use the sport-shift side of the quadrant.

    No, I’m not trying to say the Pop will run with the Miata, I’m saying that those who pan the Pop apparently don’t know what they’re talking about. I read that “rental review” of the Pop some months back and went to Carmax expecting a dud of a car, but it is surprisingly quick and agile–far more so than the review implied. The bloomin’ thing is FUN to drive!

    And if the Pop is fun, then could the Abarth give this Miata a run for its money? I’d say for being two quite different vehicles, the Fiat and the Miata are both fun cars–one just a bit more practical than the other.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      The 500 is a wonderful design exercise, but feels VERY gutless with the automatic. You get used to it – and the engine sounds good. Just plant your foot and keep it there, especially on the highway.

      The 500’s seating position is hilarious, as is the suspension tuning. It has a lot of personality, and I like it quite a bit.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I would disagree strongly on your opinion of the 500’s automatic; I’m currently driving a ’14 Pop with the 6-speed automatic and it’s very surprisingly lively compared to the reviews I’ve read about it. I don’t even bother with Sport mode and love switching it into Manual mode when I’m riding in hilly country. Even accelerating onto the freeway (40-65mph) is remarkably quick compared even to my MT Jeep and MT Saturn Vue (Opel, not Honda drivetrain). I won’t deny there are faster cars out there, but I now have to wonder if the Pop is so quick, what does the Abarth drive like in comparison. MINI likes to claim go-kart like handling, but I think at nearly half the price the Fiat 500 may have them beat as far as ‘feel’ is concerned.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @Winston and Vulpin – I’ve spent a lot of time in my parents 500C Lounge auto and its got plenty of pep. I’ve had it around town and at 85 mph on the expressway and as long as you’re willing to rev the snot out of it (which the engine is happy to do and sounds great in the process), I’ve never been wanting for power, and my daily driver is a BMW 330i. The Fiat will also happily get 30 mpg around town despite being driven with no regard to its mileage.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    (Growlfing at the spam-catcher; it ate a perfectly legitimate comment here.)

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    You still work here?!

  • avatar
    JMII

    I know Miata’s are great (the internet said so, plus I see their tail lights at the track all the time) but $33K… I had no idea they got this pricy. No wonder all the track guys are running used models and put their money into GoPros and Compound R tires.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      The fully loaded power hard top automatics are this pricey. You can get most – if not all – of the goodness for mid-twenties, before factoring in the cash they’re putting on the hood these days.

      Even so, I agree that at first glance, on paper, they don’t look like much of a deal, but what you don’t see on paper is how fun they are to drive, or how well they age over the years and miles.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I think it’s a proven fact that it’s impossible to not smile while driving a Miata. The car is like a little puppy. It’s always excited and wagging it’s tail. When looking for a sports car, I looked at everything else. Almost trying to substitute something else for a Miata. Once letting go of Miata stereotypes and misconceptions, and actually driving one, I couldn’t leave the dealer without the keys to my ’13 Club. It has been so satisfying ever since.

      • 0 avatar
        nrcote

        “…before factoring in the cash they’re putting on the hood…”

        Indeed. Bought a brand new leftover 2012 GT in May 2013 for a lot less than MSRP. So, instead of being atrociously expensive, the car was only somewhat expensive.

        Yes, I know that the car was 1-year old when I got it. Still, it was brand new and that price reduction covered part of the depreciation (most of it? I don’t know).

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      $33K sticker for a rear wheel drive roadster with every option box checked, including the retractable hardtop, is an incredible deal.

      You can take off $1K for the automatic, which no Miata should have.

      The Miata starts at only $23,970 (with AC, power locks and windows, ABS and a number of other features that did not come standard on the old ones).

      What is the sticker on a loaded Z Roadster? Embarassingly into targa Vette and Boxster territory.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “Why do automakers do this? Why undercut driver engagement?”

    Well, in the Miata’s case, because people over median height can’t even fit their feet into the footwell

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Psar,
      Ease back on the hyperbole, dude. I know you don’t fit, and neither do I at my age. However, I had a ’90 and a ’94 (job changes forced an SUV in the middle). I drove one from Houston to San Fran and back. I was 6’3″ tall and 190 lbs back then and did fine.

      Given all the ridiculous legislation I have to put up with, I do think it’s unfair people are allowed to build cars I don’t in, but who said life was fair.

      • 0 avatar
        PJmacgee

        I dunno, Landcrusher, I agree that these cars are hostile to tall people. I have your exact height/weight and driving my friend’s manual trans NA in high school was pretty unpleasant, even for 10 minutes. Like, clown car small – arms over window sills, knees pressing into steering wheel, no room for feet, thank god the drop top was down – and I *like* smallish/confined cars! Pity… Are the newer NC any bigger than NA inside?

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        All I would like is a little bit more footspace, the seat able to drop another two inches and go back about the same—without unbolting or cutting out seat padding. I’m not asking for a lot, am I?

        It’s a better bet than the S2000, which I can’t even close the door of without crushing my knee between the steering wheel and the door itself.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      There are plenty of really tall people that drive Miatas. I am 6′ and have a tall torso. My hair touches the top when it’s up, but something I put up with to be able to drive something so pure. There are some seat mods owners have come up with to lower the back of the cushion.

    • 0 avatar
      PJmacgee

      I dunno, Landcrusher, I agree that these cars are hostile to tall people. I have your exact height/weight and driving my friend’s manual trans NA in high school was pretty unpleasant, even for 10 minutes. Like, clown car small – arms over window sills, knees pressing into steering wheel, no room for feet, thank god the drop top was down – and I *like* smallish/confined cars! Pity… Are the newer NC any bigger than NA inside?

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Hey, you either fit or you don’t. I can’t tell you if it will work for you until you try it on. See what I did there?

        It’s a pity they aren’t a little bigger. In the nineties, I had big thighs and a chest. I fit. Now, I have a bigger butt, gut, and just can’t get in and out easily. For me, it’s still better than the BMW that I soooooo wanted to fit in. Too late for the Z though, I now know all my local BMW dealers stink. Fred Brown is likely tut tutting them all from heaven.

        I’m also am not pretty enough enough anymore. I did rather well picking up girls with it back then though.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        NC does have a bit more interior room than the NA/NB. I can fit in a late NC and the S2000 (6’2″, 200#), but I do have to slouch or crane my neck a bit for headspace. A lot of it simply comes down to *where* you’re tall and/or wide, so you just have to try out a given car and see what happens.

    • 0 avatar
      PJmacgee

      gah, comments getting eaten…

      anyway…not hyperbole, the NA I drove years ago was hateful to tall people (I’m 6’3″/190)

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        You need to re read the hyperbole, or look up the word hyperbole.

        Over the median can’t get their feet in is hyperbole when in fact, many people in the second standard deviation above the norm actually choose to own them and drive them.

        Psar is in the third standard deviation above the norm IIRC so I understand his frustration, but I would hate for some six footers to write off a Miata without trying one. I really enjoyed the experience.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      I’m 6’2″. With 2 more inches of headroom I would have kept my 2007 Miata PHRT.

      Let’s see if I fit in the new one better.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    The S2000 was more than an “upstart challenger”, it was also vastly superior to the Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      It was “vastly superior” in the sense that it offered far more performance for far more money. That said, I’ve heard from guys who went from a Miata to a Stook, and switched back, because they found the hairdresser car more fun to drive at regular road speeds.

      It was an “upstart challenger” in the sense that it came on the scene later, and was discontinued far earlier.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        This. I love the S2000, but other than Honda not making them anymore, the used ones are still a pretty penny. I really wanted one, and the S2000 seams like it was built around me. The problem with the S2000 is that you need to beat the hell out of it to have fun. It goes back to the whole, “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast, then a fast car slow.”

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          The latter versions developed torque at lower rpms.

          I’m sure the S2000 will continue to retain value better than the Mazda and will be much more desirable to collectors as the years roll by.

          The Mazda looks fine in pictures but in real life it looks like it should come wrapped in a doily. It’s a precious little toy that looks dangerous to drive on any superhighway, judging by the way their drivers keep them in the slow lane.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I get that lots of people liked the S2000, but not sure I concur with it being “vastly superior”. You could look at years sold and how long the S2000 was around as a start point. I would give the Miata the edge on driving pureness. Something lost on all but a select few cars anymore and certainly nothing at the Miata’s price point.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I love the performance, handling, manual gearbox and engine (goooood Honda motor; bulletproof & rev happy) of the S2k, but it’s a harsh daily driver with a literally back breaking suspension set up.

      I’m not a fan of the S2k’s interior or dash, but its overall build quality & reliabilility is great.

      The MX-5 has fantastic gauges, dash, seats, interior layout, that classic British roadster look with the best of Japanese reliability, a great manual transmission, and is a better daily driver because of a better ride quality than the S2k.

      Both cars are fantastic. The MX-5/Miata is the used car bargain compared to the S2k.

      Both cars will run forever with proper maintenance, and are the kind of quality roadsters that one doesn’t sell – ever – unless there’s a truly compelling reason (i.e. absolute financial necessity) forcing a sale.

      They’re both keepers and legends.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        p.s. – Anyone buying either vehicle in slushbox form had better have an amazingly compelling reason for passing on the manual, lest they be damned to the fiery pits of he!!.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Reason #1:
          Some people simply can’t drive a stick but want the fun of a roadster.

          Reason #2:
          Automatics are coming into their own as performance transmissions, as noted by the Corvette automatic now getting better fuel economy than the stick while also shaving time off the stick version’s lap times on the track (no matter how good you are, the auto can still shift quicker than you which means power to the ground sooner in each shift).

          Yes, I do prefer a stick myself for many reasons–control and reliability most of all–but with a transmission quite similar to what’s shown in the reviewed Miata, I’ve found all of a sudden that automatics can actually outperform a stick.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Anyone looking for an automatic S2000 will be looking for a very long time.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    >>> “Why do automakers do this? Why undercut driver engagement?” <<<

    Because that's what the buyer demand is. All the sufferers who prefer manuals aren't high enough in number to prop up sales. Manufacturers can't charge enough (more) for manuals to make them fiscally worthwhile.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      Yes, I know – I answered the question in my review, too. “Purists make crappy new car buyers.”

      They are smart to offer the automatic, and it’s nowhere near the tragedy here that it is in the FR-S/BRZ.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        Perhaps an aftermarket manual trans-swap kit is the answer? (Something like the “crate engines.”) It would probably be quite expensive.

        • 0 avatar
          Winston Braithwaite

          Nah – just buy one with a stick if that’s what you want.

          It just doesn’t make much sense to buy one with an auto if your first step is to take it apart and swap in a manual. It’s a lot more complex than just bolting in a trans, flywheel/clutch, driveshaft, and pedals. The computers often rebel, these days.

          • 0 avatar
            Japanese Buick

            When I bought my ’12 GT PRHT I had to have the dealer trade with another one in another state to get the configuration I wanted. If I had been willing to take the automatic I would have had my choice from local lots. I think as you go up the Miata trim scale, the ratio of automatics to manuals also goes up. I’m glad to hear the Miata auto doesn’t suck because there are a lot of them out there. More than you would expect.

      • 0 avatar
        Secret Hi5

        Mazda has it correct on the ‘manumatic.’ Push forward to downshift, and pull back to upshift.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I don’t understand this view. Mine is forward upshift, and back downshift. This makes more sense with the + and -.

          Where is +? Up. Higher number is up.
          Lower number, lesser, -, is down.

          You want more of something, you put your hand up, thumbs up, etc.!

          • 0 avatar
            Battlehawk

            Because race car.

          • 0 avatar
            Jimal

            @CoreyDL, The idea is to use g forces to your advantage, or at least not have to work against them. When you are accelerating, you are being pushed back into your seat, so you pull the shifter in the direction you are already moving. Same for decelerating and downshifting. It’s like that in any race car that uses a sequential shifter.

            That is also what is a little confusing with the paddle setup; on any paddle equipped race car I’ve seen or – gulp – driven, the right paddle is for selecting up while the left paddle is for selecting down. Some manufacturers get that right, but not many.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            @Jimal

            Thanks, that makes sense actually. Didn’t think about the forces involved. The steering wheel right + and left – would seem the correct way to me as well. Since more people are right-handed.

          • 0 avatar
            energetik9

            Ferrari works this way also. “+” on the right, “-” on the left. I know this is the same for Porsche PDK too.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        It’s the lack of owner committal to sports cars, nor are they in it for the “drive”. So is loving the idea of “going camping” and never getting out of the RV.

        So why are they buying them at all? Answer: Brand new Jeep Wrangler posers (no offence, Vulpine).

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I’m not so “brand new”, Denver Mike; I’ve been driving my Wrangler for over 7 years and it HAS been on certified trails at Rousch Creek while still bone-stock. I won’t deny that most of the time it stays on the road, but then, until very recently it was my daily driver. Now I can save it for when its capabilities are really needed or I simply want to ride a trail.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    It is funny that a company with racing bonafides like Mazda would get the paddle shifter thing so wrong, especially when they seem to be about the only company to get the manual function on the shifter itself correct; pull to upshift, push to downshift.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Sounds like a sports car done right, small, light (for todays cars), and a simple interior with no touchscreens. The fact that the newest one requires a back-up camera just confuses me.

    The original Miatas had some sound trickery going on too, partially stuff with the exhausts and partially a gearbox meant to copy the sound of an MG. I personally loathe stuff like this, its money wasted to make the car feel like something it isn’t. The Miata is not an MG nor should it aspire to be, it is rightfully its own car. Its trickery like this that makes some Japanese cars feel like cheap European knock-offs.

    “I was going to have to suffer a stupid week in this stupid car set up for stupid idiots.”

    I’d really like to know when transmission choice became such a huge arbiter of peoples intelligence, if one prefers a manual thats fine, but we don’t need to have a bunch of drama over an modern automatic. CVTs I can understand, but we’ve moved passed the days of three-speed slushboxes.

    I do admire the “brash”, honest comments of this review though. Less BS to carve through and more meat for the mind.

  • avatar
    superchan7

    The folding hardtop really added to the refinement of the car–this really is the most fun you can have on four wheels at under $30k.

    Unfortunately, a quick test drive showed that the roof leaves too little headroom for me (6’1).

  • avatar
    daiheadjai

    Is anyone else amazed that in this day and age, Mazda has to drop power output to make the automatic work?
    For a car that never had stratospheric (or even above cloud-cover) levels of power to begin with?

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I don’t know the details of the Miata’s case, but OEMs often rejigger the power curves of automatic versions of cars to favour midrange torque over high-end power, because the automatic is unlikely to let the engine rev up that high anyway.

      It’s likely that Mazda traded peak horsepower for gains in a more usable part of the powerband.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      I agree with you…seems obvious here that the reason for this kind of thing…and some of the other shortcomings of the car – stem from the fact that it has no competition. No need to make it better than…what?

      Yes, it’s understood that fun in a Miata doesn’t mean emulating a top fuel dragster, but for this kind of money, in what is a single-purpose car, the NA 2 liter needs to be making more like 200 hp at 8k rpm.

      As a single-purpose $30k sportscar, with passenger room, cargo room, space utilization, ride comfort, etc. sacrificed to provide a form factor optimized for that single purpose, it should offer more than just a better subjective driving experience than say a $30k FWD hot hatchback – it should offer objectively superior performance. But it doesn’t.

      A $75k Corvette, for example. offers not just a better driving experience but much better performance than a $75k sports sedan, because its form factor sacrifices utility, comfort, room, ride, etc. in order to optimize performance.

      Competition improves the breed, and the Miata would be a better car if it had more competition.

      • 0 avatar
        superchan7

        Just playing the other argument for discussion’s sake: The Corvette shares similar development costs with the Roadster–a dedicated FR chassis not shared in significant part with any other car. The fact that it starts at $30,000 higher than the MX-5 means GM has ample room to put in a ferocious powertrain.

        The MX-5 line costs a lot to maintain–a selling price under $30k doesn’t give Mazda a lot of room to throw in massive HP gains model after model. After all, as we all understand here: Power is an afterthought in the Miata.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          It apparently doesn’t give Mazda a lot of room to throw in any horsepower gain at all, nor any handling or braking performance improvements, either.

          And yes, the reason I picked the Corvette as an example is that it’s the only vehicle on that platform, as is the Miata, and very little other than their engines are shared with other models in those brands’ lineups…yet Chevy raises the performance bar significantly with every generation and even within generations.

          Yes, the Corvette sells for a lot more money, but they spend a hell of a lot of money on development…you tell me how much you think Mazda has spent on Miata development over the past 15 years.

          I understand the Miata is a nice-driving car, but can’t think of another vehicle that would get a pass for basically not improving its performance envelope – in terms of key parameters for its vehicle type – over the past 10 years or so.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            Mazda has upped the Miata’s horsepower by more than 50% since 1989. In terms of percentage gained, GM hasn’t done that with the Corvette. Absolute numbers are a different story, though, but we already know that the Vette is much more about performance than the Miata is. I’m not trying to downplay what GM have done with the Corvette, either; in my opinion it’s one of the best-evolved cars on the market, but Mazda have done a great job as well.

            Mazda has also significantly upped the feature content, safety, rigidity, and made considerable gains in things like braking while doing a decent job of keeping true to its original spirit and not going crazy with weight gain, all while holding the line on inflation-adjusted pricing.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            What? A 1989 Corvette made 245 horsepower…a new one makes like 460 – ? You’re right. That’s not 150 percent…it’s almost 200.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    I can respect the Miata for its handling credentials and its light weight.

    But I don’t know, man… I don’t think I’m- uhhhhh..”pretty” enough for a Miata.

    Especially saddled with that slush box. Jesus, just shoot yourself in the foot while you’re at it.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Stereotypes aside, probably 80% of the people I see driving Miatas are men past middle-aged, and they don’t seem particularly fabulous. Maybe 15% are women past their prime, and the last 5% are cars I see at the local racetrack. Those guys aren’t particularly pretty, either, and their cars are invariably of the 1990-2005 generation.

      My mom says I’m reasonably good looking, though, so I guess that’s one data point in the Miata’s favour. Then again, I may have just bought mine to overcompensate for my overwhelming masculinity.

  • avatar
    mx5ta

    My ’96 generation 1 Miata, with 125k, runs like new, cost $3800 a few years ago and is worth that or more now. I get the full roadster experience for next to nothing, but wouldn’t question anyone who might spring for a new one with nothing on the odometer: more weight, but proportionally more power. Certainly, any Miata with an automatic is a downer, as are the 90s Camaros, any Corvette, etc. I look at classifieds for, that have automatics. I don’t notice any “sound symposer” effect in my Gen. 1; not sure what the poster below is referring to on that. You get quite an illusion of speed in the car, as you sit so low. At the same speed on the same road in my mid-size Ford, I wouldn’t even notice how fast I’m going, but in the Miata, I feel as if I’m taking my life in my hands. Wouldn’t want to get t-boned in it, as I’ve looked inside the driver’s side door. Going over a railroad track, you feel like the whole thing is going to fall to pieces.

  • avatar
    mx5ta

    Testing testing, sibilance sibilance.

    Wrote a long post earlier, but it got swallowed up, so just testing to see if any of my posts will survive.

    • 0 avatar
      mx5ta

      Okay, this post survived, so I’ll try another. First point: Always remember that whichever generation of this car you own, it’s a tribute car, that is, it’s a redo of the car a LOT of guys my age (58) wanted as our first car but got talked out of by either parents or our own common sense. My ’96 Miata starts every time and never stalls; that wouldn’t have been the case with any Triumph or MG I might have bought in 1974. Second point: Have just been reading in my latest Hemmings Sports & Exotic car about a 1920s US-made Mercer: way heavier than my car and 70hp, yet it competed at the Indy 500. Point is, don’t just count horsepower; you can easily drive my 133hp Miata off the road it has plenty of power for most drivers’ skill level.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I never owned a Miata, but remember sitting in one and remembering how challenging it was for me to fit.

    The closest I ever came to a similar car was I owned a BMW M Roadster (based on the BMW Z3). Soft top, 2 seater, light weight (2400 lbs I think), and a little trunk. Granted the M was more expensive, but it was also around 240 hp and 0-60 in under 5.5 sec. Not bad for a car that’s now 15 years old. That was one of the most tossable, nimble cars I ever owned and at the time, the fastest I ever owned.

    I respect the Miata greatly for what it is and I especially respect Mazda for having the courage the continue the formula. So many others would have conceded to more bulk and more engine to better accommodate American waist lines and need for power as the direct answer to fun.

  • avatar

    I owned a blue Miata, within months of its first introduction. Automotive Nirvana was this car on Topanga Canyon Drive. Automotive hell was when Girlfriend was killed on Mulholland when it barely touched a Cadillac.

  • avatar
    GT-86

    “”The Miata isn’t without some horseshit. There’s a “Induction Sound Enhancer,” a membrane in the intake manifold that vibrates at specially-tuned frequencies to sound more like an MGB gulping through SU carburetors.””

    “”That intake manifold honker thing pipes some pleasant growl into the cabin, but it’s still silly.””

    I have not posted to TTAC in some time, but I feel a correction is in order here… though you are correct that the later NC Miata has a “ISE” tube, this is NOT on automatic cars. Actually, in your own photos it can clearly be seen to be missing… they normally go from the back of the intake to the firewall. You can even see the blank in the firewall where it would be. (just in front of the driver)

    In a manual car (like my 2013 Miata GT 6-sp) it really does make good sound in the cabin. The FRS/BRZ also have one, but that was added because the sound of that engine is so, ummm, unpleasant.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    The review mentions the usable trunk. That’s a hugely underrated plus of the Miata. All the hardtop coupes out there that are based on regular cars like Volvo, Infinit, etc drop their hard tops into the trunk and its basically unusable with the top down. The Miata’s top drops into a dedicated compartment and has no impact on the trunk. Or as my brother who owns an Infiniti power hardtop coupe says, the Miata top drops into where the back seat should be. Fair enough, he has two kids who go on drives with them. But he also says you can carry a ham sandwich in his trunk, even with the top down as long as it doesn’t have lettuce.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    A week or two late here, back in Boston after visiting my ’99 NB in Southwest Florida.

    The MX-5 is all about balanced open-top fun in real world driving.

    The NC is great for what it is. Its not so good for what it is not meant to be. As is true for the NB and NA, and most likely the ND. It may not compete well against other cars with different design briefs, at their own game. Don’t buy one in order to do that.

    If Mazda wanted to make a Corvette killer they would go about it differently. Probably not succeed, but might compete.

    I sought out an automatic, since I wanted one. My NB and my Audi are manuals as are my bikes.

    The NB is more delicate, far less power, you work through its 5 speed gently to get to 45, or pin it in second to get to 45, watching the pickup trucks pull away. The NC on the other hand is as fast as any minivan off the line. It makes power equal to the NB turbo, more or less. The automatic is capped on the redline, who ever redlines a normal automatic?

    The NC is not a stiff car. The NB makes it appear stiffer. Body bracing is widely available for both.

    If mine had the kazoo, that would have been the first thing to change. I can’t see my self ever test driving a BMW.

    All MX-5s have come with dummy oil pressure gages. The NA and NB at least have an on-off function to the gage, the NC has an artificial readout based on being programmed to look like it is plumbed. The NA and NB are easy to fix with a better sending unit, not the NC. This bothers me almost as mush as the remediable chassis shudder.

    I tried to turn my NC into a GT, as posted here months ago, and was about half successful. Tightened up the body, smoothed and slowed the ride/handling (more feel, more compliance) with non-race 16″ rolling stock, new GPS radio, donut spare tire flopping in the trunk.

    I think I may never want the ND which is lightened and sharpened, closer to the Elise which nobody here seems to think of when talking about MX-5. Wonder why about that.

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