Car review: Mazda MX Miata, a small car with a big personality

An affordable convertible, the Mazda MX-5 is compact but designed to own the road. Photo: Russell Dandridge

DALLAS, August 16, 2011—You’d be right to say that the 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata is tiny. Of course, great things come in small packages, and that’s true in spades for this little roadster. When you’re behind the wheel, you own the road, small package or not. 

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is fun to drive. It has great handling and, of course, it’s a convertible. Let me add, it’s an affordable convertible. Those words are music to my ears.

The 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata offers no changes from previous models other than the Special Edition model, which really just amps up what you can already get anyway.

The direct competition to this third generation roadster might have been the Pontiac Solstice or the Saturn Sky, but those aren’t in the running anymore. The higher end roadsters (think the BMW Z4 or the Porsche Boxster) really aren’t for the same market.

In fact, the closest car I can compare it with would be the Mini Cooper convertible, and that’s a stretch.

Let’s start with the Mazda’s power: That’s definitely one of its selling points. Its 167-horsepower four-cylinder engine produces 140 pound feet of torque. While that translates into low horsepower, remember that this car only weighs  2500 pounds. Add the hardtop roof, which weighs just over 50 pounds, and that’s not much.

The Sport comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission; the Touring and Grand Touring versions come with a six-speed manual transmission. All the trims are offered in six-speed automatic, but roadster automatics are not that fun to drive.

The roadster is only a two seater. It comes in three trims: the base Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. All three trims come with the soft top, which retracts manually. With the Touring and the Grand Touring, you can opt for a power-retractable hardtop. 

Inside the Mazda MX Miata Photo: Russel Dandridge

The Sport features 16-inch wheels, a vinyl convertible top with a glass rear window, cloth seats, power windows and mirrors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Touring has 17-inch wheels, fog lights, cruise control, keyless entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a leather-wrapped shift knob. The Grand Touring adds on a black or beige cloth top, leather upholstery, and heated seats.

You do get options with the Mazda MX-5 Miata, but most come in packages. For example, the Sport model offers a Convenience package and that is mostly the Touring addition. 

The Touring and the Grand Touring upgrades add a suspension package on the manual transmission but only with a sport-tuned suspension or the Grand Touring Premium package features stability control and xenon headlights.

For the Miata Special Edition that I drove, the Grand Touring comes complete with the Premium package and a Suspension package on the manual version. You also can select a variety of colors and an interior package that differs from the other trims. Safety is important in this car with antilock disc brakes and side airbags.

While the inside is small, since it’s only a two-seater, it’s definitely a fun car. The gears and knobs are  convenient, easy to intuit and adjust. The convertible top is a snap. It just takes one push of a button and a lever pull, and up it goes. 

The power roof adds a few more seconds to go from coupe to convertible, but worth it if you’re the type of driver who does not want the wind in your ears while the top is raised.

Hugging the road never felt so good. You’re low enough to the ground to feel like you are definitely in control – and you are, really.  Steering, check; suspension, check; fun to drive, easy shift, and takes to the road, double check. Driving never felt so good.

You Need to Know: The trunk is small just like the car. It’s not a road trip car, but driving it around the city will definitely get you noticed.

Miles Per Gallon: The Special Edition came in at 21 miles in the city and 28 miles on the highway with an estimated annual fuel cost at $2002. 

Cost: I drove the Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition, priced at $31,720. 

Rita Cook is a writer/editor with has over 1000 articles to her credit in the past 13-plus years. She is a frequent auto and travel contributor on a radio show in Los Angeles called Insider Mag Radio at KPRO 1570 am on from midnight to 12:30 a.m. Monday mornings.  Cook is a member of the Texas Auto Writer’s Association, writes for the Dallas Morning News Green Living Section as well as artist profiles and spends much of her time on the road traveling or working on books.

Her latest book release in May was “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by The History Press.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Rita Cook

Rita Cook is a writer/editor with over 1000 articles to her credit in the past 10-plus years. She is the co-host of a radio show in Los Angeles; Insider Mag Radio at KPRO 1570 am and is on from midnight to 12:30 a.m. Monday mornings.  Cook is a member of the Texas Auto Writer’s Association and also writes an eco-friendly column for the Dallas Morning News.


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