Car Review: Mazda MX-5 Miata a small car with a big personality

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

DALLAS, August 15, 2011—You’d be right to say that the 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata is tiny.  Great things come in small packages, though, and that’s the case 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 with great handling, and of course, it’s a convertible Not just a convertible, but an affordable convertible. Those words are music to my ears.

The 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata features no changes from previous years, except in the Special Edition model, which really just amps up what you already get anyway.

For competition with this third generation roadster you might look at the Pontiac Solstice or the Saturn Sky, but those aren’t in the running anymore, and and the higher end roadsters - think the BMW Z4 or the Porsche Boxster - aren’t in the same market.

In fact, the closest comparison I can find to the Miata is the Mini Cooper convertible, and that is a stretch: Who can call the Mini Cooper a roadster with a straight face? Who can drive that car around curves and say that it hugs the road? But I digress.

Let’s start with power. That’s one of the selling points of the Mazda M-5 Miata. It comes with a 167-horsepower four-cylinder engine and 140 pound feet of torque. If at first that seems like low horsepower, remember, the car only weighs in at 2,500 pounds, and the hardtop roof adds only another 50 pounds and change.

Mazda Interior (Image: Russell Dandridge)

Mazda Interior (Image: Russell Dandridge)

The sport is standard with a five-speed manual transmission. The Touring and Grand Touring come with a six-speed manual transmission. All the trims also come offered in six-speed automatic, but keep in mind that roadster automatics are not that fun to drive. 

The roadster is, of course, only a two seater, but there are three trims: the base Sport, Touring, and a Grand Touring. All three trims have the soft top, which is manually deployed, but on the Touring and the Grand Touring you can opt for the power-retractable hardtop . 

The Sport features 16-inch wheels, a vinyl convertible top and that has a glass rear window, cloth seats, power windows and mirrors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.  The Touring has 17-inch wheels, foglights, cruise control, keyless entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped shift. The Grand Touring adds 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 which consists mostly of the Touring additions. For the Touring and the Grand Touring upgrades, there’s a Suspension package that comes only with the manual transmission. You can have it with either a sport-tuned suspension or with the Grand Touring Premium package, which comes with stability control and xenon headlights.

You also get to chose from a variety of colors and an interior package that differs from the other trims.

The Miata Special Edition that I drove was a Grand Touring, complete with the Premium package and a Suspension package to go with the manual transmission. 

Safety is important, and the Miata comes with antilock disc brakes and side airbags. As mentioned, on the Grand Touring there is also stability control.

While I did mention that the inside is small (it’s only a two-seater, after all), it’s a fun car.  The gears and knobs are all right there and easy to intuit and adjust. The convertible top is easy too, just one push of a button and a lever pull – not too much work on that one. For the power roof it’s 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 really are. This car is fun to drive. Taking the road never felt so good. 

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

Miles Per Gallon: For the Special Edition it came in at 21 miles in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway with a estimated annual fuel cost at $2002.

Cost:  For the Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition I drove it was 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.


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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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