2007 Mazda MX-5
2007 Mazda MX-5 Expert Review:Autoblog
The day they dropped off the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring was my and the old lady's 5th anniversary. Took her out to a dinner that night. Did the movie thing. Dropped three bills for tickets to Wicked. Top down on the MX-5 the whole time, the way it should be. And then the skies opened. Five straight days of rain later and the MX-5's top had yet to do its origami thing since that first night. Not exactly ideal conditions in which to review a rear-wheel drive convertible, so we apologize up front for the parking garage pics and lack of any top down shots. The owner's manual tersely warns against folding the canvas roof when it's wet, and it hasn't been dry since the day they handed us the keys.
Still, we couldn't wait for the return of blue skies to begin this review. The all-new MX-5 is more than just a skylight on wheels, it's a serious sports car as we quickly found out.
One thing you won't read in this review of Mazda's MX-5 is the mention of another similar rear-wheel drive drop top produced by a company that purports to build excitement. We haven't driven that other car yet and we've been driven mad reading comparo after comparo between the two.
That said, our MX-5 is the Grand Touring model, the top dog of five trim levels that starts at a heady $24,995, a full four Gs above the base model. For that kind of cash you get leather-trimmed seats, a cloth top instead of vinyl and a seven-speaker Bose sound system. Regardless of the Grand Touring's pomp and circumstance, is Mazda still asking too much for a tiny two-seater with a 170-hp, 2.0L inline-four? It's a question we've been asking for years since the Miata's sticker began inching ever upward.
As always we'll begin on the outside and it's clear the MX-5 is a larger car than the Miata it replaces. It's anywhere from 1 to 1.5 inches larger in every major dimension which, in addition to increasing interior volume serves to give the MX-5 a more substantial presence than its forbearers.
The lines of the MX-5 are clearly inspired by the Ibuki concept that debuted at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show. Somehow Mazda's designers managed to retain the original Miata's soft, rounded shape while adding creases in all the right places. The extended fenders look good from every 3/4 angle and the power bulge on the hood hints at the extra ponies below.
Both the hood and the trunk are stamped from aluminum, two major sources of weight saving that contribute to the MX-5's curb weight of only 2,498 lbs., just over 100 lbs. heavier than the car it replaces. That's an impressive display of constraint on the part of Mazda's engineers considering this car is all new from the lug nuts up.
Up top our MX-5 features a canvas top rather than the standard black vinyl one. Color combos are, of course, subjective, but we've been fans of the MX-5's Galaxy Gray paint and Saddle Tan leather interior and top. And pedestrians seem to like the looks of the MX-5 too, as the ragtop garnered envious glances from more than a few bipedal bound.
The original Miata's pleasant expression has returned on the face of the MX-5 after a generational absence. Many bemoaned the loss of the Miata's pop-up headlights on the second generation Miata, but this car's halogen projector beams give it a wide-eyed expression and inviting nature. There's also a pair of clear lens altezza-like taillamps out back that appear to be a nod to the sport compact crowd.
Wrapping up our talk of the MX-5 exterior, we have no problem giving Mazda props for penning a great design. The original Miata's shape was iconic. Although some considered its soft shape feminine, the first gen car was so fun to pilot that a real driving enthusiast could forgive its jelly bean form. The new car still lacks an aggressive face, but its greater girth and sharper image make the MX-5 the most mature Miata ever. You'll have to tune in later, however, to see if the MX-5 is still as much a joy to drive as its predecessors.
We spent a lot of time inside our Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring with the top up, so we got familiar with the comfy confines of this convertible's interior. The all-new 2006 MX-5 is bigger than the car it replaces, but that hardly makes it a large car. How big of a difference do a couple inches here and there make? Not much according to my 5'10" frame, so it's fortunate for Mazda that the MX-5 is packed with enough hair-raising hardware to keep our minds off the cramped quarters.
One doesn't so much as enter an MX-5 as he falls into it butt first. There's no way to enter this car gracefully because of its scant 4.6-inch ground clearance, so we had to get over ourselves and enter the car on its own terms. Once inside the MX-5, however, one doesn't feel less than a foot off the ground. While those extra inches don't seem to translate into many more useable cubes on the inside, at least this little roadster doesn't feel like a go-kart with airbags anymore.
The first order of business in an unfamiliar vehicle is to adjust your chair, and while the MX-5 offers up enough legroom for the average frame the seatback is severely hindered from reclining. Considering the Grand Touring model is the king of the MX-5 line and our tester was fitted with the optional super-stiff Suspension Package, we were also surprised the seat's bolsters weren't a little more substantial.
Inside the MX-5 we encountered the full visual force of Mazda's Saddle Tan leather interior. It's one of three materials the interior designers used, the other two being a contrasting matte black plastic on the upper dash to diffuse sunlight coming through the windshield and a strip of glossy black plastic that ties the other two materials together. The interior's starkly contrasting color scheme is one of the MX-5's most eye-catching qualities when the top is down.
Putting the top down, however, proved difficult despite the fact that it was demonstrated to us when the car was delivered. We hardly ever pay attention when instructions are given though, and so resorted to pushing the release button, pulling the marked lever back and pounding on the leading edge of the top that met the windshield. We met with top down success more often than not, but wondered if our particular car had issues converting to open-air motoring.
Aesthetics aside, the MX-5 was designed to be a tool of speed. The six-speed's shifter mounted in the middle of the wide transmission tunnel is placed exactly where our right hand likes it. Short throws allow one to comfortably shift while hardly moving a muscle in around town driving and saves a few tenths when going all out.
Likewise the MX-5's gauge cluster is all business, with large dials for revs on the left and speed on the right. The all-important oil-temp gauge sits tidily between the two to warn when the fun has gotten out of hand. The Grand Touring model also gets a BOSE stereo with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, but no auxiliary input for our iPod. As is the custom these days, three large dials handle all the HVAC duties. It's an efficient center console design that gets the job done and doesn't get in the way.
One annoying little design detail that did get in our way, however, was the placement of the MX-5's cup holders. Mind you, swilling 20 oz. bottles of Pepsi isn't something we normally do on the track, but we do enjoy a nice decanter of the caffeinated beverage when running errands. Seems like Mazda has put to us an ultimatum: drink or drive, but not both (sounds familiar, no?). The cup holders are placed directly in the path of the driver's right arm on its way to the stick. Try as we might we couldn't shift without shaking up our Pepsi.
Mazda should be given credit, however, for everything it put directly in front of the driver, including the fat-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel and good pedal placement. Again, the MX-5's nature as a true driver's car is evident all around the interior, which is why we can forgive the cup holder faux pas. Will we need to forgive anything about how it performs on pavement or will be singing the MX-5's praises in our final review?
Passing judgment on the MX-5's performance to some degree depends on the person seeking your council. On one hand the MX-5 has developed a "chick car" rep thanks to a shape that isn't seeping with testosterone and a willingness to drop its top at the first sight of sun. On the other hand it has a cult following of autocrossers that take Mazda's Zoom-Zoom philosophy to heart.
To which faction does our MX-5 pledge its allegiance? Read on to find out...
The MX-5's engine bay now hides a larger displacement 2.0L four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing beneath its aluminum hood. The 2.0L generates 170 horsepower and 140 ft-lbs. or torque, an increase of 32 hp and 15 ft-lbs of torque over the 1.8L engine it replaces. That extra power felt more than enough to overcome the relatively small weight difference between the MX-5 and Miata, anywhere from 44 to 100 lbs. depending on the model. Despite being more powerful than the outgoing engine, the new 2.0L shares many of its predecessor's traits including the high volume at which it operates. Unlike many four-cylinders, however, that are charged with being raucous, buzzy and thrashy, the MX-5's symphonic cacophony sounds purposefully tuned to delight the ear of an autocrosser.
Coupled with the car's short-throw six-speed shifter and finely calibrated clutch pedal, the MX-5 allows the driver to make use of every rev within the engine's powerband. The six-speed's gears are closely spaced to induce as much acceleration as possible below a highway cruising speed of around 70 mph, at which point the engine is turning over at just above 3,000 rpm and begins to grate on your senses. The clutch pedal is also firm, which allows a higher than normal degree of control over the application of power while cornering.
While the 2.0L isn't powerful enough to embarrass many cars off the line, it offers the majority of its torque by 2500 rpm and keeps pulling all the way up near its 7,000 rpm redline. Mazda engineers have never designed the Miata for the dragstrip, and instead have focused on designing a balanced roadster that builds speed and maintains it with little drama. The 2.0L engine plays its part, but an ensemble cast of hardware including a stiff yet light chassis, unwavering suspension and grippy 205/45 R17 tires on 10-spoke alloy wheels makes driving an MX-5 fast look easy.
The MX-5's standard suspension consisting of a double-wishbone front and multilink rear setup with front and rear stabilizer bars is likely stiff enough for most yet compliant enough for that chick car crowd just looking to cruise around with the top down. Our tester, however, was fitted with the optional Suspension package ($500) that adds a limited slip differential, "sport tuned" suspension with what feels like higher spring rates and Bilstein shocks. The Grand Touring model, along with the Sport model, also receives a front strut tower bar standard. This extra gear is stuff the autocross crowd can appreciate and tightens up the MX-5 in turns significantly. In fact, we found the optional Suspension package made our tester a bit too stiff since our time with the MX-5 was waterlogged by rain and its duties confined to daily errands.
Our appreciation for the optional suspension components would've likely been higher were we able to take advantage of it, but unfortunately the unyielding ride was compounded by the car's unsupportive seats during our short trips. In any case, those interested in the MX-5 for its performance prowess will likely get the Sport model for which the Suspension package is also available and the strut tower bar also standard. It starts at $23,995, some $1,500 less than the Grand Touring, and lacks only the cloth top, leather upholstery and Bose audio system from the more expensive model.
The fat-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel is standard on all models, but the Grand Touring gets audio and cruise controls built in. The wheel tilts but is not telescoping, which is an omission that should have been considered since the seats only go back so far. Nevertheless, the MX-5's steering wheel acts just like an IV injecting road feel straight into your arms when a set of twisties is taken. Likewise, it takes your commands and executes them with the precision of a pairing knife. As a daily driver this directness makes taking the back roads a blast. After all, to demonstrate the handling talents of the MX-5 any curve will do. The highway, however, is not an environment where the MX-5 excels, as tiny turns of the wheel become big changes in direction and keeping the car on the straight and narrow requires more attention than average autos. That, however, is the asking price for driving a true sports car, and there are plenty out there willing to pay it.
Finally, we'd be remiss not mentioning the MX-5's brakes, which are 11.4-inch ventilated discs in front and 11.0-inch solid discs in the rear. Both are larger than the previous generation's and when combined with larger tires, a tighter suspension and a relatively low increase in the car's overall weight make for shorter more controlled stops. We could easily have forgotten the MX-5's anchors as they performed flawlessly and were more than a match for the car's inertia.
Hopefully after reading this review you already know for which faction we think Mazda engineers developed the all-new MX-5. The chick car crowd may yet end up buying the roadster in droves as its face still wears a friendly expression and convertibles have always been popular with the "looks matter" crowd, but Mazda's engineering department is no doubt filled with the same autocrossers, track junkies and tuner folk for which the MX-5 was truly designed. It's a thrilling machine on public roads right out of the box, and we imagine many new MX-5 owners have already begun making it better with aftermarket parts.
New Car Test Drive
The best of the affordable two-seat sports cars.
The 1990 Mazda Miata was nothing less than the rebirth of the affordable two-seat sports car. Mazda fused the personality of the British sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s with near-faultless Japanese quality and reliability. From the first one out the door, the Miata delivered what the long-gone but still lamented English sports cars of an earlier generation had never quite managed: a delightful, fun, supremely capable, well-engineered car that started every time and ran forever. There are more Miatas on racetracks every weekend around the country than any other car.
It's been thoroughly updated twice, including a full remake in 2006. Quality, solidity and safety gear were upgraded in the 2006 re-do, but its lighthearted spirit was kept intact. This is a car to love.
Mazda is now downplaying the Miata name in favor of the alpha-numeric MX-5 moniker; apparently, this is intended to make emphasize the Mazda brand name.
For 2007, there are a few small changes and one major addition to the lineup that broadens both the MX-5's appeal and usefulness. The eye-opener is a new model featuring what Mazda calls the Power Retractable Hard Top, or PRHT, which features a solid roof that lowers in seconds at the touch of a button, just like those found on pricey two-seaters from Mercedes and Cadillac. It provides the advantages of a hardtop overhead, with reduced wind and road noise and a sense of increased security and solidity, yet folds down completely out of sight for stylish cruising. What's more, not a whit of the standard MX-5's delicious driving experience has been sacrificed by the addition of hardtop practicality.
Affordability has always been a cornerstone of Miata ownership, but over time more models and options have proliferated. The list now stretches to two basic body styles, across which spreads five exterior and interior trim packages, a more sporting suspension and a dozen stand alone options. All this can plump up the sticker to the $28,000 range. But choose wisely and you'll still get a rewarding sports car at an enticing price.
The MX-5 Miata, soft top or hard top, still puts a big grin on your face whether you're on a twisty road or just cruising down to the hardware store to pick up some molly bolts. Fun is what the Mazda MX-5 made its reputation on, and that's exactly what it delivers. Mission accomplished.
The 2007 Mazda MX-5 is offered in two body styles: a two-seat two-door convertible and the new Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT). All are powered by the same eager 2.0-liter, all-aluminum, four-cylinder, sixteen-valve engine. Three transmissions are offered, depending upon model: a five-speed manual, a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic with Activematic, Mazda's take on a shift-it-yourself automatic gearbox. The engine is rated at 166 horsepower, which is plenty for a car weighing only about 2500 pounds. Automatic-equipped cars develop 163 horsepower, the difference due to revised engine tuning required to work with the automatic.
The SV Special Value model ($20,435), is only available by special order through one of Mazda's regional offices. It's what once might have been called a stripper version, and it provides the basis for building a race car. It comes with a five-speed manual gearbox instead of the six-speed; 16-inch aluminum wheels; cloth upholstery; various interior storage pockets and bins; an AM/FM/CD sound system with four speakers; power mirrors; and dual front and side airbags. So it's a stripper in relative terms only.
The MX-5 Sport ($21,435) with the vinyl soft top comes with the five-speed manual gearbox, and the same basic equipment as the SV plus air conditioning and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. A tire puncture repair kit fills in for a spare tire, as it does on all MX-5s. The PRHT hardtop Sport ($24,350) also comes with a manual gearbox. The Sport model is also available with the Activematic six-speed automatic ($23,590) and the soft top; it comes standard with the 1CP Convenience Package consisting of cruise control, fog lamps, keyless entry system and power door locks.
The Touring ($23,240) soft top comes with a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic ($24,340) and adds fog lamps, cruise control, power door locks, keyless entry, cruise control, steering wheel mounted cruise and audio controls, with 17-inch alloy wheels and P205/45R17 performance tires. Run-flat tires ($515) are optional. The Touring hard top comes with the six-speed manual gearbox ($25,100) or automatic ($26,200).
The Grand Touring comes with a six-speed manual gearbox ($24,500) or automatic ($25,600), heated leather seats, faux leather door trim, a spiffy cloth soft top and Bose AM/FM/CD player system with seven speakers. Order the rich-looking tan leather and you get tan door panels to match. Handsome 17-inch aluminum wheels mounting 205/45-17 tires fill the wheel openings, and run-flat technology ($515) is available. The Grand Touring hardtop comes with the six-speed manual ($26,360) or automatic ($27,460).
Options include the Convenience Package ($1055) with cruise control, fog lamps, keyless entry and power door locks. The Premium Package 1 ($1600) packs the car with a theft alarm; dynamic stability control and a limited-slip rear differential; Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry (a credit-card sized key fob that you keep in your pocket; there's no actual key for the ignition) and xenon high-intensity headlights. Premium Package 2 ($1250) is the same as Package 1 minus the limited slip differential. The Suspension Package ($500) uprates the handling with Bilstein gas pressure shocks and the limited-slip differential. The appearance package ($1145) dresses the exterior in sporty duds including a front air dam, side skirts and rear under skirt. And the Interior Trim Package ($515) brightens up an already handsome cabin with brushed aluminum trim pieces on the dash and door switch panels and a handsome leather-and-aluminum gearshift knob. Also available: a cargo net, door edge guards, all-weather mats, chrome fuel filler door, splash guards a rear spoiler, satellite radio, an in-dash 6CD/MP3 changer, and wheel locks.
All MX-5s benefit from a comprehensive 3 year/36,000 mile warranty, a five year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and a five-year/unlimited mileage corrosion warranty. And.
Mazda has done a masterful job designing the Mazda MX-5. This third generation evokes the themes of both the original 1990 car and the second-generation Miata (1999-2005). The current Mazda MX-5 is slightly larger in every measure from previous versions, from what's beneath the hood to the interior to the shadow it casts on the road.
Great designs evolve over time, but always hark back to a central theme that defines the brand. So it is with the third-generation MX-5. In fact, it looks more like the original Miata than the second-generation model. The overall design is somewhat slab sided and both taller and more rounded at the front end than previous versions. But the ovoid shape of the grille is pure Miata. (The grille on the hardtop models is brightened with a delicate chrome ring around its circumference.) This larger-than-before opening moves more cooling air through the radiator and around the larger engine and combines with a pronounced air dam across the bottom of the lower opening to give the Miata's face a strong chin. So what if it brings to mind a largemouth bass when viewed straight on? It does what it's supposed to do. Compound, projector-beam headlights live in small housings deeply recessed and near to the car's centerline, which emphasizes the Miata's diminutive size. The hood wears a mini-bulge in the center, simultaneously suggestive of a scoop and of a similar bulge on the RX-8.
The MX-5 design has definitely evolved since the beginning, especially when seen from the side. Sharply sculpted wheel flares appear directly adapted from the RX-8 in a form the company calls Mazda design DNA. Flared wheel arches also spread wide enough to cover the new-generation Miata's wider track. (Track is the distance between the left and right wheels). The MX-5's track is three inches wider in front, two inches wider in the rear when compared with the previous model. This gives the MX-5 a more athletic stance. The MX-5 looks more aggressive and less cuddly than its predecessors.
The soft top is the best yet, and one of the best in all sportscardom. The top, with its heated glass rear window, collapses into a well behind the seats cleanly and completely, in a way requiring no cover boot. That's good, because there are plenty of times when you'd like to drop the top but don't want to take time to snap on a cover. Now it looks neatly finished when it's down, with no additional effort. As with previous models, it's manually operated, but so light and easy to use you can do it with one hand while sitting in the driver's seat. You'll never wish for power assistance. This is distinctly different from, say, the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky, whose tops are far more involved to raise and lower.
The folding hardtop is a mastery of good design. The PRHT is a cinch to operate, quick to fold, and a miracle of space efficiency. Stop the car, put it in neutral (or Park for the automatic). Pop a single handle at the top of the windshield, touch a button on the dash and in 12 seconds the top has contorted itself into the same well the soft-top uses. The hardtop is made of lightweight materials: sheet molding compound on the outside and glass fiber-reinforced polypropylene on the inside. The entire apparatus including electric motors adds less than 80 pounds to the featherweight car, thus maintaining the MX-5's wonderful agility and balance.
A rear panel aft of the front seats raises as part of this dance to allow the top to drop into the well, and covers it back up once it's snuggled in place. Trunk room is not impacted in any way, a blessing because the MX-5 has so little of it to begin with. (Note that even some of the luxury-class folding-hardtop sportscars suffer here, because their tops actually fold down into the trunk and eat up as much as half the available cargo space. Not so for the MX-5.) A slight ridge sculpted into the PRHT's top cover is the onl.
This latest generation (2006 and newer) Mazda Miata grew in all dimensions and it is more accommodating than before, but it's still a snug fit for full-figured or tall sports car lovers. Rearward seat travel was extended by about an inch, and you can feel it. Before, a six-footer had the driver's seat all the way back. Now there's a notch or two left in the travel. The car's expanded girth yielded an additional 1.4 inches in hip room, and it too makes a difference.
The trunk's 5.3 cubic feet capacity is made for a few small, soft bags, just enough to get a couple through a weekend trip. The spare tire was left out more to save weight than to add space for golf clubs.
Overall, interior quality and appearance are way better than any past MX-5 Miata would have led you to expect. Fit and finish is tight and smooth. Trim panels on the center stack fit flush and look expensively made. Materials are mostly impressive grade; the shiny black trim across the width of the instrument panel has the high-end look of black lacquered furniture.
The headliner of the hardtop's roof is finished in a hard flat-black textured covering that, if not luxurious, is certainly tidy. Even the base cloth upholstery is nice, with lightly woven, smooth-finish bolsters and waffle-weave insets. Depending on the weather, the cloth upholstery's waffle-like weave can be more comfortable than leather. That's a good thing, because leather doesn't appear until the top-of-the-line Grand Touring model. The base SV's urethane steering wheel and shift knob wrappings are obviously not leather, but they're not offensive, either. Likewise, in ergonomics, the interior of the new Miata rates both pluses and minuses.
The soft top is an exemplar of simplicity and ease of use. Release a single latch at the center of the foremost bow and with one hand push the top back into its recess behind the seats. To reverse the process, reach back with one hand, grab the latch and pull, and the top rises out of its well and settles onto the top of the windshield. Tug down, engage the latch, and it's done.
Seats are neither overly firm nor too plush, properly bolstered for the type of driving the Miata invites but with only acceptable thigh support. Be ready for noticeable lumbar, too, for which there's no adjustment. Nor is there a seat height adjustment. The tilt steering wheel helps with this, at least a little. The properly stubby shift lever is where it should be. The hand brake sits on the passenger side of the drive tunnel.
A single set of power window buttons is located in the center console aft of the shift boot, behind which a neat retracting cover conceals two cup holders. The center stack hosts intuitively positioned stereo and air conditioning knobs, buttons and recessed toggles that are easy to grasp and manipulate. A power outlet conveniently placed at the base of the center stack waits for a radar detector or cell phone. Four air registers are spaced across the dash in the hard, shiny black panel that changes to brushed aluminum for the Limited Edition. They swivel with a surprisingly expensive feel.
All gauges are analog, with a large, round tachometer and matching speedometer straddling the steering column and shaded from all but trailing sunlight by an arched hood. Fuel level is reported in a small circle to the lower left, coolant temperature by one to the lower right and, thank you very much, oil pressure by a matching triplet positioned top center between the tach and speedo. It's the kind of engine monitoring panel that sports car drivers love. Headlights are managed by a stalk on the left side of the steering column, windshield wiper and washer by a stalk on the right side. On the Touring model and above, cruise and secondary audio controls utilize the horizontal spokes of the steering wheel. The on/off switch for the stability control system shares space with a pair of switch blanks in th.
Mazda's engineers worked overtime to keep the third-generation MX-5 from gaining performance-dulling weight, and it shows. Liberal use of lightweight and high tensile metals, along with fresh thinking in such basics as mounting accessories to the engine and even how much a rearview mirror weighs, kept weight to within 22 pounds of the the second-generation Miata. Dropping the spare tire helped, but the MX-5's designated dieticians still faced added calories from the larger engine, the head-and-thorax side-impact airbags, more robust side-impact hardware, larger wheels and those stylish seatback hoops.
Just as significant from the driver's seat is how the car's mass is distributed. The lower the mass is in the car's chassis, the lower the car's center of gravity and the more stable its ride and handling. But especially important for a sports car, the closer weight is clustered around what engineers call the vertical yaw axis the better. Imagine a broomstick with two five-pound weights attached. It weighs about 10 pounds regardless of where the weights are positioned. Put the weights at the ends of the broomstick, and try to spin it like a baton. It's not so easy to get started, and once started it's difficult to stop. But move the weights next to each other at the center of the broomstick, and starting it spinning and stopping it requires much less effort.
This is a simplification because concentrating too much of the mass around the yaw axis can make a car unstable, but you get the point. And so did the Mazda engineers. The engine in this latest version was moved rearward more than five inches from its relative location in the previous (pre-2006) model. The gas tank was moved forward and lowered in the chassis. Relocating the battery from the trunk to under the hood positioned it closer to the yaw axis.
What all this has accomplished in pursuit of the ideal 50/50 front/rear weight balance is, well, if not perfection, then close, depending on how the Miata is loaded. With two people buckled in, Mazda pegs the new Miata's weight distribution at 50/50. With their luggage, it tends to a rear bias; empty, with a full gas tank, it tends to a front bias.
So much for what gratifies the left brain. What's so cool about all this shifting around of mechanicals and components is, it works.
The MX-5 is a blast to drive. The 166-hp, six-speed gearbox and a highly responsive throttle give it a nice kick in the back end. The wide track and low center of gravity enable it to corner flatter than should be possible. Balance is so close to perfect, with two people on board, of course, and with the sporty, asymmetrical-tread tires on the Sport and Grand Touring models, that it holds its line through corners like it was highway striping paint.
Quick, left-right-left transitions on a winding two-lane running along a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii succumb to nearly perfect steering response: light but not twitchy, with good feel regardless of the speed. Crank in more steering to keep it off the rock wall on the outside of a tight switchback, and the rear tires step tentatively sideways. A touch of counter steer and a soft feathering of the gas and the tires stick again, and away you go. What a rush. This is with the electronic stability control deactivated. With it active, the new Miata's still fun, just not as much.
We didn't have the opportunity to drive any models with the 16-inch wheels and standard tires and five-speed manual, but from experience with last year's Miata, we'd expect a similar experience, albeit at lower thresholds.
The new Miata cruises well, too, though on the Interstate it wanders slightly in response to pavement irregularities or when passing a heaving semi. When it must, the MX-5 can crawl along with stop-and-go traffic with no complaint. Clutch effort is so light, your left leg never gets tired.
Ordering the s.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata remains the quintessential affordable two-seater, and holder of the sales record for two-door, convertible sports cars. The latest generation is spectacularly good, both sweetly rewarding to drive and an excellent value. New for 2007, the ingenious PRHT hardtop model extends the MX-5's allure beyond the previous class borders. The Miata formula has been copied by a pair of competitors, the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. They're good, but the MX-5's all-around capability and grin-per-mile factor is still what all comers will continue be judged against.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard reported from Kona, Hawaii, with Rich Ceppos reporting from Detroit, Michigan.
Mazda MX-5 SV ($20,435); Sport ($21,435); Touring ($23,240); Grand Touring ($24,500); Sport PRHT ($24,350); Touring PRHT ($25,100); Grand Touring PRHT ($26,360).
Options As Tested
Premium Package 1 ($1,600) includes xenon HID headlights, dynamic stability control with traction control, Smart Key keyless ignition, and anti-theft alarm; run-flat tires with tire-pressure monitor system ($515).
Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring ($26,600).
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