2023 Mazda Miata, Oops I meant Mazda MX-5


I have no idea why Mazda decided to call their roadster MX-5 instead of Miata. Everybody knows it is a Miata, almost no one says "my MX-5." Mazda can call it whatever they want but to me and most others it will always be Miata. 

Even though the current Miata is bigger and has more amenities that the original it is still reminiscent of the old British roadsters. That's a good thing, and it also has a down side. Good because despite the bloating I see in just about every car line the Miata keeps the faith. Not so good because for me it's difficult to get in and out of. Once in I was perfectly comfortable. 

I'm sure Mazda has done its marketing and found that the majority of buyers want all the amenities. The Miata I drove was a Club model and it had just about everything you could think of and maybe a little more than I would want in a sport car. Not that I don't appreciate heated seats, power windows and door locks, etc. but I don't see the Miata as a Grand Touring car, it is a sport car.

Let's look at all the things that make the Miata if not the last true sport roadster, perhaps the best. Start with the engine. It is a thoroughly modern 2.0-liter, DOHC, 4-cylinder. Although not as pretty looking as the original Miata's engine (in my opinion) you can at least see it and the twin cams are obvious. More importantly the engine had the torque (although it's only rated at 151 lb-ft) and gearing to pull smoothly in just about any gear. With 181 hp it isn't the quickest car out there but the Miata never was about being the quickest or fastest, it's about the fun level. 

Photo courtesy of Mazda

What the Miata needs, or demands, is a sunny day, a twisty road, and the top down. 

Now I'll say something that some may think is heresy - the Miata doesn't need a 6-speed manual. I think the 6-speed is there for fuel economy and emissions. The manual transmission Miata has a rear-end gear ratio of 2.866:1 and 6th gear is 1.00:1 (so direct). If Mazda used the auto transmission's rear axle ration of 3.583:1 combined with an overdrive 5th gear of 0.75:1 the result would be almost the same. Most of the time that I drove on secondary roads I never used 6th gear and I was mostly in 4th. 

The test Miata had the optional 205/45R17 performance tires, I would probably opt for the standard 195/50R16 tires for a little extra comfort (that extra sidewall would help). Yes the 17" tires had superb grip but even California roads are not super smooth. 

The interior is fairly well laid out given how many accessories there are to control. The Miata with its electric power assist steering responds quickly to input, it's not quite twitchy but if you're not used to it you may find yourself turning too soon. For that reason alone all those little controls are a distraction. 

Dead center of the instrument cluster is the tachometer. I don't usually drive by the tach but when you need it there it is. 

I drove the Miata a few times with the top down and it wasn't too breezy in the driver's seat. The top is the very definition of easy to use. One latch and one hand is all that's needed to lower or raise it. 

Let's not forget that the Miata is a small car. It is almost three feet shorter than a new Mustang, and it weighs less than 2,500 lbs. Even with all the safety stuff! It's milieu is the back roads, not the Interstates (not that it couldn't comfortably cruise at highway speeds all day). Out on the clogged highways near me you may feel overwhelmed by the behemoth trucks with tires that tower over the top of the Miata. 

There are three basic Miata trim levels. You can buy a new '23 Miata Sport for as low as $28,050, the Club (the level tested) starts at $31,550, and the Grand Touring at $33,050. There is also the RF, the folding hardtop version. The test Miata had a MSRP of $37,510, that included a $4,500 Brembo BBS Recaro Package, Snowflake White Pearl paint, and delivery fee. 

Brembo brakes!

A younger person would use a Miata as their primary transportation; for me it would have to be a second or third vehicle. If I lived back in my home state of Connecticut the Miata would be my choice from April through October. I hope Mazda sees fit to continue on with the Miata forever. Someone needed to built a modern roadster and Mazda has done such a great job so far.


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