Here’s Why The Mazda MX-5 Miata Is The World’s Best-Selling Roadster

2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Life no longer throws me sharp curves – though I did discover a slight, uh, $2,000 hole in my checkbook last month.

A mere four-figure bump in the road, I say, still wondering what might have fallen through.

Here’s the deal: I know now how to contend with all the curves, zigs and zags  I confront daily, and, no, I didn’t join a cult that uses aluminum-foil hats to attract stray gamma rays – at least, not yet.

I was just fortunate enough to snag a 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club for a week recently, a pure two-passenger sports car that devours two-lane twisties and bends as if they were Cheetos.

For nearly 30 years, the tiny, impractical Miata has reigned as the best – and most affordable – old-school-type sports-car available anywhere.

Think of it as a sort-of MG or Triumph that starts every time you turn the key and won’t leak quarts of oil on your garage floor.

Heck, I viewed the Miata as rolling therapy – an engaging way to let the wind and road blow away worries about Washington, ex-wives and slight $2,000 holes in your bank account.

As you probably noticed, the Miata doesn’t look dramatically different today than when it arrived in 1989 as a seeming retro open-air four-cylinder roadster.

Though slightly larger, more refined and flashing some nice styling tweaks today, the Mazda remains the little car that can – a dinky niche sportster that has somehow survived in a big-box world.

My metallic gray Miata radiated a playful presence, even before I put its slick maroon convertible top down.

Low and spare, it wore narrow, squinty headlamps up high that contrasted nicely with a smiley, blacked-out grille down low.

Classic long-hood, short-trunk proportions still guide the car’s styling, its hood curving up slightly on the edges and looking kind of chiseled.

While the sides of the Miata appear at first glance to be smooth, they actually have a faint muscular curve in them, as well as flares over the wheel-openings.

More important, they housed reasonably sticky 205/45 tires on yet another set of black 17-inch wheels. (By the way, could we maybe move on from this boring black-wheel thing?)

In back, the Miata illuminates its chiseled rump with great slender tail lamps that curve around the edge of the back fender, merging with a bigger round unit.

You won’t be able to walk up on the car without smiling – I promise.

I wish I could offer the same sort of assurance about the Miata’s 2-liter four-cylinder engine, which musters a modest 155-horsepower but gets 26 miles per gallon.

Spirited and fairly lusty around town – and helped by a six-speed manual gearbox – the engine runs out of breath around 5,000 rpm, struggling some to move the car’s 2,400 pounds.

Still reasonably quick, the Miata can sprint to 60-mph in 5.9 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

However, get this, kids: That’s slower than a half-dozen or more full-size pickups and SUVs, and shouldn’t a sports car – even one with a four-cylinder engine – be faster than a bunch of lumbering trucks?

Maybe, but the Miata’s great strength – the reason to buy a $35,000 car that can barely tote a week’s worth of groceries – is its invigorating, awe-inspiring handling.

Point it into any corner and the grinning little Miata responds with grace and balance, ripping eagerly into bends like a dachshund headed for his food-bowl.

Not only did the car turn aggressively into corners, it rotated cleanly out of them with no stumbles or clumsy body-lean.

Moreover, the steering felt close to perfect, transmitting every change in the road surface and responding to driver inputs quickly.

Of course, like every true sports car, the Miata rode pretty stiffly, fidgeting on all but the smoothest surfaces.

You might want to cut back some on friends. My Miata had no cup holders, no map-pockets, and room for only two people – who should really like each other.

Form follows function, I guess.

Hey, at least the black interior in my Miata seemed well-executed from classy material and was shielded by a first-rate manual cloth top that slipped cleanly back behind the seats with one latch and a push.

Smooth plastic covered the dashboard, for example, which curved down onto a rounded mid-dash dominated by an iPad-sized display screen.

Although knobs controlled the climate system, the stereo had to be tuned through the display screen – the only real failing in the interior, besides its lack of space.

Meanwhile, slick metallic-gray plastic panels on the car’s door-tops matched the car’s exterior color and black-leather sports-seats with suede centers and maroon piping kept driver and passenger firmly planted.

The main options on my nicely appointed Miata included the Club appearance package, interior package and Recaro sports seats ($4,470).

Just give me 100 more horsepower, Mazda, and I might be able to put my evil muscle-car days and clumsily handled curves in life behind me.

The Miata is that good.

2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

  • What I liked most: The Miata’s lightning-quick agility and impressive handling – a pure, modern sports-car at its best.
  • What I would change: As always, the weak “Sky-Activ” engine in the Miata, which is at least 50 horsepower shy of goodness
  • MSRP: Base price, $29,155; as equipped, $35,240.
  • Fuel economy: Rated at 26 miles per gallon in town, 33 on the highway and 29 overall with fuel filler on the left
  • Official color: Machine Gray.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 1,690 miles.
  • Weight: 2,435 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 154.1 inches long/68.5 inches wide/49 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 11.9 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: Not applicable.
  • Spare tire: None – has air-pump.
  • 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata in a few words: Still the best modern example of a classic British sports car.
  • Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty, and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection.
  • Final assembly location: Hiroshima, Japan.
  • Manufacturer’s website: www.mazdausa.com
  • E-mail me at terry@carprousa.com 

Related Review:

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Test Drive

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