Barely bigger than some cardboard boxes, my favorite roadster lacks map pockets, a conventional glove compartment and a spare tire.
It steps stiffly over smooth suburban streets like some old man on a mission.
Moreover, compact crossover-vehicles tower over my sports-car, which sits so low that getting out of the blankety-blank thing can require assistance from the fire department.
In short, the 2020 Mazda Miata MX-5 may be just about perfect.
Against all odds, the tiny, highly impractical Miata survives, attracting fewer than 10,000 buyers a year now, but still standing tall, sort of, as the best, sweetest-driving English-sports car ever built.
Think of it as an MG or Lotus that won’t leak oil all over your garage floor, has headlights and windshield wipers that work and never fails to start – though the virtuous Miata was clearly inspired by the cantankerous Brits.
Granted, the iconic Miata – a true halo vehicle for Mazda – is slightly larger in 2020 than it was when it arrived in the U.S. 30 years ago, a bit more refined and much faster.
While the new car retains the signature slick-jellybean Miata shape, 2020 versions of the two-passenger sportster are wider, longer, sleeker and about 300 pounds heavier.
The Miata’s low front-end, for example, wears a fairly large, blacked-out grille vaguely reminiscent of the car’s original front, contrasting with extremely horizontal headlamps glaring from stylized slits.
New-stalgia, I call it.
In traditional sports-car fashion, a long, gently sculpted hood flows into a raked-back windshield, topping modestly muscular sides.
My Club model rolled on fairly average-looking 205/45 tires front and back wrapped around black 17-inch BBS wheels – both of which are sized for optimal suspension tuning.
Meanwhile, a taut black-cloth convertible top completed the look, providing a center-mounted latch for quickly releasing the top and pushing it open with one hand.
For years, however, I have complained about modern Miatas’ so-called Sky-Activ engines, which tended to be smooth and responsive down low but soft and disappointing up high – where sports cars live.
Not that my grouses had any effect, but Mazda finally revised the Miata’s 2-liter four-cylinder engine, using a few hot-rod tricks to push it to 181 horsepower, up 26.
That may not sound like much, but in concert with a six-speed manual, the Miata now acts like it just got a new tattoo.
The 2,400-pound roadster pushes happily through the mid and upper ranges these days, hitting 60 mph in a quick 5.7 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Punch the engine in second gear at 5,000 rpm and it actually jumps now.
Call me an outlier, but I once again found the six-speed transmission and the car’s shift-linkage to be kind of balky.
I always get accustomed to it, but most reviewers rave about the Miata’s slick-shifting transmission and responsive clutch. Maybe my arms are too short.
Of course, the car’s handling is beyond reproach.
Light-feeling and playful, the rear-wheel-drive Miata darts into corners with edgy eagerness, sliding lightly in back if you push it but never losing its grip or composure.
It will make you a better driver.
No car I’ve driven this side of a six-figure Porsche can match the Miata’s quick, lively steering that sweetly transmits the various surfaces of the road.
The price you and your passenger will pay for this lusty agility is a choppy, overly busy ride over most surfaces – with a fair amount of road-noise.
But, hey, it’s a sports car.
Keep that in mind also when you climb into the tight cockpit of the $36,000 Miata.
Though somewhat cramped, the good-looking black interior in my Miata looked classy, reflecting Mazda’s typical attention to detail.
A deep black upper dashboard in upscale plastic rolled down to a slightly protruding mid-dash that featured a 7-inch tablet-shaped display-screen and round climate vents.
Unfortunately, I had to use that screen to tune the stereo, which, naturally, wasn’t a bit distracting on an expressway.
At least the controls for the climate system were simple – three dials beneath the display screen.
The “glove compartment,” such as it was, was stuck between the bucket seats on a rear bulkhead, where the cupholders also resided.
Neither earned points for convenience.
But the Miata’s black door-panels looked great, with shiny composite tops that matched the color of the vehicle.
Also well-done were the bucket seats, with bolsters stitched in black leather and grippy centers in black suede.
Even the convertible top was stitched with extra cloth on the back-side to give it a finished look from inside the car.
My Miata arrived with $3,500 in options, including the BBS wheels (no separate pricing listed); Brembo brakes (also not listed); and Recaro seats (ditto).
Please don’t ask me for any practical reasons to buy a Miata. As it was way back in 1989, the Miata is all about emotion and it will make you happier than ever.
2020 Mazda Miata MX-5 Club
What I liked most: Just about everything, particularly when the top was down.
What I would change: It may be heresy, but I still think the six-speed transmission could shift more smoothly.
MSRP: Base price, $30,290 for the Club model; as equipped, $36,300.
Official color: Soul Red Crystal.
Fuel economy: 26 miles per gallon in town, 34 on the highway and 29 mpg combined with filler on the left.
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October 18, 2020 @ 2:54am
I think the Miata is the best little car ever made, at least in it's price range. Had a 2007 with the PRHT that got rear ended at a stop light by a pickup doing 40-45 with not injury and extremely little damage in the passenger compartment. Now have a 2010, also with the PRHT, that I plan to keep until the wheel fall off. Sporty, fun to drive and great handling. Love it and would only get rid of it if I could afford the newly designed 2021 model.