The Mazda Miata lived a double life for much of its first 16 years. The sporty little roadster developed a bit of a reputation as an ultra cute lady’s cruiser, not particularly manly, while at the same time, proved its worth as a great track car at track days and club events.
It was this double life that made the cars so popular, actually providing the spark for other car companies to begin making more cars in the classic British roadster tradition.
In 2005, some welcome changes to the body style merged the two seemingly opposite lives and suddenly, the Miata had some muscle. It was now going by MX-5, a name that sounds much more impressive than Miata.
The 2010 MX-5 keeps its updated smile from the 2009 edition and is without a doubt, the best looking Miata made to date. Its low stance and bulging shoulders give the impression that it has been hitting the gym for the last 20 years. Not for the Muscle Beach look however. This is a svelte look, lean and aggressive, with a deviant grin. It looks like that friend your mother was always suspicious of, a bad influence who was able to cover it up well.
The MX-5 comes by its bad influence honestly. Under the hood of our silver tester was a DOHC, 16 valve 2.0 liter I-4 with 167 hp. That may not be the power of a Saleen Mustang, but considering the car weighs a mere 2511 lbs., 167 hp is enough for a 0-60 time in well under seven seconds.
Add to that a rear drive platform, a short throw six speed manual gearbox, and you have the model roadster.
The new Miata looks great, but behind the wheel, the MX-5 Miata is even better.
The car is immediately taut, even just pulling out of the parking lot of Sutherlin Mazda in Buford. Every bump of the road is felt, which could detract from a long term road trip, but the point of a roadster is to perform, so the bumpy ride should only tell you that its suspension is pinned down. Get onto the open road, and the bumpy ride isn’t even an afterthought, it is not a thought at all.
The 2.0 liter pulls hard through the full range of acceleration and it is nearly impossible not to push it to the redline before every shift. The car’s horsepower peaks at 7200 rpm with the manual gearbox, which is the only transmission to get if you ask this humble writer’s opinion. There is just no point in this car if you aren’t changing the gears and interacting with the car.
The steering is incredibly sharp and precise. It seems to know where you want to point it telepathically. It is the type of car that you will want to down shift and hit the apex of every corner, just for the fun of it.
Our hard convertible top worked very well, quietly, smoothly and quickly, and it felt good knowing that when up, there was plenty of protection from the elements. With top up the interior feels a little cramped, but it is a roadster. If you want legroom and a big trunk, buy a family car.
Despite the cramped interior, there is ample storage space with compartments hidden everywhere. Also, it is still bigger inside than the old Miatas. A person with a few inches over six feet can now sit in the car without their knees touching the dash.
Driving with the top down however, provides the driver with a wonderfully tuned symphony from the high revving racy MZR engine. You will find yourself punching the gas just hear its roar.
The MX-5 Miata may not be the best choice as a commuter in the notoriously terrible Atlanta traffic, but then again, what manual transmission sports car is good for sitting in traffic. The MX-5 is a car for windy mountain roads and beautiful days. It is a car that reminds us why we love cars, because they provide with the simple visceral thrill of imagining that we are race car drivers.
Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC 16 valve I-4 with 167 hp (manual) 158 hp (automatic)
Why it’s cool: It is the quintessential roadster and it finally looks as fun as it always has been. Also well priced.
Prices: starting at 23,710 in a soft top and 27,750 for a retractable hard top.