The Mazda MX-5 has been considered one of the best all-around sports cars in the world for years, though it certainly doesn’t seem like it. In fact, to the uninitiated, it seems like some inexpensive sports car knockoff. And yet, motoring magazines the world over consistently rate it as one of the best in the market, beating out much flashier and more powerful models every year. Why? Because other sports cars focus on adding horsepower, or a bigger engine, or sportier suspension. The Mazda MX-5 has only one benchmark in mind: the driver’s enjoyment.
It’s not all that hard to have fun when driving, and it certainly doesn’t require tons of cash. Head down to a go-kart course and pay $10 for a ride. You’ll be smiling ear to ear at the end of your run, and yet the kart isn’t a Corvette or a Ferrari, it’s a cheap, basic vehicle. But, all of its components work together to deliver a fun experience, and that’s where the Mazda MX-5 Miata shines.
The 2010 edition of the MX-5 is a study in refinement. The current generation of the car, which launched in 2006, has largely been hailed as the best of the lot thus far, so Mazda’s engineers didn’t want to mess with success too much. One of the big additions was a revised suspension geometry in the front end. By placing the front ball joints further to the outside of the car, the suspension is able to even further negate body roll in tight corners, making the already tight drivinf feel even tighter. One of the elusive qualities of sports cars is the ability of the car to directly translate the feel of the road to the driver. The MX-5 accomplishes this easier and you really do feel connected to the road when you get behind the wheel.
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine hasn’t seen many changes for the 2010 model, although power has been increased by 1 horsepower, to a total of 167, largely thanks to a revised RPM limiter which pushes the redline to 7200 instead of the 6700 in last years model. This extra rev space also has the added bonus of even better engine noise. A Mazda sports car doesn’t strike one initially as the best place to find superb cockpit engine noise, but it is. And those that opt for the six-speed manual transmission will get even better engine notes thanks to what Mazda is calling an Induction Sound Enhancer that uses tuned exhaust pipes to shuttle more noise towards the cabin.
In 2007, Mazda introduced a hard top convertible variant of the MX-5, and it’s back again this year. Even though the mechanics of a hard top convertible are very different, and bulkier, than a soft top, the MX-5 hard top manages to add only 82 pounds of total weight to the car, and only eats up a little bit more trunk space. And, even more impressive, is that the hard top only adds those mere 82 pounds despite requiring a motorized system (the soft top is manually operated; just unlatch above the windshield and throw back).
But by far, the best thing about the Mazda MX-5 is the price tag. The model starts at a mere $23,560. There’s the option for a Suspension package that adds Bilstein shocks, a limited slip differential, and a larger rear stabilizer bar, and at only $500, it’s a must-have option for anybody who enjoys taking tight corners at speed (and who doesn’t?). Even loaded down with options, it’s unlikely an MX-5 will cost more than $30,000. The MX-5 is a simple roadster that provides tons of fun for the driving enthusiast who can’t afford to spend $60,000 on a sports car. But, when true roadster bliss costs this little, why would you buy anything else?