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Mazda’s MX-5 Miata Club – EMPIRE OF LIGHT

Car Reviews

Mazda’s MX-5 Miata Club – EMPIRE OF LIGHT

Mazda’s MX-5 Miata Club


First, a disclosure: On my driveway is a 2023 Mazda Miata Club, finished in Machine Gray Metallic ($595) and equipped with Mazda’s Brembo BBS Recaro package ($4,500). It has virtually no miles, and is as shiny as the proverbial penny (that’s from back in the day, when people still used pennies). Immediately behind it, in my garage, is a 2021 Mazda Miata Club finished in what Mazda calls Polymetal gray, with roughly $5,000 in aftermarket mods, less than 3,000 miles (yeah, embarrassing) and I’m still delighted – almost two years later – that I pulled the Miata trigger. In short, my thoughts on the ’23 Miata will probably parallel my motivation in buying the ’21 Miata. 

After its 30+ years of production Mazda’s Miata has become a well-known entity, even to those with little interest in cars or the people that love them. Helping that appeal – if it needed help – is the consistency in the Miata’s evolution: It started as a minimalistic tribute to the British 2-seater, and despite its advances in performance, road holding and – not incidentally – safety the Miata is still a tightly drawn take on 2-seat convertibles. 

Cast about for any other sports/performance GTs built over those same three decades – from Chevy’s Corvette to Porsche’s 911 to Ford’s Mustang – and you’ll see cars whose original dimensions were regarded as compact have swollen to midsize while their curb weights have suffered, like the U.S. population, their own Big Mac attack.  Through all of this, the Miata has maintained essentially the same footprint and weight as the 1990 NA model first shown at the Chicago Auto Show in 1989. That – 34 years later – is just plain crazy!

While the first Miata exhibited more than a little of the Lotus Elan in its sheetmetal and stance, this 4th generation – introduced for the 2016 model year – is (to my eyes) more Asian in its outline and personality. It’s lithe, almost sinewy stance seems reminiscent of an update of Toyota’s 2000 GT, a late ’60 sports/GT inspired by Jaguar’s E-Type. And while all generations of the Miata evoke a rear-wheel drive stance, this latest iteration positions the cockpit – at least visually – closer to the rear axle than its predecessors; think P-51 Mustang rendered as a 2-seat sportscar.

Inside, the Miata takes its aforementioned minimalism to its logical – or illogical – extreme. Even the enthusiasts at Car and Driver take aim at its lack of space, noting the limited room for taller drivers; I’d add that there’s no room for broader drivers – don’t bring a big ass or your broad shoulders to this get-together, as either one (and probably both) will overwhelm the 2-place cockpit. There is a detachable cupholder, which will almost guarantee its contents spill on the already-suspicious passenger. And the glove box, such as it is, is located behind the center console and will hold gloves – as you’d hope – along with the owner’s manual. And little else.

In front of the driver is clearly formatted instrumentation, along with a steering wheel with a perfect size and shape – and far too many wheel-mounted controls. While the driving experience remains largely analog, the Miata product team has pulled the Miata recipe into this century, leaving its more traditional fans to wish they hadn’t. (In an ideal world I’ve have a 3-spoke steering wheel with nothing there but the spokes.) I’d also prefer a traditional AM/FM/CD player, which would eliminate the infotainment screen and the dials intended to control it. 

Happily, if you fit in the seats (in our press car, with the Brembo BBS Recaro package, the seats are Recaros) the seats will fit you. The interior ergonomics are just about perfect, with wheel, shifter and pedals all in what seems to be an almost cosmic alignment. Hit the starter button and you know immediately the engine’s located in front, just like God (and AJ Foyt) intended, and the modestly muffled exhaust is behind you. 

Power is provided by two liters of DOHC four, normally aspirated and delivering 181 horses at 7,000 rpm. (Of note, if you don’t go to ‘7’ you’re not getting the 181…) Torque is less impressive, dropping off upon hitting 151 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. But with six speeds and just 2300 pounds – plus you and what we’ll hope is an insignificant significant other) to propel, the Miata doesn’t lack in over-the-road performance. That, of course, is unless you’re southbound on I-35 and need to get from Dallas to Austin in just under an hour; if that’s the case, dial 1-800-LAMBO. But in my experience with my ’21 Miata (and its 3,000 miles) the 181 deliverable horsepower is perfect for the cut-and-thrust of urban and suburban driving, and remains a great way to hit the road – especially if the road has curves. 

With the average price of a new car on a collision course to $50K, the Miata’s price range of between $30,000 and $37,000 seems almost modest. When buying mine I didn’t opt for the Brembo BBS Recaro option, as I didn’t think the upgrades were necessary unless tracking my Miata, but then I spent roughly $5K on suspension, wheels and exhaust (with the help of Mach V Motorsports in Northern Virginia) to better match my vision of Miata motoring.

In both its sheetmetal and powertrain the Miata doesn’t overpromise or underdeliver. And while its EPA estimate of 26 City/34 Highway/29 Combined doesn’t suggest a hyper-miler, there are more smiles per mile than you’ll be able to tabulate. As Mazda marketing implores you, Feel Alive…with a generous sprinkling of old-fashioned – in the very best sense – Zoom-Zoom.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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