There’s no question in the mind of any auto enthusiast; the Mazda MX-5 Miata is an icon. It’s the true definition of the modern two-seat roadster. It’s also quite possibly the most fun you can have for under $30,000. Is it true? I decided to spend a week of quality bonding time with the new 2012 MX-5 Special Edition to verify or disprove the hypothesis.
Firstly, priced near $40,000, this MX-5 has certainly come a long way from its roots in the 90s. Despite its small stature, it’s important to take into account that every vehicle has put on a significant amount of weight in the past two decades or so. The little Mazda has grown just as much, but as it relates to the ‘recipe’ of the roadster, it may be a little bit too much. The 2.0L 4-cylinder churns out 167 horsepower and 140 lb/ft of torque, but it feels sluggish. I understand that the idea of the Miata isn’t to go fast in a straight line, but the lack of acceleration was almost unbearable. With the top up, the car sounds incredible. There’s the right amount of ‘oomph’ in the soundtrack from the little inline-4, without an excessive amount of drone.
The formula of the MX-5 cannot be stressed enough. Make the best-handling car without any compromises, and make it cheap enough so that anyone and everyone can afford one. Whether or not Mazda still does, I will continue to refer to it as a Miata, primarily due to the fact that I can’t stand the lack of interesting names in today’s automotive industry. What happened to the days of the Cronos, Protegé, Precidia, and Familia? The Miata has been criticized by nearly everyone in the enthusiast world for becoming far too obese, and until I drove it I thought it was the usual group of elitist purists who had nothing better to do than sit there and complain incessantly. Unfortunately, this time they’re bang on. The added weight to the latest Miata (most prevalent in this power-retractable hardtop model) definitely takes away from the driving experience.
Don’t get me wrong; the current Miata is just as easy to manage when put sideways as the older ones, but there’s definitely a lot of added obesity to it. The beauty of cars like this little Mazda is especially enticing to me, but it also has its downsides. The reason I have a huge soft spot for the MX-5 is because regardless of its eagerness to get squirrelly, it’s easy to push right to its limits without killing yourself. Before the introduction of cars such as the much-hyped Scion FR-S and its twin, the Subaru BRZ, the industry was most definitely lacking in simplicity.
The equipment list on my tester was pretty extensive. As I list them, I can essentially see the purists squirm. My “SV” Special Edition came with heated leather seats, a power-retractable hardtop, projector headlights, fog lamps, and of course, traction control. Naturally, anyone intending to maximize the fun appeal in the Miata absolutely needs to turn this off the second they get into the car. I won’t even deny the fact that I had a ridiculous grin on my face every single time I stepped out of the car.
I did however have some pretty serious gripes with this car. At 6-feet, I’m not exactly the tallest guy around, but I had significant issues getting in and out of the car. This is a manageable thing for me, since if I were to own a car like this I wouldn’t drive it daily. However, the lack of interior room (especially with the top up) is unbearable. I did enjoy the fact that everything is within arm’s reach, but not at the expense of any sort of comfort. The driving position isn’t bad per se, but after a two-hour highway trip in the MX-5, a colleague and I were sighing of relief the second we got out of it. Fuel economy was a combined 9.3L/100km, with a good divide between city and highway.
Overall, the MX-5 is a fantastic vehicle if you’re a diehard purist who lives in the countryside in a great climate. If you skip on the nifty but weighty hardtop and stick with a conventional soft top, you’ve got yourself a fantastic driver’s car that, as far as I’m concerned, is still unmatched for sheer driving pleasure for the price.