2011 MX-5 Mazda Miata

Gary S. Vasilash

The thing about the Mazda MX-5 Miata: It is one of the few cars that can come in with an MSRP of $26,560 and yet there is no one who knows about cars (or thinks they do) who would quibble about your choice.

I once had the opportunity to drive the MX-5 Miata—henceforth, just “Miata,” because Mazda’s alphanumerics notwithstanding, that name really is something that cannot be lost—at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca—henceforth, just “Laguna Seca,” because naming privileges notwithstanding. . . .

Anyway, while that was, well, exhilarating, it wasn’t nearly as much fun as driving the car on the roads around Laguna Seca, the twisting and turning two-lane blacktop that some people are lucky enough to have as their daily routes. While the Miata is a car that can be driven on a track (especially when equipped with the optional sport-tuned suspension package that includes Bilstein shocks and a limited slip diff), let’s face it: Most people will drive it to and from work, etc. Let’s face it: If you’ve got to commute, isn’t it better to do so and have a little bit of fun while you’re at it?

MX-5 b

And that is what the Miata excels at providing. A true experience of driving. As you slam the car through its six gears and hear the 2.0-liter whine, as you actually feel yourself comfortably seated yet your rear is truly involved in the driving process, then you’re actually driving. This is not the sort of car that you’d apply your mascara while driving unless you have an ophthalmic surgeon on speed dial. You need to be engaged with it. In fact, you really don’t have much choice (assuming, of course, that you have the manual transmission, so unless you’re planning on just being parked. . . .)

MX-5 c

Now while this is a car for commuting, it is not a car for car-pooling, assuming that said pool consists of more than one person. In addition to which, this is not a car that you’d drive to Costco. The total cargo volume for the car is 5.3-cu.-ft. One of those jumbo packages of Charmin would probably more than fill the trunk, and if you tried to buy one of those pallets of Prego, you’d be out of luck, even if you had the soft-top retracted.

MX-5 a

Again: this is a car that is about driving. Period.

The materials on the inside of the car—the leather trimming of everything from the seats to the shift knob, the nicely grained and textured plastic on the IP—are more than fit to purpose. The Bose audio system with seven speakers is certainly nice, but one suspects that (1) with a cabin as compact, a faux-Bose with, oh, four speakers would do the trick and (2) if the top is down, the wind deflector notwithstanding, there’s more whoosh than Wham! (not that we think that Miata drivers listen to that band, although to put things in context, its heyday was between ’81 and ’86, and the first Miata rolled out in ’89; we think the car has held up better with time).

Selected Specs

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC four with variable-valve timing

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 167 @ 7,000 rpm (w/manual trans)

Torque: 140 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Wheelbase: 91.7 in.

Length: 157.3 in.

Width: 67.7 in.

Height: 49 in.

Curb weight: 2,447 lb.

Fuel economy: 21 mpg city; 28 mpg highway