Mazda’s popular little Miata has been around for more than 20 years and it just keeps getting better with age.
Mazda now calls the nifty two-seat sports car the MX-5 Miata and they have added a retractable hardtop and other 21st Century technology, but the basic car remains the same — a simple, fun roadster at an affordable price. Mazda has stuck to that simple concept and — with more than 850,000 sold to date — the MX-5 is the most popular two-seat convertible sports car in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Records.
Refreshed for 2009 and updated in 2010, the MX-5 is basically unchanged for 2011. The heart of the MX-5 is the very responsive MZR-series 2.0-liter engine, making 167 hp (158 hp for automatic transmission models). The MZR is light and compact, with chain-driven double overhead camshafts, a lightweight flywheel, variable intake valve timing, electronically controlled port fuel injection and coil-on-plug ignition.
It revs smoothly to its 7,200 rpm redline (6,700 rpm with an automatic transmission) and delivers 140 pounds-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm for fun driving throughout the rev range. It reacts to driver commands exceptionally quick and offers progressive power delivery.
The engine is mounted front mid-ship for excellent handling balance and nimbleness. It uses an aluminum block and head for lighter weight and structural rigidity, improved performance and refinement. Variable intake valve timing improves low-end torque and high-end power. The engine has a forged steel crankshaft, forged steel connecting rods with floating wrist pins, revised pistons with stronger wrist pin bosses, stiffer valve springs and an engine oil cooler.
The MX5 comes standard with a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission and a six-speed manual gearbox is available, with gear ratios close-stacked to enhance the driving. A six-ratio Sport A/T automatic transmission also is available and it allows for improved acceleration and freeway maneuverability. Paddles mounted behind the steering wheel for command upshifts, while buttons positioned on the spokes are for downshifts.
The latest MX-5 has the iconic feel of the earlier generation Miata, but the body is shaped to make the cockpit the widest portion of the car and it has a roomier, safer design that still has the compact look of a lightweight sports car. The front has an aggressive face with a five-point grille and sculpted triangular front fog lamp bezels.
The easy-to-lower-and-raise ragtop remains available, as does the nifty power retractable hardtop model on the Touring or Grand Touring trim levels. Opening and closing in just 12 seconds, Mazda says it is the fastest power-operated retractable hard top in the U.S.
Base price on our 2011 Mazda MX5 test vehicle was $30,925.
Ron Beasley is the automotive editor for Miami’s Community Newspapers. He may be contacted by calling 305-662-2277, ext. 261, or by addressing email correspondence to LetsTalkCars@aol.com.