By LEN INGRASSIA
Arcadian Auto Editor
There exists a brotherhood of sorts that follows ownership of select cars. Think Ferrari, Corvette and American muscle.
Mazda’s MX-5 follows that rule. Arriving at the 1989 Chicago auto show, it was the first ‘’affordable sports car’’ with a Wankel rotary engine ... and the snappy two-seater brought together a cadre of roadster owners for the sole purpose of adventure on four wheels, or as Japanese designers noted, a oneness of horse and rider.
Before the expensive twin-turbo left the scene in the mid ‘90s, the Mazda Miata was well on its way to creating its own league of loyal owners now in its fourth generation. The first MX-5 Miata with its fun 100-plus horses—based at $13,800 in classic red, crystal white and mariner blue—through its current incarnation has sold more than a million copies, making it the best selling roadster of all time.
For 2019, there is a more powerful engine, updated steering and additional safety equipment.
Hugs the road
Great fuel economy
No glovebox for stuff
No connectivity with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay
MX-5’s four-cylinder engine is mated with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission available in two RF (Retractable Fastback) trim levels—Club ($32,945) and Grand Touring ($34,410) and a softtop base MX-5 ($25,730).
We spent a week with the Grand Touring model and enjoyed its spirited ride, tight cornering and compliant suspension. Think of the Club as a down-and-dirty version with retuned suspension and less frills.
The Grand Touring, however, is loaded with amenities, inside and out. For the small difference in RF price, we’d recommend the Grand Touring with its long list of standard equipment that includes a Bose sound system and a plethora of safety equipment.
Aluminum body panels and frame parts keep the Miata’s weight distribution near even, which gives it increased stability during spirited driving. While handling, braking and steering are precise, know that speed is not its strong suit. In our independent testing, for instance, we recorded a 7.9-second time from dead stop to 60. That’s a little quicker than last year’s model due in part to 26 additional horsepower and increased torque, sending more power to its rear wheels.
We found form-fitting seats provide ample support for both occupants. Added manual driver seat adjustments are also a welcome addition for taller drivers and a new telescoping and tilt steering wheel provides increased comfort and better instrument-panel vision.
Unlike a traditional softtop, the power rooftop retracts the overhead roof and rear window, leaving the fastback portion in its upright position. The trip up or down takes about 13 seconds and can be accomplished at speeds up to six miles per hour.
Inside appearance is clean with large dials and easy to operate display interface. A seven-inch color touchscreen provides basic operations and could use an upgrade.
If you are waiting for your ship to come in for that Porsche 911 Targa, know that the Miata RF has a striking resemblance for less than a third the coin. Few rivals in this segment deserve a test drive, and that includes the Fiat 124 Spider and Subaru BRZ.
Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at firstname.lastname@example.org
2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF
Vehicle price: (base) $25,730-(Grand Touring) $34,410
Engine: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 181 horsepower
EPA rated mileage: 26 city, 35 highway, combined 30
Assembled: Hiroshima, Japan; U.S. /Canadian parts content, zero percent; major source of foreign parts, Japan, 90 percent; country of origin, engine/transmission, Japan
Crash test ratings: Neither The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have tested the MX-5 for overall crash protection
Warranty: 3-year/36,000-bumper to bumper, 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain