For more than 20 years, the Mazda MX-5 -- a.k.a. Miata -- has won over our hearts with its superb nimbleness and passionate roadster heart. It may not be the most powerful or the fastest convertible around, but it's a front runner for the most fun.
People around the world have recognized the MX-5's appeal and have made it the most popular roadster on the planet with more than 900,000 cumulative sales recorded since 1990. Like us, buyers have become enamored with its highly attractive performance/value/function combination. Adding to its versatility, the MX-5 can be had with either its easy-to-operate soft top or a power-folding hard top.
For the 2012 MX-5, the compact roadster stays true to its mantra, indicative of a compact vehicle that's as communicative as it is enticing and practical. Even in the cheapest base Sport model, standard interior appointments are numerous. Each of the three models employ the same 2.0-liter inline-four engine making 158 or 167 horsepower, depending on transmission (a five-speed or six-speed manual and six speed auto are available), and plenty of oomph to get around. We especially enjoy the Induction Sound Enhancer that's designed to route intake resonance to the cowl for a more intimate mechanical concerto.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline-4
Transmissions: six-speed manual, five-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Models: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring
Stability and traction control are standard for the 2012 model year. Otherwise no major changes will be made in advance of the MX-5 Miata's impending redesign, which will eventually call for a smaller and lighter version; the current car debuted in the late 2006 model year. With the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky convertibles long gone, the MX-5 Miata continues in the U.S. without direct competition.
The MX-5's compact and cute rounded styling is both attractive and lightweight. Head and taillights are placed inboard to accentuate the compactness. As a whole, the MX-5 is attractive and modern -- and with the grinning grille, it reflects some of the newer design language that has become a Mazda signature. On the Sport model, 16-inch aluminum wheels are standard; 17-inch alloy wheels are available on the Touring models.
A three-spoke steering wheel, air conditioning, bucket seats, and silver trim are standard on Sport models. Opt for the Touring trim and a leather shift knob, cruise control, and power windows are added to the two-seater's cabin. A Bose audio system and heated seats also entertain and provide comfort for Grand Touring drivers.
Performance & Handling
The MX-5's power isn't overwhelming, but it gets the job done. The front mid-ship engine layout, mixed with rear wheel drive and a relatively feathery weight that's somewhere between 2400 and 2550 pounds means this little sports car offers up gobs of grip and phenomenal cornering ability. Use of aluminum throughout allows for smooth weight transitions and predictable tracking. If you want the best performance bang for your buck, go for the MX-5's Suspension package that adds Bilstein shocks and a limited slip differential.
New for 2012, dynamic stability control and traction control are now standard features. All MX-5 models get dual front airbags and side impact airbags, anti-lock brakes, and side impact door beams.
EPA Fuel Economy
Sport, manual transmission: 21-22 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Touring, Grand Touring, manual or automatic transmission
- Fun styling Lots of grip
- Precise handling
- Great standard amenities
You Won't Like
Hard-to-beat fun-to-drive roadster.
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