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2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring Road Test

Driving a piece of history

What It Is
A zippy convertible for those on a budget (and for those who are not).
Best Thing
Can take it through any fast turn.
Worst Thing
Power delivery doesn't match the growl of the engine.
Snap Judgment
Loyalists will love it, but practical-minded buyers will want to look elsewhere.


As the Miata celebrates its 25th birthday, Mazda is preparing an all-new model to replace the current generation. But that doesn't stop buyers from clamoring for a piece of tradition. Since its debut in 1990, the Miata has captured the attention of driving enthusiasts, and to this day, the Miata continues to offer a unique combination of affordable pricing, drop-top enjoyment, and spirited handling.

During our long weekend drive with the Miata, we encountered a number of unusual quirks about this car – some delightful and others not as much. Read on to learn our thoughts on the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

What We Drove

Convertible-lovers can get their hands on a Miata for as little as $23,720 before tax. Our tester, however, was the top-of-the-line Grand Touring trim level. Exclusive features on this model included leather upholstery, upgraded sound system, a few interior design extras, but little else. Our model also added on a power retractable hardtop, replacing the soft top which is standard across all versions. The car we drove also replaced the standard manual transmission with a six-speed automatic. When adding in other options like keyless entry, Bluetooth, Xenon headlights, and Sirius satellite radio, and a destination fee, the total cost of our car came to $32,735.

But just how safe is this convertible? Unfortunately, neither the government nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released crash test scores for the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Standard safety features are admittedly sparse on our model: anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring, dynamic stability control, and front/side airbags.

The Commute

A summer morning on city streets is the perfect time to put the top down. Luckily, we found this task pretty easy, once you figure out how the drop top works. Simply tug a lever near the rear-view mirror and push and hold a button to release the top--all in just 12 seconds. Admittedly, we noticed the Miata produced a considerable amount of wind noise with the top down, but we found it tolerable in low-speed conditions.

As promised, the Miata gave us a run for our money around quick turns, which is where this car's best features come out. This car really delivered on zippy mountain roads or quick maneuvers on the road. Once the car is up to speed, it can fit in any spot it likes. Surprisingly, the Miata was able to tackle rough roads with poise, breaking the stereotype of rough-riding convertibles. In some ways, the Miata proved it had a bit of sedan-like comfort on the road.

But maybe a little too much so. When accelerating on the highway from a standstill, this car's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine had a hard time getting up to speed. And while the engine has a thunderous roar every time you started it up, the on-road performance failed to live up to expectations.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

The Grocery Run

We challenge anyone to go for a serious grocery run for a family of four in this car. As expected, the Miata provides very little trunk space. In our tests, we were only able to fit one medium-sized duffel bag and a small grocery bag into this area. If you have more items, you will have to resort to the back of the two seats, where there is only a negligible amount of room.

Parking, however, is a cinch. Our model didn't come with rearview camera or parking aids of any kind, but we feel like we didn't need these to maneuver in and out of parking spaces. Backing up is a different story. Rear visibility is extremely limited thanks to the sloped roofline of the Miata.

The Weekend Fun

By the time we reached the weekend, we already knew that the Miata offered up plenty of fun. But how is it to actually live with? During our three days of freedom with the Miata, we were able to truly get a feel for interior comfort, fuel economy, and long term value.

First, we noticed a number of unusual features on this model. The power window controls are located together down near the driver's right elbow, not on the side door. And the gas release is actually located in a strange compartment behind the two seats. But these features didn't hinder our comfort level in this car. On long drives, we found the seats relatively uncomfortable. While this usually-Spartan model does come with heated leather seats, we found the seats stiff and unforgiving.

If you have to travel a long distance, one thing you may enjoy is this car's fuel economy. When equipped with either the manual transmission or the optional automatic, the car delivers 21/28 mpg city/highway.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

Summary

Despite a few gripes we had, the Miata is truly a driver's car. And for this reason, we would recommend opting for the manual transmission, which is one of the best in the business. The manual also features slightly more power than the automatic's 158 horses. This sporty car is relatively spartan on the inside, so those looking for luxury features will want to look elsewhere. We think many drivers will be satisfied with the Grand Touring model, which offers most of the necessary amenities drivers could want (except a touchscreen, we are still waiting for that. Perhaps on the next-gen 2016 Miata?)

Normally, we would say to also check out the Scion FR-S, Chevy Camaro, or a number of other options that many drivers feel will deliver a more enjoyable driving experience. But since the Miata offers such a unique set of strengths and doesn't have any direct competition, it is hard to direct buyers anywhere else. Miata loyalists and convertible lovers, enjoy!

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $32,735
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 21
EPA Highway: 28
EPA Combined: 23
Cargo Space: one medium-sized duffel bag and one plastic grocery bag
Estimated Combined Range: 292 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: N/A

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