Credit needs to be given when credit is due. Mazda’s story, from cork-maker to carmaker is a fascinating one. Unlike many mainstream brands, Mazda has never done things the easy way and, in doing so, could explain why they’ve never reached a level of universal appeal as its larger JDM competitors.
This, however is why many car enthusiasts love them and why the automotive media does too. Keep in mind that we auto critics are not giving them a break because they’re smaller than Toyota and sell fewer cars than Honda. In fact, because they border on a niche carmaker, we’re actually tougher on them. I’m far less forgiving with their cars but you’d never know as they’ve yet to truly let me down over the last 20 years.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata and its story embodies everything that the car company from Hiroshima stands for. A perfect balance between performance, design and comfort might not be for everyone, but in my book, a little bit of everything goes a long way.
The current ND MX-5 is exasperatingly good looking. Mazda dropped to the friendly fish-face styling of the previous NC Miata and has given the MX-5 the fascia It deserves. The headlights and grille are far more menacing than ever but the roadster’s diminutive dimensions quickly disarm the menace.
The MX-5 RF, or retractable folding roof version, is the daring physically. Mazda designers has done an immense job of making the car look as good with the roof up, or down. Despite that, the soft-top version wins hands down for me because it’s truer to its own roots and I love a roof that goes up and down three times in the same period of time it takes the power top to simply drop.
The 2018 Mazda MX-5’s cabin is timeless functionality at its best. From the GS trim on, the 7” touchscreen display becomes a thing and although it does disturb the dash’s clean lines, it’s user-friendliness and accessibility quickly erase its visual impact. Fit, finish and general ergonomics are spot on.
I would add that for the best visual impact, both inside and out, the best option is the Sport Package.
There’s little to share here. The roadster that is the MX-5 is fit for two with sufficient storage spots for said passengers. The “glove-box” between and behind the seats is as deep as to regular compartment. The trunk seems larger than the 130 litres it is rated at.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive for all types of driving. The driving position is excellent despite the absence of a telescoping steering column. For the ultimate seats, one must always opt for the Sport Package as it includes Recaro buckets.
The Sport Package that I refer to is a $4,400 optional ensemble available only on the mid-level GS-trim MX-5. Other than the seats, it throws in Brembo front brakes and 17” black BBS wheels. In Eternal Blue, Ceramic or Soul Red, this $40,500 new Miata is the top purchase.
Base price for the soft-top 2018 MX-5 GS is of $31,900 while the top-line GT sports a $39,300 sticker price. As a matter of comparison, the MX-5 RF, with the retractable folding hard top, starts at $39,100.
The balance I speak of relates to the 2018 MX-5’s SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine being perfectly matched to the car’s steering, brakes, chassis and personality. The produced 155-horsepwer @ 6,000 rpm and 148 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,600 rpm are plenty enough to get this sub-1,100kg car up to speed in no time. The numbers may seem tame on paper, but the sense of speed is real.
The 6-speed manual gearbox is an example of the art being perfected. Shifting is pure bliss and becomes a hobby more than a necessity. Pedal placement is ideal for heel & toe and throttle response is positively in tune with the driver’s wishes. The go-pedal’s reaction gives the impression that there’s far more going on under the bonnet than meets the eye.
The sufficient power means keeping the right foot firmly in contact with the firewall is easy and intuitive to do. I’m not advocating street racing but on your favorite stretch of country road, it is very possible to match speed, grip and personal limits in a way that few cars can match. This is the reward. This is when a driver has truly accomplished something. The MX-5’s compliant chassis and suspension deliver incredible amounts of information to the driver aiding him or her in deciding on velocity and braking points. On this subject, the ND Miata’s lightweight composure allows the brakes to do their job without fuss, and repeatedly.
The 2018 Mazda MX-5 is a sublime driving partner that will never let you down. The car’s relatively simple construction is reliable, and pleasure is to be had every time you’ll take the wheel. The unique complaint could be, despite what I’ve said, that the MX-5 would benefit from more power. As you read these lines, I’m finishing up my first drive review on the 2019 Mazda MX-5, now with 181-horsepower (3 more than the Mazdaspeed Miata) and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. Can the 2019 be superior than the 2018? We’ll know for sure very soon.