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New car reviews

2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Still Sporty After All These Years

Steve Schaefer, Mon, 14 Jun 2010 05:32:48 PDT

I sampled my first Mazda Miata in 1992. It offered the charm and fun of the British Austin Healeys of my childhood reborn in a modern, reliable car. I dropped the top whenever I could and swooned over the experience of blasting along a curving back road. That feeling remains in today`s car.

Now in its third generation, the Miata, now known as the MX-5, is still a car that you wear rather than one you sit in. Driving it with the top down on a nice road can really change your mood.

The original car featured a 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter four cylinder engine moving about 2,100 pounds through the rear wheels. Today`s car uses a 2.0-liter four with today`s high-tech features to generate 167 horsepowerand the car weighs 2,500 pounds.

The MX-5 engineers have worried over weight from the beginning, using what they call their "gram strategy." They assess the weight of every component and take out what they can. It all adds up. Today`s car has an aluminum hood and trunk lid and ultra high strength steel in some areas as part of this process.

The Miata`s zero-to-sixty time in 1990 was about 9.4 seconds. But, as with the compact Sprites, MG Midgets, and Lotuses which are the Miata`s spiritual ancestors, speed isn`t what it`s all aboutit`s driving pleasure. Regardless, today`s car, according to Car and Driver, can move from standing to 60 in just 6.5 seconds.The MX-5 earns EPA mileage scores of 21 City, 28 Highway. I averaged 26.5 mpg. Green numbers are 7 for both Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas, worthy of SmartWay designation.

My test car arrived in Competition Yellow paint, which is a safety feature when your car is so low that you`re looking at the wheel centers of SUVs on the freeway.

The standard cloth top is easy to operate. Just twist the center knob to unlatch it and pull it back behind you. It snaps down tight, without a boot, and you`re done. It`s entirely possible, after pulling the release lever, to reach back and pull the top back into placeas long as the windows are down. The Power Retractable Hard Top, introduced in 2007, folds into the same space as the standard manual soft top, so it doesn`t rob trunk space. It drops in just 12 seconds.

Three models span the MX-5 range, all with the same engine. The Sport, available with soft top only, features 16-inch alloy wheels, a five-speed manual transmission, an AM/FM/CD with six speakers, and the power windows and mirrors. You can add the convenience package, which includes cruise control, keyless entry, power locks, trip computer, and more.

The Touring model incorporating the Convenience Package`s features as standard, moves to 17-inch wheels and upgrades to a sixspeed manual transmission. You can order the hard top and the Suspension Package, which includes Bilstein shocks and a limited slip differential.

The Grand Touring model, like my tester, brings in the leather, automatic climate control and an upgraded Bose audio system. All models offer an optional six-speed automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

Driving an MX-5 is glorious. There`s the wind in your hair, but it won`t blow off your hat. A wind-blocking aero board pops up between the hoops over the seats to keep air from flowing back into the car, so peace reigns, even at freeway speeds. Steering is deliciously precise and the stubby shifter feels directly connected to the engine.

The best ride is out in the country, where you hear only the sound of the car and not traffic din. Mazda`s engineers have worked over the years to create the right sporty sound from the engine. In the early cars, the fuel-injected powerplant was tuned to mimic the sound of dual-carbureted sports cars of the 1960s.

Today, a lightweight plastic intake manifold transmits certain frequencies that match the classic sports car sound profile (and filters out "undesirable" sounds). Manual-equipped 2010 models employ an "Induction Sound Enhancer." This seems a little artificial to me, but it certainly works great.

Today, a lightweight plastic intake manifold transmits certain frequencies that match the classic sports car sound profile (and filters out "undesirable" sounds). Manual-equipped 2010 models employ an "Induction Sound Enhancer." This seems a little artificial to me, but it certainly works great.

The MX-5 has moved with the times, but its essence remains pure. With 850,000 sold, it`s the most popular sports car ever made. And it`s still a Miata to me.

 

 


2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata


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