A Little Package Loaded with Fun

2009, Mazda, MX-5 Miata

The Mazda MX-5, formerly and commonly known as the Miata, is like a guilty pleasure for motorists.

It's nice looking, in hardtop or softtop form, lightweight, agile and so much fun to drive. It's just not very practical. And if you ever have the misfortune of sharing the exact same space at the same time with a larger vehicle, you more than likely will absorb a pretty damaging blow.

But for sheer enjoyment at an affordable price, the 2009 MX-5 is a winner. The MX-5 has gotten a few refreshes for this model year, most notably a sound-enhancer system that gives the engine a better growl but doesn't raise the volume.

Also, the transmission now has a higher top-gear ratio, which improves fuel-economy, and horsepower increases by one notch, to 167.

The exterior design took a few subtle changes and the suspension has been altered a bit for better handling.

But overall, the package is largely the same Miata that many drivers over the years have come to know and love. It's a car that seems to really appreciate being driven in a spirited fashion.

It is capable of breaking into a sprint with little hesitation, and its 140 pounds-feet of torque might not, on paper, knock your socks off, but on the road, it is quite formidable.

The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine loves to rev, and as a result, you'll stay busy shifting the manual transmission - up and down. The clutch is quite compliant and the shifter is a piece of cake to use, with its short, quick throws.

The MX-5's handling is fantastic. Taking it on a twisty road will make you consider, even if ever so briefly, not driving anything else.

Now mind you, I said briefly, because the ride can get a bit harsh at times, and you'll feel the road a little more than you would in a larger coupe or sedan.

But the overall comfort factor of the MX-5 is good, especially considering how small the car is.

If you're a tall driver, you will have to do a bit of contortion to get into the car. But once you've taken your seat, it is comfortable enough, especially if you aren't going on a very long drive.

Be warned, though, that headroom is pretty snug. You'll feel like doing a Dino from the Flintstones cartoon - you know, popping your head through the roof.

But as an alternative, just drop the convertible roof, and you'll be more comfortable.

The dashboard is neat and well organized.

But one big-time flaw is where the fuel-door release is, hidden away in a compartment between the two seats.

Come on, Mazda, seriously.

At least the manual convertible roof was easy to operate. Flip a couple of levers and push the thing down into the area behind the seats, and you're done.

To close, flip another lever and pull the thing back up to the windshield, lock another pair of levers, and you're done.

As mentioned above, the MX-5 is a short car that's short on practicality.

There is a trunk that is big enough for maybe a couple of gym bags, a not-too-deep center console and a glove compartment.

If you want to add some goodies to your MX-5, you can opt for the Grand Touring package, with such amenities as the power hardtop and seven-speaker audio system.

Additionally, the Suspension Package is available, giving you a sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks and traction control, as well as satellite radio.

There's a Premium Package that adds a few more things.

The MX-5's base price, with the softtop, is a little more than $22,000, with the hardtop starting at a little more than $26,000 and topping out at under $32,000.

By Rob Douthit

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Images of the 2009, Mazda MX-5 Miata

2009 Mazda MX-5
2009 Mazda MX-5
the instrument panel
the instrument panel
great engine
great engine
The MX-5: the artist formerly known as the Miata
The MX-5: the artist formerly known as the Miata