by J.T. Hills
SGN Contributing Writer
- Quick and fun to drive
- Hard top is impressively quick
- Nice interior finish work
- Satellite radio lost signal frequently
- It’s a tight fit at any size
- Keyless entry and ignition seemed unnecessary
Mazda completely redesigned the MX-5 Miata in 2006. The new generation is longer, wider, and has more interior space on a completely new platform. In 2007, Mazda gave the MX-5 a sophisticated power retractable hard top. The rear-wheel-drive Miata comes in six different trim levels with a starting price of around $20,635. After a week with the 2008 Mazda Miata MX-5 Grand Touring with retractable hardtop, I’ve compiled a brass-tacks list of highly technical scientific data based upon observations, experimentation, tabulations, inspections and so forth. Here we go:
The Mazda MX-5 Miata seems so grown up
I first tested the impressively redesigned Mazda MX-5 Miata in the spring of 2006, and I had my first real blonde moment in the seven years and some 250 cars I’ve reviewed. I take delivery and I’m heading down Broadway for a little spin and the sun comes out. So I pull over to the side of the road to take the top down. I pull up the emergency break, put it into neutral, and push the release button, and then search for ten minutes for the retract button. Don’t find anything. Pull out the manual, and it just shows the release button, and nothing else. So I re-check the emergency break, make sure it’s out of gear, and repeat. Nothing! So I call the Mazda manufacture representative, tell my long story, and I hear this long pause and this huge boisterous laugh. It’s a manual top. Who the hell makes manual tops anymore? No, really, that’s just screaming for some sort of rotator cuff mishap. So I can’t tell you how pleased I was when they delivered a Miata with a power roof, and a smart-looking retractable hard top at that. And who doesn’t love a hard top?
The 200 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring with retractable hard top (long name for such a small car) comes with a 2.0-liter 166-hp inline four-cylinder engine with 140 lb ft of toque at 5000 rpms combined to a short throw shifter six-speed manual transmission. Out on the road, the MX-5 is a lot of fun to drive. For the size of the MX-5, the 2.0 I-4 delivers a potent amount of horsepower with a seamless amount of torque through the gear changes. The test model came with an optional sports tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks. In layman’s terms, it basically means it’s plenty peppy and fun to drive. The MX-5 is rear-wheel-drive, which accounts for the excellent balance, but does suffer in the traction department – for instance, driving up Queen Anne hill after a rainstorm, the back end tended to pull out from under me when changing gears. I just racked that up to part of the charm of the car, though, but it is something to keep in mind. Out on the freeway there is a lot of road noise, though, and I’m not talking about with the top down. The hard top does little to deaden the sound, but having the stereo loud enough it tends to counteract it. Who needs to have a conversation, anyways? Oh, the Sirius Satellite radio was a bit of a letdown as it tended to lose its signal a lot. I can’t remember the last time I tested a car where the Satellite radio would have to search for a signal while driving down a tree-lined street.
The best addition is how the MX-5 Miata’s power retractable hardtop stores nicely behind the driver’s seats, unlike other convertible that retract into the trunk compartment. Speaking of the trunk, it’s rather minimal to begin with. Hardtop or no hardtop, there’s really only room for a couple of grocery bags and maybe a small carry-on suitcase, although not at the same time.
The interior is nicely put together, with a rich use of fabrics and an intelligently designed instrument cluster. The one disadvantage about a car this size, though, is that if you’re over six feet tall, there isn’t much room to move around on long trips. In fact, there isn’t any room to move around on long trips. Your legs kind of have to stay in the same positions the entire time, and God help you if you have a little sciatica.
OK, for a before-tax price of $29,535, what do you get?
The Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring with retractable hardtop comes with a long list of stand features, and relatively inexpensive options. A quick look at the favorites includes:
- 2.0-liter 166-hp inline four-cylinder turbo-charged engine
- Six-speed manual transmission
- Dual exhaust outlets
- 17” alloy wheels
- Driver and front passenger front airbags, side impact air bags
- 24-hour roadside insurance
- Fog lamps
- Shock tower brace
Comfort and Convenience
- Automatic climate control
- Heated leather-trimmed seats
- Air conditioning
- Seven-speaker Bose Audio system
- Three-spoke leather-wrapped tilt wheel with repeated audio controls and cruise
- Sport tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks ($500)
- Anti-theft alarm, keyless entry, xenon HID headlights, traction control, and limited slip differential ($1,250)
- Sirius satellite radio ($500)