Inspired by a dying breed of small British roadsters like the MG MGB and the Lotus Elan, the Miata was a true sports car for the purist who puts the driving experience above everything else. It was lightweight, its naturally aspirated engine was in the front, and 100% of the power was sent to the rear. It was also full of character, had good-looks, and its agility and perfectly balanced chassis appealed to even the most hardcore of driving professionals.
Over thirty years later, this spry little roadster remains true to what helped make it the world’s best-selling two-seat convertible. In my opinion, the refreshed 2019 MX-5 is arguably the best Miata ever.
First and foremost, the 2.0 litre SKYACTIV-G engine found in the MX-5 now produces 181 horsepower and 151ft-lbs of torque –increased from the previous years’ 155 horsepower and 148ft-lbs of torque. This was made possible due to various revisions to the pistons, connecting rods, crankshaft, intake, flywheel, and transmission; and of course, the higher 7500RPM redline. While power has rarely been a complaint, some including myself felt that the former redline of 6800RPM was a bit too low, so this is a very welcome change.
Other improvements include a standard rearview camera, telescopic steering wheel, and improvements to driver-aid features.
With thanks to Mazda Canada, Grayce and I were able to experience the latest version of the RF (“retractable-fastback”) model first-hand:
Interior styling isn’t groundbreaking by any means but is more than adequate. Storage space is limited but screens are kept out of the way, touch features are (thankfully) kept to a minimum, and buttons, switches, etc. are arranged with the driver in mind. Painting the interior door trim to the body colour was a very nice touch, and enhances the feeling of open-air when the top is down.
The cabin is still small – definitely not much larger than the NA, if at all. At 6’ tall, it was damn near perfect for me, and my 5’ girlfriend could describe it as spacious. My 6’5 giant of a friend, however, had a tougher time getting comfortable:
The trunk, while small compared to almost anything else, is still more than you’d likely expect. We were able to fit a week’s groceries in the trunk with a bit of clever maneuvering, much to my surprise. Some of it had to sit in the passenger footwell, but that still counts. Perfect for picnics though, basket and all:
The exterior styling is where the MX-5’s beauty is most apparent. The shape of the body is curvy and delicate, yet clearly sporty and full of attitude. Its exotic good-looks oozes charisma, never looking out of place next to vehicles that cost significantly more. When looking at the shape of the lights, the low stance, long hood, and the wide, flared-out fenders, there is not much else on the road today that looks even remotely like the MX-5.
As our tester was the RF model, it came with a power-retractable hardtop. Since the release of the ND MX-5 in 2016, I’ve always preferred the soft-top version for its lighter weight and simplicity. Now it’s a far tougher choice for me as the powered hard-top became one of my favourite features in car for its convenience and “wow factor”. I’m not ashamed to admit that I never, ever got tired of watching it go up and down.
The driving dynamics of the MX-5 is of course still a blast. The throttle response is sharp, the manual gearbox’s short throws are precise, and the clutch is light and its engagement progressive. The suspension is soft enough to make for a compliant and comfortable ride – a little too soft for me, but without any significant impact to my personal enjoyment. It’s still absolutely confidence-inspiring to drive and is always practically begging you throw it into corners at speed and push it to its limits. And, there’s still a traditional lever for the parking brake!
There’s no question why the Mazda MX-5 Miata quickly became and remains one of the most recognizable cars of all-time. It’s still light, still small, still available with a good ol’ fashioned manual gearbox, and it’s still a ton of fun. In the current SUV-obsessed automotive climate, the MX-5 stands out more than ever. Three decades later, whether you’re heading out for date-night or ripping it on the track, the “Miata is (still) always the answer”.