Every time we review the Mazda MX-5 Miata we walk away wishing that it would become a permanent staple in our garage. The Miata is a nearly perfect sports car, that’s also attainable and easy to live with everyday.
Why? Well for starters, the 2020 MX-5 Miata has an easy to swallow starting price at $27,525. You’ll have a hard time finding anything that’s just as fun around this price range. Plus its small footprint makes the Miata a joy to drive around town or on a back country road. Just point and go.
In today’s world of electrified powertrains, it’s refreshing to drive something that you feel so connected to. The Miata reminds you of sports cars from the past, since with every move you feel directly connected to the clutch, shifter, steering, and accelerator. The MX-5 Miata is also powered by an old school engine by today’s standards, since it does without a turbocharger.
Under the hood there’s only one engine option, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The four-cylinder can be mated to either a six-speed manual (our choice) or a six-speed automatic transmission. Those specs may seem a bit low, since you can get a family sedan with more power under the hood, but you also have to remember how light the Miata is, at only 2,341 pounds.
Push the start button and the little engine fires up with verve. Since there isn’t a turbocharger you don’t have to worry about any turbo lag here, push the accelerator and the engine responds instantly. Would we welcome a bit more power? Yes, but it’s not necessary. The Miata accelerates with ease.
The shifter is also perfect with its short precise throws. If you do decide to opt for the six-speed automatic, the good news is that it doesn’t suck the fun out the MX-5 Miata. It’s a good automatic, but we just prefer the extra connection the manual provides.
With the manual transmission, the MX-5 Miata is rated at 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. The automatic is slightly more fuel efficient at 26/35/30 mpg.
Around town, the MX-5 Miata’s steering is nearly perfect, but ride quality does suffer a bit, especially if you go for the Club model. The Club is the sportiest version with its sport tuned suspension with Bilstein dampers, a front strut-tower brace, limited-slip differential and Brembo braking system. If you go for the Sport or Grand Touring trim levels, the suspension is a bit softer.
Either way, the Miata loves corners, which is helped by its perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
Buyers have two options, the standard Miata with its soft-top or the Miata RF with its retractable hardtop. If you go for the soft-top, it is not power operated, but you can simply lower it with one hand from the driver’s seat. The Miata RF is the better choice if you prefer a quieter interior or live in an area with nastier weather.
Inside the interior is laid out pretty straightforward without any frills. The Miata is meant to be driven, so it makes sense that it doesn’t feel very luxurious, but there are a few gripes. For starters the infotainment system feels old with its 7-inch display. The graphics look dated and you’re forced to operate it via a rotary control dial once you move from a stop. But at at least it does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
On the safety front, the Miata comes standard with automatic emergency braking, a blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert. We do wish adaptive cruise control was available too.
With a top spec 2020 MX-5 Miata landing around $33k, you might say, why not just get a Chevy Camaro or Ford Mustang. Both the Camaro and Mustang do offer more power than the Miata, but neither offers the pure driving experience that the Miata does. If your goal is just to race from stoplight to stoplight, then go with one of the American muscle cars. But if you want a car that you feel entirely connected to for that pure driving experience, you can’t go wrong with the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata.