Still a Thrill to Drive: The 2021 MAZDA MIATA MX-5

by Tom Crosby

 

Still a Thrill to Drive: The 2021 MAZDA MIATA MX-5

 

Mazada’s Miata MX-5 sales in 2020 beat their 2019 sales despite the pandemic. The highly praised Miata MX-5 sports soft-top convertible coupe increased US sales more than 13% last year.

The MX-5’s popularity is a tribute to Miata’s fun-to-drive nature enhanced with it’s smooth 6-speed manual transmission, which is a rarity these days available in only two percent of vehicles sold.

The MX-5 is arguably today’s best handling small sports coupe, validated by holding the Guinness World record for “Best selling two-seater sports car” in May 2000. That year the car’s production reached 531,890 units, the record has continued to be updated as more units have been sold. We test-drove the rear-wheel drive 2021 soft-top Miata MX-5 Grand Touring 6MT in March. It was a cloudless sunny day giving us the opportunity to lower the ragtop and enjoy a warm open air drive grabbing a great deal of envious glances from passerbys. Of note, buyers have an option to purchase a retractable hard top.

We fit snuggly into the ergonomically designed cabin, although drivers with larger frames may be challenged when getting in and out of the MX-5.

Our test car paint options included $200 for a gray soft-top and $395 for snowflake white pearl paint on our Grand Touring MX-5, which is the highest trim package above Sport and Club.

No major alterations were made for 2021 models. Miata did include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard replacing the CD player as well, the company added a leather option.

The exterior profile is sleek, with 4.9 inches of ground clearance, 17-inch wheels, broad wheel arches and a grill/airdam situated between slim tear-drop LED headlights.

With a 52-48 weight distribution, a calibrated sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, it was a thrill to drive with an excellent firm road handle.

We did notice minor road noise and along with the satisfying growls upon accelerating through the gears. The MX-5’s precise handling conquered all road curves while perfectly maintaining the vehicle in lane.

Adding a layer of security are Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE suite of safety features, such as blind spot detection, lane departure warning, emergency collision braking and rear cross traffic alert. However, the car is missing dynamic cruise control which is not an option for this Miata.

The MX-5’s diminutive size lets it slip into tight parking spaces and the car’s turning radius is 30.8 feet.

The cabin has heated leather seats, a 7-inch dashboard screen set-up to maximize  infotainment and features a center spine knob which uses Mazda Connect. In addition, a small trunk can hold two decent sized overnight bags.

A few caveats include non-extending visors  tire sealant substitutes for a spare tire and crash safety testing has not yet been conducted at the time of this review.

At a Glance

LIKES: Handling, looks, trunk, driver/road feedback, cabin comfort, nimble, peppy

DISLIKES: No dynamic cruise control
BOTTOM LINE: So much fun to drive you wonder why you don’t own one

Fact File: 2021 MAZDA MIATA MX-5

Base price w/destination fee
Curb weight
Wheelbase
Length
Width
Engine
Horsepower
Torque
Transmission
EPA Rating
Range
Performance
$32,715 ($33,310 as tested)
2,341 lbs.
90.9 inches
154.1 inches
68.3 inches
2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, SKYACTIV-G
181 hp at 7,000 rpm
151 ft-lbs at 4,000 rpm
6-speed manual
26 mpg city/34 mpg hwy
11.89-gallon tank, premium recommended
0-60 in 5.7 seconds

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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.

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