Car Review: 2020 Mazda Miata MX-5

by Kristy Tolley
picture of two Mazda Miata MX-5 vehicles

By Bob Ecker

Mendocino County, California

The Mazda Miata has been a legendary vehicle now for the past 30 years. At first, it was a Japanese homage to the British sports car — small, nimble and fun, but much more efficient and reliable. Then it became an icon on its own and attracted legions of fans.  Now in its third decade, the latest incarnation of the Miata is a serious and slightly exotic sports car.

I took my demo 2020 Miata MX-5 “Club” model, in Machine Gray paint out to Mendocino County on the Northern California coast, about 100 miles north of San Francisco. To get there, I traversed Highway 128, an enjoyable two-lane road that goes past farmland, then into California wine country; through a magnificent redwood forest before popping out on the rugged California coast. I stayed at two iconic hotels, the Little River Inn and the Brewery Gulch Inn, both fantastic spots to snuggle up in the cool, foggy climate.  Subsequently I pushed the Miata on Highway 1’s tight curves and coastal straightaways. The Miata MX-5’s handling is perhaps where the car truly shines: quick and lithe, this machine has been constructed to perfectly balance between fore and aft.  And it’s sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks and 17 inch, 205/45 tires help create an exhilarating, pavement hugging ride.

Performance:

All MX-5 vehicles come standard with a Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter engine producing 181 horsepower. This is a light, yet pretty powerful engine – especially considering the lightweight nature of the car. It loves to rev, supplying all the zip one could ask for. The MX-5 comes equipped with a tight, 6-speed manual or 6 speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

Interior & Features:

The Mazda Miata’s interior is certainly snug; you’re like a hand inside a glove. Once inside, it makes a fine cockpit to command the controls. Visibility is good, dials simple to read, mirrors large, seats comfortable and the Bose 9 speaker audio system sounds great even with the top down. The car has a decent, though not overly fussy 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. I liked the old-fashioned control knob that can be easily operated with your right hand without taking your eyes off the road. An optional navigation is standard on the Grand Touring model (unfortunately, the Nav system was not equipped on my demo vehicle). Bluetooth connectivity, HD radio compatibility, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on the higher-end models. The old fashioned “rag top” has been much improved and goes up and down and snaps into place effortlessly.

Safety:

Miatas come with standard lane-departure warning, standard automated emergency braking with forward-collision warning and standard blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert. This last item is especially useful given how low the Miata rides.

Fuel Economy:

This is a small car, and befitting its lightweight nature, gets a very solid 34 mpg. That’s exactly what I got on my trip to Mendocino County and back. And I was moving at a fast (but safe) clip.

Overview:

This is a superb, modern sports car that will provide years of enjoyment. Quick, jaunty, a looker — at a price that can’t be beat. There will also be a special, 100th Anniversary Edition rolling out sometime soon, in Pearl White with red leather interior and red top, plus special medallions.

Mind you, this car isn’t perfect. If you’re over six feet tall, have back problems, or need to sit up high in traffic, this small car isn’t for you.  But if you want to enjoy driving again, top up or top down, with a stick or automatic, and crave motoring excitement, it may be time to look at a new Miata MX-5. This is the finest and most reasonable priced sports car around. With a starting price around $27,000, no other car compares.

Whether you’re in the market for a sports car or a family-friendly SUV, our expert consultants at AAA Auto Buying can help you find the perfect car for your needs and budget.

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