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Car Review: 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring Review +VIDEO


By John Heilig

Reviewed Model: 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I-4
Horsepower/Torque: 167 hp @ 7,000 rpm/140 lb.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 91.7 in.
Length x Width x Height: 157.3 x 67.7 x 49.4 in.
Tires: P206/45R17
Cargo: 5.3 cu. ft.
Economy: 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway/25.6 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 12.7 gal.
Curb Weight: 2,619 lbs.
Sticker: $32,285 (includes $795 destination, $2,240 options)

The Bottom Line: For 25 years, the Mazda Miata has been the essence of what I feel a sports car should be; small, nimble, and with just enough power to make any drive fun.

The first car I discovered can be more than something to ride in between visits to the gas station was an MGA, specifically a 1500 roadster. Later, I furthered my interest with an MGA 1600 Mk II coupe. I was a glutton for punishment, yes, but I also thoroughly enjoyed zipping around the countryside in my small, nimble sports car.

Fast forward too many years and we have the Mazda Miata, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. From its birth, the Miata has been the essence of what the MGA should have been. It, too, is small and nimble, but it is also reliable (without Lucas electrics) and, although the sticker is about ten times what I paid for my coupe, it is roughly equivalent in “real dollars.”

Head-to-head, the Miata has a 2.0-liter inline four rated at 167 horsepower; the MGA had a 1.6-liter inline four rated at around 98. The Miata has a 6-speed manual transmission; the MGA’s was a four-speed. But both offer an absolute thrill in seeking out roads that some cars would fear to tread.

One advantage the Miata has is that it was designed as a left-hand drive car, while the MGA was, at its heart, right-hand drive with linkages at the floor connecting the right-side mechanicals with the left.

I also appreciated the automatic hardtop in the Miata. My MGA coupe’s hardtop didn’t go down, even when the semi tried to take it off while I was still in the car. The Miata’s drops in less than 10 seconds, making the conversion to a roadster simple enough that you can do it whenever the temperature rises to sane levels, even if only for a few hours.

Oddly, I discovered in the Miata that I rarely exceeded the speed limit, except when there were twists in the road. Driving the Miata is all about the experience. Then I would zip along as quickly as I had courage, downshifting and upshifting with abandon and hanging onto the wheel. The shifter is ideally located, and with your arm on the center console, it’s right there.

There’s good torque in all the gears, so when you’re just tooling along you don’t HAVE to shift (unless you want to). Also, the Miata has a great exhaust note that we only got in the old days by driving a nail through the muffler.

Handling is excellent, as befits a true sports car, but not at the expense of a comfortable ride. Even though the Miata’s wheelbase is only 91.7 inches, you rarely get the choppy ride you’d expect from the car. I attribute it to great suspension geometry. I did notice a lot of wind noise with the top up.

Inside, there is efficient use of space. For example, the cupholders are in the doors. A problem I had was finding the fuel cap release, which I found out later is located in a panel between the seats.

The seats themselves are heated, and comfortable with good side support. If there was any more side support, it would make entry and exit more difficult. That’s another change over the years, my ability to wriggle into small cars. But once you’re in, you can enjoy.

Like all True Sports Cars (read British), the Miata is impractical. But again, LATSC, it is immensely fun to drive. Entering and exiting is sometimes a challenge for overweight senior citizens, but the ride is definitely worth the effort. I don’t get to drive Miata that often, but when I do I thoroughly enjoy the experience.

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