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2017 Mazda Miata MX-5 Review by Rob Eckaus +VIDEO

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Every drive is either an adventure or memorable experience

By Rob Eckhaus

                  • SEE ALSO: Mazda Research and Buyers Guide

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Introduced in 1989, the Mazda Miata went on to become the bestselling convertible in history. And particularly because of the Miata, the most raced brand in the world. Now recently into the fourth generation, the Mazda MX-5 Miata dropped a couple major things from the previous generation like horsepower and weight. A surprising 12 horsepower and a shocking 150 pounds trimmed away to a total of 2,324 pounds in an age where weight gain is the norm, including on vehicles much larger and at least one thousand to two thousand pounds heavier.

Truly the modern quintessential “driver’s car”, this 2017 Grand Touring model with the 6 speed manual transmission extremely light, very nimble, rear drive, quick enough for many. As stated earlier on social media, it’s not about guys, it’s not about girls, it’s about having fun. Because it’s a convertible and quite small, some call it a girl’s car. But seriously, the complete antithesis of this car, something like a Dodge Charger Daytona, is a total dude’s car. Does a gender moniker even matter, especially as the most raced car in the world?

Mazda utilizes several philosophies in their vehicle design and construction. SKYACTIV is the effort to reduce weight while improving safety and efficiency. Their Jinba Ittai process is to elevate the driving experience. This was done by redesigning the cockpit and ergonomics for a more driver centric experience and better fit. KODO theme is the Soul of Motion with a long hood, short overhangs, large wheels pushed to the far corners, and looks good with the top or down. Not many convertibles can make that last claim.

The suspension is tuned spectacularly. Bumps that upset larger cars are easily absorbed with far less drama and rebound. An emergency swerving maneuver from a wayward driver is a simple, routine process without drama. Low speed turns can generate serious lateral g-forces if desired by simply yanking on the wheel. A higher speed sweeper gives superb haptic feedback through the steering wheel without any feel of mechanical assist. The shifter has great movement into every gear, just a bit of engine vibration when in third gear. The upshift indicator gives surprisingly early suggestions which undoubtedly contributes to its 26 city, 33 highway rating.

Very easy to launch from a dig, it has enough power for around town driving. This Grand Touring model equipped with the manual transmission would get rubber going into second gear. At 80mph in 6th gear which is about 3200rpm, it will pull satisfactory to close gaps or get around slower traffic without downshifting. But it’s a noisy 80mph so this no long distance commuter for the highway. Some refinement in the engine for a more sophisticated feel would be also be welcome. The only performance aspect that is lacking from the car is power. It meets every other criteria of a driver’s car except for traction management, another 50hp would be very welcome. The only other feature that would be welcome is rev-match downshifting just for the convenience and joy of precision and consistency.

The convertible top has one center latch, folds back with one hand and a press downward secures it flat. Absolutely brilliant. It’s a wonderful feeling leaving the gym, putting the top down, and shifting your way home. Putting it back up is equally simple, just make sure the latch is in the proper position to prevent scratching the exterior of the latch housing. There’s no backup camera, you don’t need one with the top down. If the top is up, the backup sensor works great to make up for the rear three-quarter blind spot from the folding roof.

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Yes it’s small, interior storage is limited, about the same as the front passenger space storage capacity as the new Camaro reviewed earlier. The center console will hold two iPhone 6 stacked on top of each other. Behind your right elbow is two cup holders, a difficult proposition to use. You can put two phones in a small cubby in front of the gearshift but hard acceleration will eject at least one of them unless wedged with a wallet. No container in the passenger compartment will hold a curved sunglass case.

The trunk however is surprisingly roomy and deeper than expected. Plenty of room for groceries or for two people on a weekend getaway. If you’re going to drive that long, the upper part of the door is body colored painted metal, nothing special yet far more comfortable than many luxury cars with padded and much fancier designs. A notch created by the intersection of the transmission tunnel and center dash is a nice fit for the right knee when cruising. The infotainment systems works well, although a bit quirky with button pushing redundancy. Despite that, the lane departure warning, navigation, and other features all worked very well. Bose speakers in the headrests add to the listening experience to offset the high speed wind noise.

A classic view of the curving front fenders channels sports cars of the past with excellent forward visibility as well as the side. You don’t feel claustrophobic and size really isn’t a concern until another vehicle fades towards your lane, or decides to pull up too close to the back bumper. Oddly there is the sensation of sitting up a bit high but that went away very quickly. Seats are very comfortable and supportive for performance maneuvering although a bit tight across the upper back if you’re an extra-large.

Stopping at O’Reilly Auto Parts to pick up some light bulbs for the nephew-hauler, the clerk, a fellow enthusiast, asked about the Miata and what year it was. The gentlemen behind me piped in his Club Sport edition was the one to own. Between over one million sold as of last year and an estimated 5,000 raced globally, finding a fellow owner or fan can happen on any given day, anywhere.

Well-equipped at $31,325, what other convertible is as efficient and dedicated to the experience? While on the seventy-five mile round trip commute, and when passing Porsches in traffic, I wondered if they were having as much fun. Every drive is either an adventure or memorable experience. Not many soft top automobiles that can be driven daily can make that claim and none that are as efficient.