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2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring Review by David Colman +VIDEO


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Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

10 out of 10 Star Rating

By David Colman
Special Correspondent to The Auto Channel


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Mazda MX-5 Miata GT
Since its introduction, Mazda's two seat sports car has evolved through 4 production cycles (NA/NB/NC and ND). The ND, Mazda's latest interpretation of the Miata for 2019, also comes in 4 different guises. The baseline model is dubbed Club, next up comes the Grand Touring (subject of this test), followed by the retractable hardtop variant (RF) and finally the Sport version. We have recently driven the RF equipped with the available automatic gearbox. This model was designed to appeal to drivers willing to trade the hard-core sports car experience for a more mellow version which stresses wind protection and shiftless operational ease.

The Grand Touring model that is the subject of this test, on the other hand, ticks all the boxes for the quintessential sports car: significantly uprated engine, gold standard 6-speed manual transmission, track compatible Bridgestone Potenza rubber, augmented by the optional Grand Touring package. This absolute bargain at $550 adds a limited slip differential, front shock tower brace, and sport tuned suspension featuring Bilstein shock absorbers. Those carefully chosen components make the MX-5 Grand Touring a very serious sports car. So much so that Mazda has even built 200 full race versions of it for competition in the company's Global MX-5 Cup series.

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Mazda MX-5 Miata GT
Finally, the MX-5, after more than 30 years in production, offers an engine worthy of the car's always superlative chassis architecture. Back in the early days the Miata, as it was then called, placed a 1.6 liter inline 4 under the hood that produced just 116hp and 100lb.-ft. of torque. That minuscule output made for an entertaining but busy driving experience which required constant shifting to keep the Miata motor operating in its narrow power band. Successive engine displacement increases over the year have resulted in the most potent combination to date for 2019: 2.0 liter inline 4 now producing 181hp and 151lb.-ft. of torque. While the MX-5 is hardly overpowered, for the first time ever, it enjoys sufficient horsepower and torque to shut down almost anything in the stoplight grand prix. This year's version bumps horsepower by a whopping 26hp over previous models, and elevates the MX-5 into a new and much higher echelon of performance.

It seems somewhat presumptuous to call it a "Grand Touring" model in view of the fact that it offers just 5 cubic feet of trunk storage. So if your idea of grand touring includes a steamer trunk and a couple of matched suitcases, you'll be sorely disappointed with the not-so-grand touring MX-5. However, if you can make do with a pair of duffel bags, the Miata's tidy little footlocker will accommodate your needs for a weekend getaway. You'll want to stow just about everything in the trunk too, because the tight confines of the cockpit offer virtually no storage for ancillaries. There's no glovebox in the dash, tiny pockets in the tiny doors, and a vertical compartment between the front seats just big enough to stow gloves and a hat. The console between the seats serves as the repository for the "Multi-Function Command Control" as well as the entertainment system volume and station selector. Since the shift lever lies directly in front of these knobs, it's all too easy to reprogram your audio inadvertently as you shift gears. Living in this cockpit is akin to being a banana inside the peel.

The MX-5 is now equipped with a bevy of safety mandates including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning (LDW). Although Mazda supplies switches on the dash to delete these nanny chimes, the warning symphony always reappears every time you restart the car. In a vehicle with steering that is exceptionally sensitive like the MX-5, it is all too easy to trigger the LDW or cause the blind spot to chirp constantly. These annoying noisemakers are simply uncalled for on the Miata and defeat the very point of the vehicle: its exceptional maneuverability and commanding field of vision.

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Mazda MX-5 Miata GT
The appeal of the MX-5 however is not contingent on cockpit dynamics. Rather, the essential thrust of the car is entirely directed at optimization of the driving experience. In that regard, the latest MX-5 is peerless. Its uprated motor gladly sprints to the lofty 7200rpm redline, the manual gearbox snicks from one gate to the next with the positive assurance of a rifle bolt, and the stiffly sprung suspension claws at the pavement with leach-like aggression. The 205/45R17 Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires carry a treadwear rating of TW260 and put the final touches on a suspension calibration that is designed for track events or autocrossing.

Back in 1992, the first generation Miata was selling for $20,000 and offered virtually no creature comforts whatsoever. The fact that you can still buy this car for just $10,000 more than it sold for in 1992 indicates how stable the Mazda buying dollar has remained over all those years. The base price of the MX-5 is just $30,780, though I would strongly recommend equipping it with the worth-every-penny $550 Grand Touring Package. Thusly equipped, your Mazda will be rewardingly enjoyable to drive on the twisty back roads where it belongs.




2019 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA GRAND TOURING

    ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC
    HORSEPOWER: 181hp
    TORQUE: 151lb.-ft.
    FUEL CONSUMPTION: 26MPG City/34MPG Highway
    PRICE AS TESTED: $32,650

HYPES: Hyperkinetic Handling, Swell New Motor

GRIPES: Overdue for Cockpit Ergonomic Redo

STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10