2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club 6MT – Review by David Colman
There’s good reasons why it’s the best selling roadster of all time
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
You can select three different versions of the world's most affordable sports car from Mazda. The base model MX-5 Miata is called the Sport, and retails for $26,830. The intermediate model which we tested is the Club, which carries a base price of $30,290. The most luxuriously equipped Miata is the Grand Touring model, with a base price of $31,770. All three versions utilize identical engines and gearboxes. Miata power comes from an all aluminum four cylinder engine with a displacement of 1,998cc. This unit sends 181hp and 151lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels through a choice of two transmissions.
Standard issue for all three models is a 6-speed manual gearbox with a short throw shifter. If you upgrade to the Club or Grand Touring level, Mazda equips the rear axle with a torque-sensing limited slip differential (manual gearbox only). Optionally available is a 6-speed "Sport" automatic with paddle shifters. Gear ratios of the manual transmission offer a much closer grouping of ratios than the automatic. For example, sixth gear in the manual offers the same 1:1 ratio as fourth gear in the automatic, which means you have two rather useless overdrive ratios (5th and 6th) in the automatic's gear array. So if you enjoy extracting maximum performance from your MX-5, stick with the 6-speed manual like the one in our test car. Just remember to wear small shoes, because the footwell of the Miata is so tight that fat footwear hastens mistakes.
Further driving enhancement is available if you equip your Miata with the $4,470 "2BB" Package which significantly upgrades seats, wheels, tires, brakes and aerodynamic trim. Mazda calls this the Brembo/BBS/Recaro option, and it's only available on manual transmission models. The first upgrades you notice are a full complement of brilliant black side sill extensions, front and rear spoiler lips, and rear bumper skirt. These additions give a purposeful boost to the familiar silhouette of the Miata. 17 inch black BBS alloy rims do a great job of showing off the red calipers of the Brembo front brakes and the Mazda supplied red rear calipers. A final touch of elegance and functionality is the inclusion of RECARO sport seats which envelop your torso with a grip that far exceeds the stock cloth seats they replace. To insure perpetual bragging rights, the Brembo brakes, BBS wheels and RECARO seats are all clearly labeled with manufacturer of origin.
While the MX-5 Club is perfectly well suited to freeway jaunts, the real reason for its existence is the backroad. The more curves the better. The BBS rims mount ultra sticky (TW 280) Bridgestone Potenza S001 radials (205/45R17) that never lose their grip on the pavement. At the first hint of traction loss, the torque sensing differential kicks in to restore adhesion. Suspension from the Club's standard Bilstein front dampers is precise without being harsh. Our fully equipped Club Miata cornered with the ferocity a Wild Mouse amusement park ride. While you may not think that a 181hp engine is up to the job of generating thrill ride levels of transport, consider that this SKYACTIV-G 2.0 liter engine energizes a chassis weighing just 2,341 pounds. That combination gives you a stellar power-to-weight ratio of 12.93 pounds per horsepower. So the Miata's P/W ratio verges on supercar territory. It also explains why this vehicle changes direction with the tiniest flick of the steering wheel, which requires just 2.7 turns to travel from lock to lock. In other words, this sports car was born to challenge back roads and race tracks around the world. In fact, the Miata is by far the most popular race car in the world, with Mazda-backed series for the MX-5 on offer worldwide.
Of course, you don't have to don a helmet and a fire suit to enjoy your Miata. The cockpit has been substantially upgraded each time the basic platform has been renewed. The most recent upgrade came to market in 2016. In 2020, Mazda added forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and blind spot warning. An added safety feature is the 360 degree visibility on offer if you simply drop the convertible top into its storage bin behind the cockpit. This operation requires just one hand, and can usually be accomplished while remaining seated in the driver's s eat. Reversing the procedure is equally stress free. Even grocery shopping is a breeze, as the indented floor of the MX-5's trunk allows you to implant three full bags of food upright with the expectation that they will remain that way for the trip home.
The MX-5 remains a wonderful travel device, one which benefits from three decades of continuous refinement that have made it the best selling roadster of all time.
2021 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA CLUB 6MT
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16 valve with VVT
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 26MPG City/34MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $35,705
HYPES: Scalpel Sharp Handling
GRIPES: Awkward Cup Holders
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10