2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club Review by David Colman
As exhilarating as ever…and then some!
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
The arrival of Mazda's latest Miata felicitously coincided with the warmest week of the year. This diminutive 2,484 pound sports car does a lot of things exceptionally well. It handles like a race car and scats like a motorcycle. But what it does best of all is provide a sense of driving euphoria unmatched by anything else on the road. Achieving that magic moment requires combining summer sunshine with a dropped top and with a curving road. When you've got all that going at one time, you're guaranteed a glimpse of driving nirvana.
Thankfully, Mazda designers have perfected the roof lowering operation to the simplest protocol imaginable. Reach up and clasp the fat roof release handle just north of the rearview mirror. Automatically, the side windows partially retract, allowing you to swing the lightweight roof backwards into its storage bin. Give it a final shove and the top clicks home, with its forward panel forming its own storage cover. This ingenious roof takes just five seconds to drop, requires no heavy electric motor, and proves equally facile to erect.
The convertible roof's design is emblematic of the Miata's basic but refined personality. When a sports car weighs as little as the MX-5, it doesn't require a gas-swilling V6, V8 or turbocharged power unit to provide invigorating performance. As it has from its inception more than 30 years ago, the Miata depends on just 4 normally aspirated cylinders for its motivation. When Mazda introduced the original MX-5, they fitted a 1.6 liter inline-4 which produced 116hp and 100lb.-ft. of torque. With a curb weight of just 2,189 pounds, that progenitor was saddled with a sluggish power-to-weight ratio of 18.87 lb/hp.
The 2023 MX-5 boasts a normally aspirated inline-4 displacing 2.0 liters, producing 181hp and 151lb.-ft of torque. Power-to-weight ratio thus surges to 12.95lb/hp. Not quite Corvette territory, but much closer than before. Proof of proficiency is certifiable: the latest MX-5 cranks a 0-60mph run in 5.7 seconds and a Standing Start 1/4 mile sprint of 14.5 seconds@95mph. The 1989 Miata took 8 seconds to reach 60mph and recorded a SS 1/4 mile time of 17 seconds@81mph. Now that's progress.
Mazda offers 5 different versions of the Miata this year, with the price leader Sport model starting at $29,215. The most expensive is the hardtop version designated Club RF going for $40,710. Our test Miata fell in the middle of the price range, with its base of $31,550 augmented by a $4,500 "2BB" package that upgraded brakes and suspension with Brembo disc brakes, BBS forged alloy wheels, and heated Recaro seats. If you're an enthusiast, you'll definitely want to pop for the 2BB package, which adds a great deal of lateral seat support, braking prowess, and wheel strength for a comparatively minimal investment. The dark rims are shod with sticky (TW 280) Bridgestone Potenza S001 rubber (205/45R17) which generate more than enough grip to keep you grinning. Mazda's Sport model also includes a few "Appearance Package for Club" styling tweaks to differentiate this Miata from more prosaic models: a front air dam (be careful of parking lot bumpers) and a rear lip spoiler. The 2BB kit also adds a pair of side sill extensions and a rear bumper skirt. All the spoilers and skirts are finished in gloss black to match the wheels, and the entire aero kit looks particularly attractive when paired with the optional $395 Snowflake White Pearl paint of our test car.
Although you can select an optional 6-speed automatic transmission for your Miata, we would never do so unless faced with a daily commute that made manual shifting an untenable chore. That's because the standard 6-speed manual transmission in the MX-5 is simply the best stick shift you will find in any sports car today. With its precise gate differentiation, well weighted throw action, and predictable clutch action, the Club model is a joy to control. Add in laser-quick steering response, high grip level from those Potenzas, and terrific visibility in all directions (with the top dropped), and you've got yourself a recipe for driving kicks that's unparalleled at any price. With a tag of just $37,510, you've got to wonder whether Mazda couldn't double the price and still sell a ton of these provocative grin makers. But then, of course, you'd have to call it a BMW.
2023 MAZDA MIATA MX-5 CLUB
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline-4, DOHC, 16-valve, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 26MPG City/34MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $37,510
HYPES: G-Force Generator
GRIPES: Very Limited Cockpit Storage
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10
©2023 David E Colman