The good news is that Mazda is reportedly already testing a revamped Miata, if rumors and leaks are to be believed. However, the even better news is that you don’t have to wait for the Miata NE, or whatever it ends out being, in order to enjoy one of the most satisfying driving experiences available right now. The most recent MX-5 doesn’t let you down in terms of enjoyment per dollar.
The 2022 MX-5 Miata Sport starts at $27,650 (plus $1,015 destination), and the more opulent Grand Touring model costs $32,650 (plus destination). The MX-5 Miata Club, which starts at $31,150, sits in the middle of the spectrum but, as Mazda warns, is unlikely to be available at its dealerships unless you’re extremely fortunate. At least for the 2022 model year, the stock is gone.
This could be as a result of the Club feeling like the sweet spot in the triple-trim lineup in Miata terms. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine, 6-speed manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive are all included for $30,800 (plus destination), but you also get a torque-sensing limited-slip differential, a sport-tuned suspension, and Bilstein dampers. A front shock tower brace is also included.
Their loss is mine at 5′ 8″ tall. The Miata’s interior is simple and comfortable—as long as you aren’t an anomaly in terms of size. Although there is soft-touch plastic and some good stitching, it is obvious that Mazda didn’t spend a lot of money on the materials because the overall impression is one of sober intent. Additionally, it is simple to use even while you are having fun, whether by design or due to financial constraints.
Three large, simple-to-turn knobs control the HVAC system. There are a few buttons for the heated seats, which work really well, and a jog dial that doubles as a joystick to navigate Mazda’s straightforward (and little dated-looking) infotainment system. The audio system is, well, there, but the nine-speaker Bose setup, even with the subwoofer and headrest speakers, feels just mediocre.
Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included as standard equipment, with Club and above variants also excluding Apple’s projection. In addition, Mazda disables the touchscreen at any speed more than a crawl for safety reasons. I’m not sure if using the jog dial to scroll through the UI options actually feels less distracting than reaching out to the display, but most of the time I was driving anyhow.
The majority of the time, I would probably choose an automatic vehicle, but not with the MX-5 Miata. Each ratio slots in smoothly and quickly; it doesn’t require much power, but it also doesn’t seem overly comfortable. If you find yourself a convertible minnow in traffic, the clutch is the perfect weight—neither too soft and flabby nor too heavy.
You aren’t forced to work hard to get it properly, and I believe this is the key. Some sports-oriented manuals appear to take great pleasure in forcing focus and attention with each gear shift. If you make a mistake or dare to become preoccupied, whether by a pothole or a playlist, you will be penalized with a crunch to let everyone else know that you made a mistake.
In comparison, the Miata’s gearbox is ethereally playful. The kind of transmission you’d be blessed to learn to drive stick on; enjoyable for its own reason. Even if there would be so much more available that you would be spoiled for life.
Since electrification is inevitable and will make vehicles like the Miata more common than not, I’m genuinely interested in where they’re going. The thrifty MX-5 gets 29 mpg and is happy running on regular or premium gasoline. Around 345 miles may be traveled on a full tank. If you were to try to conceive an electric Miata that could perform similarly, you would likely be looking at a battery that already weighs a sizable portion of the entire vehicle.
However, that is something that other people should consider. And it’s not like the small number of small, two-seater roadsters is the gas-guzzling, environmental problem we need to address first. The main offenders there are those large SUVs and trucks.
That leaves us with a strangely doable chance to have fun today. The MX-5 Miata isn’t particularly useful, probably shouldn’t be your first (or second, actually) choice for a commuter car, and doesn’t do a great job of covering up the areas where cost-cutting was possible. Instead, it’s a positively glorious way to rediscover that same enthusiasm for yourself, as well as a pleasant reminder that there are excellent reasons why fanatics get so worked up over things like changing their own gears.