Who doesn’t love a roadster? Manual gears. Drop top. Wind in your hair (if you have any – I don’t, but I still like convertibles – I have two of them). The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring MT was dropped off in my driveway on December 5 in Northern Virginia. I didn’t figure to have the top down, at least not for long, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to have a ton of fun in this little roadster. The Miata was first produced in the US in 1989 and was an immediate success. Prior to the Miata, little British roadsters were hugely popular, but notoriously unreliable and/or expensive. Think of the British roadsters offered up from MG, Triumph, Austin-Healey and from the Italians, Fiat. For some reason, manufacturer could not produce an affordable and reliable two-seater. Until 1989 that is, when Mazda first introduced the Miata. The Miata was an overnight success. Fun. Mechanically simple. Lightweight. Reliable. Affordable. The first Miata was powered by a 1.6L inline-four cylinder engine with around 115 hp (by today’s standards probably a bit underpowered with a 0-60 speed of around 8.1 seconds) and sold for around $14,000. Mazda did the first major redesign of the Miata in 1999 and its third generation remodel in 2006, at which time it rebranded the Miata as the MX-5 everywhere except the United States where it was renamed the MX-5 Miata. The fourth generation redesign was launched globally in 2015 and won 2015-2016 Car of the Year Japan, 2016 UK Car of the Year and 2016 World Car of the Year. A lot of accolades for a little roadster.
The 2017 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring MT has everything you would want in a roadster, including enough head room to fit a six foot tall person comfortably. Pricing at the time of my test drive was yet to be announced, but the MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring (RF stands for retractable fastback) starts at $32,620. Equipped with the SKYACTIV-G 2.0L four-cylinder engine putting out 155 hp and matted to a six-speed manual transmission the MX-5 is quick and nimble. With even Ferrari and Porsche going to paddle shifters, its hard to find a manual shift car these days. I miss them, so when I get one I tend to spend a little more time in them. Even thought it was December, I had the top down (and the heat on). The short-throw shifter makes working through the gears easy and fun.
At first I was a little turned off by the manual top. I was thinking my 1969 Camaro’s convertible top is electric so what’s the deal. But after I popped the two latches and gave it a gentle shove backwards it went back with ease and locked in the down position. No big deal. So I realized for a top this small it doesn’t need to be electric. More weight. More cost. Something else to break. So the manual top was fine. It fit nicely when closed and was a snap to open and close. And if my wife liked the wind in her hair (she doesn’t), even she could put it up and down. And you’re not a ragtop kind of a person, you can always get the MX-5 Miata RF which has the retractable hardtop which slides down with the push of a button.
So what do you really need in a roaster? You’re probably not going to commute in it. You’re going to drive it and have fun. So I don’t know exactly what you need in a roaster other then a drop top, three pedals and a nimble engine, but I can tell you what you get with the MX-5 Miata Grand Touring MT. On the performance front you get 155 hp with a six-speed short throw shifter, front and rear stabilizing bars, 205/45 R17 tires on 17-inch dark silver wheels and dual exhaust. On the interior you get a BOSE audio system with nine speakers including driver and passenger headrest speakers, Mazda Connect Infotainment system with color touchscreen display and nav, heated leather-trimmed heated seats, leather steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, and standard cruise control. On the safety front the MX-5 has blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive front lighting system, high beam control, lane departure warning, rain sensing wipers, and LED daytime running lights. Everything you need in a roaster and maybe a few things you don’t need.
Even though the visibility out the back of the MX-5 is really good with the top down (of course), with the top up, like with most convertibles, visibility out the rear is a bit more restricted. I immediately appreciated the rear cross traffic alert. With my first drive of the MX-5 I was backing out of my driveway, not quite used to the view out the rear and as a approached the end of my driveway there was a beeping. The rear cross traffic alert system was warning me of oncoming traffic. That helped me avoid what could have been a slightly embarrassing situation – me backing out of my driveway right into (or more likely under) my neighbors massive SUV.
At the end of the day, if your looking for a roaster that’s reasonably priced, incredibly reliable and fun to drive, the Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring MT has to be on your must drive list.