Class: Sporty/Performance Car
Miles driven: 420
Fuel used: 13.7 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 30.7 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 26/34/29 (city, highway, combined)
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||C|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||B+|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Fuel type: Premium gas recommended
Base price: $30,780 (not including $895 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: GT-S Package ($550) special paint ($200), Interior Package ($425)
Price as tested: $32,850
The great: Wonderful all-around athleticism; delightfully engaging driving character
The good: Laudable fuel economy for a sports car; upscale interior trim in Grand Touring model
The not so good: Space for both people and cargo is especially stingy
Of all the features that can be added to a sports car, arguably the most welcome of them is power. Thus, it seems that Mazda has done a good thing by raising the horsepower and torque of its widely admired MX-5 Miata for 2019.
The 2.0-liter naturally aspirated SKYACTIV-G 4-cylinder engine picks up 26 horsepower, for a total of 181, making it the most powerful Miata that Mazda has ever sold in the U.S. The torque gain is much more modest—the ’19 car’s 151 lb-ft represent an increase of just three lb-ft—but torque now finds its peak sooner at 4000 rpm, a decrease of 600 rpm.
Overall, the MX-5 engine has been made more ready to rev. The redline rate has been raised from 6800 to 7500 rpm, and the horsepower peak is 1 grand higher than before at 7000 rpm. While this newest Miata feels quicker off the line than its predecessor, there’s also a nice benefit in highway driving, where the car doesn’t feel completely used up by the time it reaches top gear. Even after clicking the smooth-shifting manual gearbox into sixth, Consumer Guide’s test car still produced a little more speed when the bottom-hinged accelerator was prodded. The sport-tuned exhaust system reinforces the feeling with a deeper, grittier report.
EPA fuel-economy estimates for the Miata convertible with the manual transmission are 26 mpg in city driving, 34 mpg on the highway, and 29 combined. In a 196-mile test stint, this driver very nearly met the highway projection, averaging 33.7 mpg, but with 50 percent city-type miles. That’s encouraging considering that Mazda recommends feeding its little bundle of joy premium fuel.
Heading into its fourth model year, the ND-generation Miata is packing on a few pounds. The manual-trans car weighs in at 2339 pounds, a gain of seven. (Hey, we did say a few pounds. . . .) With the 6-speed automatic, the ’19 MX-5 tips the scales at the same 2381 pounds as before. Mazda didn’t confine the changes to the engine bay. New standard equipment includes a tilt and telescoping steering column that helps to tailor an optimal driving position, and a rearview camera. Sport and Club models get a metallic-black finish for their alloy wheels, and the Grand Touring works in Smart City Brake (which automatically applies the brakes to avoid collisions at speeds of less than 20 mph) and traffic-sign recognition that registers on the highly legible analog instrument cluster.
Option packages have been reconfigured, too. New ones for the Sport and Club add electronic safety and driver-assistance technology already included on the Grand Touring. However, the GT-S Package for the Grand Touring picks up drivetrain and chassis enhancements from the performance-oriented Club version: a limited-slip differential, Bilstein-brand dampers, and—on manual-transmission cars—a stiffening brace in the engine bay that runs between the shock towers.
The GT-S-equipped test car displayed all the nicely developed reflexes for which the Miata has become known, namely responsive steering, crisp handling, and secure braking. Ride is firm—most pavement bumps are impossible to ignore—but there is a nice sense of solidity from the car’s structure. Twisting, shaking, and rattling are pretty well expunged.
Other elements of the 2019 Miata are as familiar as the sunrise. Minimalist interior storage consists of a glove box between the seat backs, a tiny covered space in the console, and racklike cup holders that can be inserted into the back end of the console or on its right side, near where a passenger’s left knee would rest. The small trunk has a hatchlike lid; cargo is more or less dropped into this space, but at least the car’s low stance minimizes liftover, and piston-style hinges don’t squander any of what load volume there is. Seating position is low, and interior room will be in short supply for anyone much more than 6 feet tall.
A dark-brown fabric top that is a new color choice for 2019 complemented CG’s Whitewater Pearl test car. Mazda can make the MX-5’s top any color it wants but the single central latch and ability to be dropped or raised in a single motion with one hand stake it out as about the easiest to use that you can find today. With the top up, a fair amount of road noise seems to get trapped inside.
The Grand Touring is the Miata’s “luxury” model. It comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, bright-tipped twin exhaust outlets, heated side mirrors, heated leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, 9-speaker Bose audio system, satellite radio, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning. (A chime in the ‘19 car thankfully replaced the annoyingly loud humming noise that accompanied the lane-departure warning in the last ND Miata this driver tested.) Also included is the somewhat complicated and distracting Commander Control for the Mazda Connect infotainment system that governs audio, navigation, and other functions. Fortunately, the 3-dial automatic air conditioning is a snap to operate.
The Miata has never needed much more than Mazda ever gave it to be fun to drive. Now, though, it’s got more of what enthusiasts might have always wanted.
Our suburban Chicago environs offer precious little in the way of really good driving roads, but I do know of a fine little stretch of road that runs through one a tony North Shore neighborhood. It’s a low-speed-limit street, but it’s relatively secluded, and it has some excellent sweeping corners and some fairly steep elevation changes. It’s an ideal route for a Miata, and no, I’m not telling you where it is.
I took our Miata test vehicle out for a drive on a balmy late-summer night and headed for that road. Top down, of course. The temperature was perfect—low 70s, a fair amount of humidity in the air. There had been scattered showers in some spots earlier in the evening, but the rain had passed.
It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d piloted a Miata, but that drive was magical nonetheless. I can’t remember the last time I felt so plugged in to my surroundings, or the last time I took so much simple pleasure in my own senses. I felt the breeze around me. I heard the cicadas—what sounded like thousands of them—singing in the trees. When I dropped down into one of the lower-elevation sections of the road, I hit a cooler patch of air and instantly felt the temperature drop. I passed over a section of pavement that was still wet from the rain, and heard the tire noise change to a gentle hiss. At one point, I happened to look down a side street and caught a glimpse of a family of raccoons scurrying across the road. The entire time I was behind the wheel, I was living in the moment.
The Miata’s horsepower infusion for 2019 makes it feel even more responsive than before, and it’s delightfully “revvier” too. The shifter is fabulous, and it’s perfectly placed… I found myself wanting to use it even when it wasn’t absolutely necessary. The Miata isn’t what you’d call outright fast—not in a sporty-car world where there are more than a few vehicles with 400-plus horsepower—but it’s plenty zingy when driven aggressively. And the real beauty of a Miata is that it’s often more fun to drive at 25 mph than some cars are to drive at three times that speed.
I know Mazda’s “Jinba Ittai” (horse and rider as one) philosophy and “Feel Alive” slogan are marketing tools, but in the case of the Miata, they’re spot on. I’m not even that much of a “convertible guy,” but a meandering, no-particular-place-to-go drive in a Miata is a great way to de-stress and clear your head. I’d even call it therapeutic.