When you strip away all the weight that comes with a modern car but keep a playfully tuned rear-wheel-drive chassis paired with a rev-happy engine and a crisp manual transmission, you have a recipe for driving enjoyment. The Mazda MX-5 Miata offers precisely that. Available as either the classic soft top convertible or the retractable-targa-top RF model, the Miata holds a special place in the hearts of driving enthusiasts for its simple, back-to-basics ethos.
The Miata got a number of updates for the 2019 model year, including more power and torque. The revised four-cylinder engine now makes 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque through an updated six-speed manual transmission. That means the 2019 model has 26 more horsepower and 3 more pound-feet of torque than last year’s car. Where the previous revision’s power peaked at around 6,000 rpm, the 2019’s power keeps climbing all the way up to 7,000 rpm before hitting the limiter at 7,500. To get these gains Mazda included a larger throttle body, a smoother intake manifold with a dual-path design, a revised exhaust manifold and a higher lift exhaust cam with a longer duration. Internally, the engine’s pistons, rods and crank are all lighter and stronger, which helps the engine spin more freely. The increased pressure for direct fuel injection allow more effective use of two- and three-stage injection at low engine speeds, earning a 10 pound-foot of torque bump down around 1,500 rpm.
The Miata’s engine revs eagerly and is powerful enough to deliver stirring acceleration. Exploring the engine’s high-revving personality is encouraged by the direct, easy-to-shift manual transmission. Only about 40 percent of MX-5s sold are automatics, we are glad the manual is taking the win! The MX-5’s manual transmission uses a new “low-inertia” dual-mass flywheel that cuts down on noise and makes it smoother and quieter, dual-mass units are usually heavier, but Mazda engineers found a way to keep the weight in check. Overall, the 2019 MX-5 Miata with the manual gearbox now weighs 2,339 pounds, and you can add about 45 pounds for examples with the automatic transmission.
We tested the Club trim, which features a host of performance upgrades such as a sport suspension, a limited-slip differential, and 17-inch wheels. My Club tester’s optional heated Recaro seats are part of a $4,470 package that also adds the aforementioned Brembo brakes and cool-looking BBS wheels are very comfortable.
The Miata Club comes with a set of Brembo front brakes, which provide plenty of stopping power and are a joy to manage through the pedal. A Miata rides firmly and the Club’s firmer shocks and springs return the stiffest ride of the lineup thanks to the Bilstein dampers. The handling is responsive, and the Miata changes direction promptly. We especially enjoy the light, tactile steering; it responds immediately and keeps the driver informed of what the front tires are doing. This is just a fun car, plain and simple.
When equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the Miata is estimated to get 26 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg highway. After a long road trip we even returned a better highway average with a low highway speed. However the car is still relatively efficient even when you’re driving it spiritedly, more importantly the handling is as engaging and responsive as ever.
The cabin is a snug fit for two adults and includes the bare essentials. The MX-5 Miata comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen, a six-speaker stereo with headrest speakers on the driver’s side and HD radio. Optional tech features include embedded navigation, a nine-speaker Bose premium audio system (with headrest speakers for both occupants) and satellite radio. A new telescoping steering column adds another boost to the Miata’s cabin comfort and aids in creating an even more comfortable driving position. In back, there’s 4.6 cubic feet of trunk space, which sounds small, but it’s enough for a pair of carry-on suitcases and a backpack which is more than enough for a weekend away or going to do the weekly shopping. Softtop models can now also be ordered with a brown-colored top.
The Miata’s driver-assistance features are all optional and include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, low-speed automated emergency braking, traffic-sign recognition, and lane-departure warning. The top Grand Touring trim features automatic emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, lane-departure warning, adaptive headlights, automatic high-beams and rain-sensing wipers.
The base Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport starts at $26,650, including $920 for destination. The Club model starts at $30,510. As tested, my Miata Club comes in at $36,800 because of options like the $4,470 Brembo/BBS/Recaro package, the $425 interior package (alloy pedals, oil cap and door sill trim plates) and the $800 appearance package (side sill extensions, black rear bumper skirt).
We have tested earlier versions of the Miata and the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata is, in a word, better. In short, the Miata Club is great fun. I’d happily volunteer to drive anywhere in it at any time. What I really like about the Miata is how it makes even mundane drives feel fun.