Calling the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata an automotive icon is no overstatement, as its heritage stretches back more than 30 years and its cheerful driving demeanor has always been its strongest character attribute. The Miata’s four-cylinder engine delivers just enough power to make it feel spunky and its chassis is delightfully balanced—perfect for zipping through curvy sections of road. Both a soft-top convertible model and a power-folding hard-top called the RF are offered, so with either one buyers are treated to fun in the sun. The Miata’s cabin is tight for two and cargo space is limited, but it wasn’t made for road trips; it’s designed for sunny-drenched drives and track days. The fact that it remains one of the cheapest ways to get into a convertible sports car only adds to its appeal and makes it an Editors’ Choice selection.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
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. Even the optional automatic impresses, with quick shifts and sporty programming. The soft top model ran from zero to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds in our testing; the slightly heavier hardtop RF model needed 5.8. Miatas ride firmly and can get bouncy when driving over a quick succession of bumps. The mid-level Club’s firmer shocks and springs return the stiffest ride of the lineup, although no Miata rides poorly. The handling is eager, 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 a fun car, plain and simple.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Chalk up another “W” in the Miata’s column for its lightweight. With such a small amount of cars to haul around, the 2.0-liter engine manages relatively high EPA fuel-economy numbers of 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway (with the automatic transmission) and outperforms them in the real world. On our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test route, a soft-top Grand Touring model delivered 36 mpg and a hardtop RF Club managed 37 mpg, both equipped with Mazda’s excellent six-speed-manual transmission.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
You don’t sit in a Miata so much as wear it. The cabin is a cozy fit for two adults and includes only the bare essentials. While some might categorize the interior as spare, glass-half-full types (us) appreciate the businesslike prioritization of the steering wheel, pedals, and shifter and the refreshingly basic accommodations. With few storage cubbies, not to mention a tiny trunk, the Miata barely acknowledges the need to bring along your personal effects. Then again, its Lilliputian dimensions make few promises in the way of practicality. If you pack light, the trunk can accommodate a weekend’s worth of stuff for two. Meanwhile, the Subaru BRZ and the Toyota 86 twins absolutely crush the Miata when it comes to cargo space; their folding rear seats allow owners to haul up to four full-size wheels and tires (for, say, a track day) between the trunk and the cabin.