When Mazda introduced the Miata back in 1990, the company never could have imagined the little roadster would still be selling strong two decades later. While it's true you can find a number of cars in the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata's price range, only a few can match this car for pure driving fun. In the MX-5 Miata, Mazda has recreated the open-air driving thrill of a classic British roadster, only in a vehicle that is reasonably safe, very affordable and extremely reliable. Plus, with the option of a retractable hardtop, the Miata can now comfortably serve as a year-round driver.
Is the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata for everyone? Certainly not. But if you have the means, it's hard to argue against it as a second car. The Miata's tiny trunk can barely fit an overnight bag, and there isn't much elbow or hip room. But the Miata isn't about convenience; it's about driving pleasure at its most basic level. The Miata's modest 2.0-liter engine isn't big on power, but at a mere 2,400 pounds, how much power does the Miata really need?
What's New for 2014?
With an all-new model slated for 2015, there are no changes to the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
What We Like
Turn-on-a-dime handling; easy to operate soft-top; excellent reliability record; affordable price
What We Don't
Small trunk; cramped interior; audio options are behind the times; average crash-test ratings
The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata's 2.0-liter engine develops a very respectable 167 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque. Cars with the 6-speed automatic have a slightly lower output of 158 hp. Base Sport trims are equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission, while the Club and Grand Touring employ a 6-speed gearbox. All three trims can be equipped with Mazda's 6-speed automatic transmission and its steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Fuel economy for the Miata is rated at 22 miles per gallon city/28 mpg hwy with the 5-speed manual and 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with either the 6-speed auto or 6-speed manual.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes in three trims: Sport, Club and Grand Touring. All offer a retractable soft-top, with the Club and Grand Touring offering the option of a retractable hardtop.
The MX-5 Miata Sport ($24,515) comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, power windows with 1-touch up/down driver's window, power mirrors, cloth seats, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers and auxiliary input jack, 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels and dual exhaust. When ordered with the automatic transmission, the Convenience Package is made standard and adds cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted controls for the cruise and audio, a trip computer, power door locks, keyless remote entry and remote control of the power windows.
The MX-5 Miata Club ($27,700) adds a 6-speed manual transmission, Dark Gunmetal 17-in alloy wheels, a strut tower brace and blackout trim around the headlight, mirrors, front air damn and rear diffuser. Club models with the manual transmission come standard with the Suspension Package that includes Bilstein shocks, a sport-tuned suspension and limited-slip rear differential. The Club model is available only with a black top and includes specialized "Club" graphics and badging.
The MX-5 Miata Grand Touring ($28,345) brings 17-in silver aluminum alloy wheels, a choice of black or mocha soft-tops (hardtops are body colored), heated seats, leather seating surfaces, leather shift knob and parking brake, 7-speaker Bose audio with 6-CD changer upgrade and an auto-dimming mirror.
The Grand Touring can be outfitted with the Club trim's Suspension Package, which must be paired with the Premium Package that adds Bluetooth, HID headlights, SiriusXM satellite radio and Mazda's Advanced Key keyless entry and start.
The retractable hardtop adds about $1,700 to the MX-5 Miata's bottom line.
The Miata is equipped with all the required safety features (ABS, traction and stability control and front airbags) and additional equipment such as side-impact airbags and integrated roll bars behind the seats. Still, the car's small size, low profile and lack of a fixed roof mean that certain types of collisions could expose the occupants to more serious injury.
Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash-tested the 2014 Miata, so it's hard to say definitively how the car will hold up in an accident. We did find crash-test data dating back to 2002, in which the Miata scores four out of five stars in the government's front-end crash test and three out of five in its side-impact test.
Behind the Wheel
Any criticism leveled against the MX-5 Miata goes out the window once you get the car out on the open road. It may be a cliché to say the Miata is endowed with go-kart-like handling, but that's exactly what it feels like. With almost no hood or trunk overhang to negotiate, the driver feels as though the only things between him or her and the road are a steering wheel and a windshield.
The Miata responds instantly to the most modest steering wheel input. Cornering is nearly flat, and recovering from an overly enthusiastic maneuver is as easy as letting off the throttle while working the wheel until the car corrects itself. In such scenarios, the electronic stability control is a welcome safety feature, but when you just want to have a little naughty fun, the stability program can be switched off.
We love the Miata's manual transmission, which is so tight and precise that it can row through the gears with little more than a flick of the wrist.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW Z4 -- The Z4 is priced far above the MX-5 Miata, but it offers a similar driving experience with more power and more prestige.
Volkswagen Eos -- The Eos can't compete with the Miata on the track. But if you're looking for an affordable, comfortable convertible experience, the Eos is more accommodating and has more high-tech features.
If you can afford the added cost, we suggest the Club or Grand Touring hardtop models. The top doesn't add much weight to the car and allows the Miata to be driven year-round. If you're a die-hard soft-top fan, we'd go for the Club model with the Suspension Package.