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2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by AutoTrader November 2018

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata gets a boost in horsepower this year, making it an even more thrilling 2-seat roadster. As with the original Miata, the MX-5 Miata retains its small size, normally aspirated 4-cylinder engine and near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Unlike that first model, however, the 2019 MX-5 offers a more sophisticated interior plus the choice of a soft-top or a convenient retractable hardtop (dubbed the MX-5 Miata RF). Power flows through a superb manual transmission so precise that it can be shifted with just a flick of the fingertip, and the MX-5's steering is so precise that you'll think you're driving a go-kart. Being a 2-seat, open-air roadster, the MX-5 isn't big on frills, but it does provide a comfortable cockpit (provided you're no taller than six feet), head-turning styling and a price tag that no other car in the class can match.

For all the praise heaped on the Miata, it still has a number of weak spots. The trunk remains rather tiny and the seating position is extremely low. But for the money, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better machine to soak up the sun and enjoy the long way home than the 2019 MX-5 Miata.

What's New for 2019?

For 2019, the MX-5 gains an additional 21 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque. New standard features include a rearview camera and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, while Smart City Brake Support (low-speed automatic braking) is added to the Grand Touring trim, and is now available on the Sport and Club models as part of two new optional packages. The CD player has been dropped.

What We Like

Stunning design; 1-handed top operation; precise manual gearbox; excellent handling; modern interior; good on gas

What We Don't

Snug seats; still not comfortable for anyone over six feet tall; tiny trunk; dash-mounted screen washes out in sunlight; awkwardly shaped passenger footwell; no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

How Much?

$26,625-$35,000

Fuel Economy

Mazda equips the MX-5 with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. This might not seem like a lot of power, but in a car that only weighs 2,381 pounds, it's more than sufficient.

Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates for the 6-speed manual are 26 miles per gallon in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in combined driving, while the 6-speed automatic with manual paddle shift control comes in at 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 MX-5 Miata comes in three distinct trims: Sport, Club and Grand Touring, with the latter two trims also being offered with a retractable hardtop. All come standard with a 6-speed manual, but offer a 6-speed automatic with manual shift control as an option.

The MX-5 Sport ($26,625) brings 16-in alloy wheels, a sport-tuned exhaust, front and rear stabilizer bars, dual power mirrors, a manual soft-top with a glass rear window and defroster, power windows/mirrors/door locks, a rearview camera, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, Advanced Smart Keyless Entry, the Mazda Connect infotainment system, a 7-in color touchscreen, a console-mounted multifunction controller, HD Radio, an AM/FM stereo with six speakers and a USB port, Bluetooth, cruise control, a leather shift knob, a parking-brake boot and a trip computer. Optional on the Sport is the i-Activsense package that adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, Smart City Brake Support and lane-departure warning.

The MX-5 Club ($30,485 soft top), ($33,240, RF hard top) with the manual transmission adds Bilstein shocks, a limited-slip differential, shock tower bracing and an induction sound enhancer. Opting for the automatic transmission deletes the above-listed equipment. Common standard equipment regardless of transmission includes 17-in dark gunmetal alloy wheels, a front air dam, a rear-lip spoiler, Bose 9-speaker audio, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist and upgraded interior seating with red stitching and heated seats.

Optional on the Club is the Brembo/BBS package that adds Brembo front brakes with red calipers, 17-in BBS wheels, an aero kit and leather seats. The Brembo/BBS Recaro package adds Recaro sport seats. The Club i-Activsense package adds Smart City Brake Support and lane-departure warning.

The MX-5 Grand Touring ($31,657 soft top), ($35,305 RF hard top) deletes most of the Club's performance upgrades and adds auto on/off headlights, an auto-dimming driver's-side mirror, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, leather seating, automatic climate control, navigation, heated front seats, adaptive front headlights with auto high-beam control and unique alloy wheels. Standard safety equipment includes Smart City Brake Support (low-speed automatic braking), a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic assist and lane-departure warning. A new GT-S package adds a limited slip differential, shock tower brace and Bilstein dampers.

There are no other factory options for the MX-5, but numerous dealer add-ons are available to choose from.

Safety

The MX-5 comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic traction and stability control and a tire-pressure monitor, plus front and side-impact airbags. Available driver-assist features include lane-departure warning, low-speed emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist.

To date, neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the 2019 MX-5 Miata.

Behind the Wheel

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata sits low, has a snug interior and doesn't require a whole lot of power to deliver a whole lot of fun. Under the hood, there's a 2.0-liter 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing producing 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. In a new car market that's mad about power, those numbers don't seem all that impressive. However, in the manual version, which weighs just 2,332 pounds, or the automatic version (2,381 pounds), 181 hp feels just right. The MX-5 accelerates briskly and always seems to have power on tap when you need it. The 6-speed manual transmission and buttery clutch deliver precise, quick shifting. The available 6-speed automatic transmission comes with paddle shifters, and the top two cogs are overdriven.

The real strength of the MX-5 isn't its engine or its transmission -- it's the setup. Much of the weight of the MX-5's engine is behind the front axles, with the goal of centralizing weight, which results in better balance. With mass and weight distributed equally from front to rear and from side to side, handling becomes much more precise and predictable. The MX-5 is very easy and fun to drive at any pace.

Although we understand everyone is moving to large, fixed touchscreen infotainment displays, we have mixed emotions regarding the setup in the MX-5. The screen is large and bright but sometimes gets washed out by the sun, and the touchscreen function only works when the car is still. Once in motion, you have to use the awkwardly placed controller to toggle through screens. We also noticed when in navigation mode, there is no sidebar to show what's happening with the audio, meaning you have to toggle back and forth through screens to make song or station changes. And still no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Fiat 124 Spider Convertible -- Although the Fiat 124 Spider is based off the MX-5 platform, it has a style and feel all its own, plus a turbocharged engine that's less powerful than the MX-5's engine.

2019 Mini Cooper Convertible -- The Mini Convertible also has a rear seat, three turbocharged engine options and more technology and safety features. The Mini's cloth top can also be partially opened to act like a targa roof.

2019 Nissan 370Z Roadster -- This 2-seat sports car is larger and heavier than the MX-5, but it also has nearly twice the hp. However, the 370Z costs more than an MX-5 (by as much as $20,000, depending on the model).

Used Porsche Boxster -- A 2014-2017 Porsche Boxster offers more power and better performance pedigree, plus a more comfortable (and quiet) cockpit.

Autotrader's Advice

If you're just looking for a fun, sporty convertible, the base Sport trim is really all the car you'll need. As all three trims use the same engine and transmission combination, performance enhancements only come in the form of improved handling and braking with the Club trim's Brembo package. Audio fanatics should note that the MX-5's audio setup is not easy to upgrade with an aftermarket system, so if you want great sound, you'll have to opt for the Bose system in either the Club or Grand Touring. Regardless, no trim offers a CD player, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata: New Car Review - Autotrader