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2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

The 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible is nearly the last of its kind. It’s a small, nimble 2-seat convertible for less than $30,000, and its only real competition is the Fiat 124 Spider, which is based on the MX-5 Miata‘s platform but has revised styling and a turbocharged engine. But that’s about all you’ll find — unless, of course, you move to the used car lot, in which case an older Porsche Boxster, a Nissan 370Z or an Audi TT might qualify.

So what do you get for your money? As with the original Miata, the current MX-5 Miata retains its small size, its normally aspirated 4-cylinder engine and its near-perfect 50-50 weight distribution. Unlike that first model, however, the 2020 version offers a more sophisticated interior and the choice of a soft top or a convenient retractable hardtop (on 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 responsive 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 come with a comfortable cockpit (provided you’re no taller than 6 feet), head-turning styling and a reasonable price tag. However, for all the praise heaped on the Miata, it still has a number of weak spots. The trunk remains rather tiny, the ride can be rough and the seating position is extremely low.

What’s New for 2020?

For 2020, the MX-5 gains Mazda‘s i-ACTIVSENSE suite of standard driver assists, which includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning. The Club and Grand Touring trims gain Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Grand Touring with the manual transmission inherits the Club’s limited-slip differential, Bilstein dampers, shock tower brace and sport suspension. Rounding out the changes are a new key fob design, some new paint colors and a new font on the MX-5 and Mazda badges. See the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata models for sale near you

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 6 feet tall
  • Tiny trunk
  • Dash-mounted screen washes out in sunlight
  • Awkwardly shaped passenger footwell

How Much?

$27,500-$36,000

Fuel Economy

Mazda equips the MX-5 with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 181 horsepower 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. 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 2020 MX-5 Miata comes in three distinct trims: Sport, Club and Grand Touring. The latter two offer with a retractable hardtop. Each comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission but offers a 6-speed automatic with manual shift control as an option.

The MX-5 Sport trim ($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, power mirrors, power 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 connectivity, cruise control, a leather shift knob, a parking brake boot and a trip computer. Standard safety equipment includes the i-ACTIVSENSE package, which adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, Smart City Brake Support and lane-departure warning.

The MX-5 Club trim ($31,210 soft top, $33,965 RF hardtop) 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 that equipment. Common standard equipment regardless of transmission includes 17-in dark gunmetal alloy wheels, a front air dam, a rear-lip spoiler, a Bose 9-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and upgraded interior seating with silver stitching and heated seats.

Optional on the Club trim is the Brembo/BBS Recaro package ($4,470 soft top, $4,670 RF hardtop), which adds Brembo front brakes with red calipers, 17-in dark gunmetal BBS wheels, an aero kit and heated Recaro sport seats. On the RF, this package also includes a hand-painted black roof.

The MX-5 Grand Touring ($32,590 soft top, $35,345 RF hardtop) with the manual transmission picks up the Club trim’s limited-slip differential and sport suspension. The automatic models don’t have most of the Club’s performance upgrades. Standard on the Grand Touring are automatic 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 automatic high beam control, traffic sign recognition and unique alloy wheels. A red Nappa leather interior package costs an additional $300.

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

Safety

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

To date, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the 2020 MX-5 Miata.

Behind the Wheel

The 2020 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, which weighs 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 the engine or the 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 that 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 it 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 that when in navigation mode, there’s no sidebar to show what’s happening with the audio, meaning you have to toggle through screens to make song or station changes.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Fiat 124 Spider — 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 offers less horsepower but far more torque than the MX-5’s engine.

2020 Mini Cooper Convertible — The Mini convertible also has a rear seat and three turbocharged engine options, and it has more technology and safety features than the Miata. The Mini’s cloth top can also be partially opened to act like a targa roof.

2020 Ford Mustang Convertible — The Mustang convertible costs about the same as the Grand Touring MX-5, but it’s also much larger than the Miata. The Mustang certainly won’t ride or handle like the little roadster, but it offers more standard horsepower, more interior room and more available upgrades.

Used Porsche Boxster — A 2014-to-2017 Porsche Boxster offers more power and better performance pedigree, plus a quieter and more comfortable 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 trim. Find a Mazda MX-5 Miata for sale

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