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 spirited 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.
What’s New for 2021?
Mazda celebrates its centennial this year with a 100th Anniversary Edition of the brand’s beloved sports car. The 100th Anniversary Edition will be offered on Grand Touring models with either the standard soft-top or the optional power hard-top; buyers can choose either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. All will come with Snowflake White Pearl Mica exterior paint over a red interior with leather upholstery. As if that candy cane color combo doesn’t make the car look special enough, Mazda is also adding special badging on the fenders, floormats, wheels, headrests, and key fob.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- Sport: $28,000 (est)
- Club: $32,000 (est)
- Grand Touring: $33,000 (est)
The mid-range Club trim strikes the best balance of features and performance here, especially now that it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as standard. Although the Miata is available with an automatic transmission, we believe it’s best equipped with the crisp and joyful six-speed manual. As for the debate between the convertible and the hardtop RF model, we’re an office divided so that decision is best left to you.
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 light weight. With such a small amount of car to haul around, the 2.0-liter engine manages relatively high EPA fuel-economy numbers 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.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The Miata boasts a touchscreen infotainment system that is made better by an easy-to-reach control knob and hard buttons on the center console. Every Miata comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity (for both phone and streaming-audio functions), as well as a CD player. Navigation is standard on the Grand Touring and a dealer-installed accessory on Club models—added via a Mazda SD card. Also included is HD radio compatibility. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on both the Club and Grand Touring models.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Given that neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have tested the Miata, its crashworthiness is unknown. The Miata’s driver-assistance features are all standard. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with forward-collision warning
- Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert
- Standard lane-departure warning
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
In this class, the warranty coverage is average, although it is worth noting that the Miata’s twin, the Fiat 124 Spider, boasts a longer limited warranty and an additional year of roadside assistance.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
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