Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mazda MX-5 Miata's sporty charms have aged well

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo auto reviews also can be seen on the The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the "Car Reviews" link at PHOTO GALLERIES on the home page.

This review originally appeared in the September 2014 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Can the Mazda MX-5 Miata really be 25 years old?

Remember when the Miata first came out? People went wacko over the tiny, sporty two-seaters.  Folks with more money than common sense were offering twice the asking price just to get one in their hands.

Well, at least they were affordable.  And frankly, the two-seater remains a bargain.

My 2014 tester was the priciest of 10, count ’em, 10 varieties: a Grand Touring model with a power hardtop, with a starting price of $30,550 ($32,735 with a few add-ons).  For the record, basic Miata fare starts at around $23,750.

To be brutally honest, I could not remember the last I was in a Miata, but I’m fairly certain I was a lot younger and way more flexible, physically speaking.  The roofline seemed to come up to my hip, so there was no graceful way to enter the car.  Essentially, I opened the driver’s side door, turned 90 degrees and collapsed backwards (and heavily) onto the driver’s seat.

I’m sure the neighbors, watching from behind their windows, found this hilarious.  And I’m likewise sure that they chuckled at my MX-5 exit strategy: open door, extend left foot onto pavement and thrust body upward into the open air … leg bones cracking all the way.

So, you get it, the MX-5 Miata remains a small car.  Size aside, its old-school sporty charms have aged with grace and are relentlessly appealing.

The exterior look is angular and race-ready aggressive.  For me, the car always takes my mind back to Triumph models of my childhood.  Good memories those.

Inside, the cockpit is functional and uncluttered, no minor feat given the small confines of the interior space.  Everything is clear and easy to use.  The contemporary MX-5 Miata is better equipped than those early models.  Modern amenities on my ride included a Bose audio system with seven speakers, heated leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel-mounted controls for multiple functions.

On the fly, the Miata is a joy.  And here’s where I part with some of my auto-reviewing colleagues.  They correctly point out that the four-cylinder, about 160-horsepower engine does not ring up sparkling zero-to-60 mph times.  But the engine propels the lightweight machine so briskly and instantly, and with such an ear-pleasing note, that you pretty much don’t care what the stopwatch says.

It’s fun and it feels good.  People who feel that way about numerous things tend to lead happy lives.  So there!

Yes, Mazda has messed with the name over the years.  Call it an MX-5.  No wait, call it a Miata.  Happily, with 25 years of history invested in the model, the automaker proudly refers to it now as an MX-5 Miata.  Good call.

Nope, this is not a family car.  No, it won’t carry a lot of luggage.  In truth, it’s not really functional as a second stay-at-home car to run errands, again because of cargo/people-hauling limitations.

But for sporty fun at an affordable price, the MX-5 Miata is an A-lister.  Here’s hoping it breezes through another quarter century.

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