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You could argue that everyone dreams of owning a sports car. And why wouldn't they? Sports cars offer thrills and excitement. They offer more connectivity to the road than any other type of car. They elevate the driving experience to one of pure fun and engagement. The drive is the thing, nothing else. More often than not, however, proper sports cars are financially out of reach for the average buyer. All except one: the 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
This car has enjoyed 33 years of bringing smiles and affordability into the world of "fun cars." It's by no means practical, but it was never designed to be. The MX-5, from its introduction at the Chicago Auto Show in 1989, has been about one thing: Zoom-Zoom. It can be argued that the MX-5 created the now famous Mazda slogan because while the Miata has never been "fast," it is zippy. Now well into its fourth generation, the MX-5 sits happily in its well-earned popularity, with more power, creature comforts, and safety features than any previous iteration. The MX-5 may just be the best bang for your buck in the sports car segment, and we're excited to share with you all it has to offer.
We can't review a sports car without looking at performance. For the MX-5, balance and easy shifting, paired with a small but peppy engine, combine to create the road-connected fun that Mazda is famous for. Mazda's storied racing heritage has brought elements of the track into the design of the engine and chassis. And it's that heritage and attention to detail that have made Mazda's the weekend racer of choice for thousands of drivers.
There is one standard engine across the MX-5 lineup––a naturally-aspirated 2.0L SKYACTIV-G 4-cylinder producing 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. On a larger car, this would be underwhelming, but the MX-5 is not a large car. Combined with a low center of gravity, balanced driving dynamics, the car's incredibly light weight, and rear-wheel drive, this little engine provides more than enough power to pelt you along at smile-inducing speeds. Mazda has recorded the top speed of the MX-5 to be 141 mph, so normal traffic speeds between 45 to 70 mph are within easy reach of this little engine.
Mazda has always prided itself on the easy gear shifting of the MX-5. The base transmission on all MX-5s is a SKYACTIV-MT 6-speed manual transmission with a short-throw shifter, allowing for snappy gear changes with extreme ease. Combined with a light flywheel and high-revving engine, a Miata with the manual transmission is a joy to drive. While there is no auto rev matching, the pedals are perfectly positioned for easy heel-toe rev matching. The manual also has close gear ratios that allow you to get maximum power out of the engine at nearly any speed.
The second transmission option, which is only available on top Grand Touring trim, is a 6-speed sport automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. You can switch your automatic transmission into sport mode, which will essentially mimic a manual transmission, only instead of changing gear via the stick and clutch, you simply pull on the + or - paddle on your steering wheel. This allows for gear changes on demand and can be great fun if you're a driver who wants a sports car but is not inclined towards a manual transmission.
Finally, balance. The MX-5 has a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution that Mazda has taken painstaking efforts to maintain across four generations. The driver is at the center of Mazda's driving ideology, so when developing the MX-5s balance, a test driver is always seated behind the wheel. Mazda has shed weight wherever it can, from the lightweight metal used for framing to the aluminum panels used for parts like the hood and trunk lid. These three aspects––engine, transmission, and balance––go towards creating a driver-focused road experience that is sure to keep a permanent grin on your face.
The 2022 MX-5 comes in a total of three trim levels: Sport, Club, and Grand Touring. The Miata RF version with the power-retractable hardtop is only available in the Club and Grand Touring trims. Each trim comes equipped with a variety of features, which we'll explore here.
The Sport is the base trim of the MX-5 Miata and with a starting MSRP of $27,650.[a] For this, you get a 6-speaker sound system, including speakers beside the driver headrest, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, keyless entry, cruise control, automatic side windows, mesh wind barrier, black cloth convertible top, black cloth seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter, and Bluetooth connectivity. On the exterior, you get 16" Metallic Black painted aluminum alloy wheels mated with P195/50 R16 high-performance tires. The infotainment system is controlled via a 7" full-color screen and comes with connectivity for Aha, Stitcher, and Pandora. There are only two color options available for the Sport: Jet Black Mica or Soul Red Crystal Metallic.
Next up is the Club, with a starting MSRP of $31,150.[a] This comes with much the same features as the Sport, with some notable upgrades. First, the audio system on the Club is a Bose 9-speaker setup with AudioPilot, drivers headrest speakers, and a subwoofer. Also available is a 3-month trial subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio. The color palette for the Club is increasingly more varied than the Sport, with seven options. However, driving enthusiasts will be most excited to learn that the Club comes standard with a mechanical limited-slip differential, Bilstein dampers, and added chassis bracing. Speaking of additionals, you can equip your MX-5 Club with the optional Brembo/BBS/Recaro Package, which gives you Brembo front brakes with red calipers, BBS forged 17" alloy wheels, an aero kit with side sill extensions and rear bumper skirt, and Recaro leather sports seats. This optional package is only available on the Club.
Finally, we have the Grand Touring with its starting MSRP of $32,650.[a] This trim doesn't offer anything new in the way of the engine, but it is the only model to come available with an automatic transmission. However, only manual transmission versions come with a limited-slip differential. Add to this Black or Terracotta Nappa leather seats, Mazda's own onboard navigation system (which is available on the other two trims), and a full subscription to SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, which will give you information on traffic, sports scores, weather, fuel prices, and more. Additionally, you get an auto dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, rain-sensing wipers, five color options, 17" alloy wheels, and adaptive LED headlights.
We'd be remiss if we didn't discuss the suite of safety features Mazda has included with the MX-5 Miata because, as we all know, fun can occasionally turn sour. Especially with small sports cars, which are not designed to be tanks, it'll be a comfort to anyone driving that these safety features are available.
All 2020 MX-5 Miatas come fully equipped with a range of modern driver-assist systems. These include standard rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, which come in handy for monitoring the blind spots created when the convertible top is up. A lane departure warning system is also standard, and the Grand Touring trim comes with a traffic sign recognition system designed to alert you to changes in speed limits.
Mazda has also equipped the MX-5 with its exclusive Smart City Brake Support System. What this does is aid the driver in avoiding collisions while driving at slow speeds. The Smart City Brake support activates between 2 and 18 mph, using a short-range laser mounted on the windshield to sense objects in front of you. If the system detects an imminent collision, it triggers the brakes to prevent an accident. However, Mazda fully understands that the Miata is a sports car and allows you to disable all driver-assist systems at the touch of a button if you want to take your car on the track.