The 2009 Mazda Miata, or MX-5 as it is known around the world, is a great car if you have one thing in mind, fun. You won’t be able to pick up a friend from the airport after their month long European vacation; there simply isn’t the room. When it comes to bringing someone along for the ride, you will have to choose between your girlfriend (or boyfriend) or your dog. You will have to keep a beanie in the glove box for cold days, because driving with the top up is just unacceptable.
However if you are the type of driver who looks forward to getting behind the wheel, like to compete in autocross events or just want to play Mario Andretti on your commute to work, the Mazda Miata is what you are looking for. Sure there are no big turbos or V8 rumble, instead you will find a reliable four cylinder engine that revs higher than the previous model, and although the 170 HP Miata won’t win any dyno competitions, it is more than enough power to motivate the 2,400 pound open air roadster to do things you would expect from a much more exotic, more expensive vehicle.
Continued after the jump.
With the recent facelift that debuted at the 2008 Paris Auto Show, Mazda is celebrating the Miata’s 20th anniversary, and this refreshed third generation MX-5 couldn’t be any better. The Miata was originally created to fill a gap in the automotive market left open by the demise of the English sports cars of the 1960’s. Based on the original Lotus Elan, Mazda focused on using the same lightweight, rear wheel drive, neutral handling formula that made Colin Chapman’s creation such a success when it debuted in 1962.
The engineers back in Hiroshima worked diligently to produce an affordable sports car, with a good power to weight ratio that would leave drivers with a grin as wide as the opening in the new front bumper. The Mazda engineering an design team did such a good job with the MX-5, that the automaker has sold over 855,000 units since the model debuted two decades ago, confirmed by the Guinnes Book of World Records as the most popular sports car ever built.
For 2009, Mazda’s design team has refreshed the styling of the third-generation Miata. Gone is the rounded----shaped look, replaced with the company’s Nagare design theme. The angular headlights, big mouth front bumper, lower to the ground lips underneath the redesigned fog lights combined with the bulging wheel arches make the MX-5 look like a more serious performance machine than ever before.
The Miata is anything but big, the roadster is only 49 inches tall with the top up, making it only 9 inches taller than Ford’s GT40 LeMans racecar. But after all, that was Mazda’s intention all along, keeping the weight as close to the ground as possible, giving the car a low center of gravity making it handle amazingly. Coming in at only 68 inches wide and 158 inches long gives the MX-5 a very small footprint, but that is just what you want for darting in and out of tight spaces.
One of my favorite things that could be seen from the exterior are the yellow and blue Bilstein shocks, these brand name performance pieces let you know the Miata’s retuned for ’09 suspension is a serious set up.
The interior of the Miata manages to be compact without feeling cramped. This is mainly attributed to the instruments being mounted low enough in the interior that the cockpit doesn’t feel claustrophobic. Just like the exterior, the Miata is anything but big, with the top up, people over six feet tall may have to practice a little contortionism in order to get comfortable. But this is a roadster, and the top is never supposed to be up anyway.
Like I said before, the instruments are all well within reach. The driver has to reach about the same distance to adjust the volume using the wheel-mounted volume as it does to turn the knob on the radio. Everything is laid out as it should be in the MX-5, for instance the short-throw shifter is located exactly where your hand would be resting anyway.
The only drawback to our Mazda Miata was the lack of a GPS navigation system, most likely due to a lack of available real estate.
The Miata doesn’t have the good fortune of having one of the most powerful engines under the hood, but the output DOHC 2.0 Liter four banger works best at higher RPM, afterall the Mazda engine team gave us an extra 500 extra revs before redline. However; unlike turbo motors that experience lag, the naturally aspirated unit has a linear power band that makes the Mazda pull hard all the way to its 130 MPH top speed. Most of the roadsters of the 1960’s didn’t even make 100 HP, but they were competitive because of their nimble chassis and excellent power to weight ratios. While the heavier, more powerful racecars had to slow down for a turn, the lightweight European roadsters could carry a faster speed through the same turn. So skipping forward about 40 years, the Miata may lose a few stop light drag races, but given the opportunity, the Japanese sports car will catch up in the twisties.
The Miata is one of the prime choices for the weekend racer. It even has its own one-make cup series. The suspension sticks to the road like glue and the steering must be telekinetic. The car has nearly 50/50 weight distribution, and a very low center of gravity because everything is so low to the ground. Everything wrapped in a package that’s affordable to purchase, and because it is so reliable, relatively cheap to maintain.
WHY TO BUY?
It’s hard to not to like a roadster. It’s lightweight, nimble, quick, and with the top down you can enjoy the wind in your hair. Starting at only $22,420, the soft top MX-5 is a bargain.
These days there are plenty of similar vehicles to choose from, like BMW’s new Z4 or the Honda S2000, but those drop tops are in a whole different league. The Honda starts at about $35,000 and the Bimmer costs around $45,000 before checking off any option boxes.
There is only one other platform that can compete in the $20,000 range, the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky. The twins from General Motors offer an additional 6 HP over the Miata, but their extra weight means the Miata still has a better power to weight ratio. Besides, the way that GM is headed, those two may not be around much longer.
So if you are looking for a fun car, one that will have you grinning from ear to ear on a daily basis, and won’t break the bank, check out the 2009 Mazda Miata MX-5.
WHY NOT TO BUY?
If you are foolish enough to put greater value upon your appearance to complete strangers than your own self-satisfaction stay away from the Miata. Sure you’ll look a little funny standing 6 feet 4 inches tall with your head stretched above the windshield, but don’t worry, because we would hate for you to drive a car that is an absolute joy to drive at a very attractive price.
TOP SPEED FINAL VERDICT
The 2009 Mazda Miata MX-5 is an all-around driver’s car capable of carrying one passenger and a few overnight bags. The Japanese roadster is more of what we have come to expect from Mazda. The face lifted, third-generation Miata adds aggressive styling to an already excellent performance package. If the handling of the MX-5 doesn’t put a smile on your face, the money you saved from not buying an exotic sports car definitely will.