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2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is really one of the more polarizing roadsters available today. Those who are fans of it — myself included — rave about its handling, power-to-weight ratio, analog feel and balance on the track. Those who hate it argue that it looks like a "chick’s car," isn’t fast enough, too loud and never has all of the cool features found in modern cars.

Well, Mazda has — for the most part — ignored all of the MX-5 haters and focused on what the MX-5 lovers desire from the Japanese roadster. When Mazda redesigned the MX-5 in 2006, it listened to enthusiasts by adding in a Club Spec model that eliminated all of the higher-end features and replaced them with performance goodies, like Billstein struts, a strut tower brace and upgraded tires. Well, Mazda was gracious enough to bestow upon me a 2014 MX-5 Club for a week, and as a Miataphile, I was more than thrilled to get a crack at a new model.

I personally own a modified 2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 that pumps out about 225 to 250 horsepower, so I had a good base to go off of for this review. Some of you may think that since my daily driver is a modded MX-5 that I may not find the new Club model all that thrilling, but you would be absolutely incorrect.

Click past the jump to read our Driven review of the 2014 Mazda Miata Club.

Exterior

Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven
Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven
Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

On the outside is where the MX-5 gets the majority of its flak, particularly the NC generation (the 2006 - present generation). The previous generation, known as the NB,

"Why do I say "yum" to scratchy plastic? Well, because it is light and cheap..."

had a slightly more aggressive look to it, helping alleviate the "chick’s car" tag, but the softening of the body in 2006 resurrected those jokes. I’ve never been one to tease about the looks of the MX-5 — even before I was a fan of them — as I knew the purpose was to keep the curb weight low and the air moving, and the MX-5’s body has always done both effectively.

On the club model, particularly this sexy red one that Mazda lent me, you get a little shot of testosterone with the contrasting hard top, rims and lower-body stripe. On top of the cool factor, that contrasting hard top also did a great job keeping wind noise to a minimum, but we’ll get to that later.

On the outside, the MX-5 Club is fairly simple, as it features 17-inch aluminum alloys, halogen headlights with projector low beams, keyless entry, the aforementioned graphics, front air dam, black mirrors, rear diffuser and a cool club decal on the front fender. Pretty simple, but just enough to spice up the MX-5 a little and distract you from the weak-looking body.

Is it a sexy Bimmer Z4 or Mercedes SLK? No way, but it is a good-looking roadster that checks in under $30k and performs well. ’Nuff said.

2014 Mazda MX-5 Club PRHT - Standard Interior Features

  • 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with gunmetal finish
  • Halogen headlights with projector-type low beams
  • Halogen fog lights
  • Black power retractable hard top
  • Remote keyless entry with retractable key
  • Exclusive Club model badging and side graphics
  • Body-colored decoration panel with Club graphics
  • Painted black power mirrors
  • Front air dam and rear diffuser

Badging In Detail

Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

2014 Mazda MX-5 Club - Exterior Specifications

Length157.3 Inches
Width67.7 Inches
Height49.4 Inches
Wheelbase91.7 Inches
Curb weight2,593 Pounds

Interior

Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven
Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven
Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

On the inside of the 2014 MX-5 Club, things are pretty much the same, as Mazda focused mostly on making its as light as possible and keeping the MSRP in a range that

"...the purpose was to keep the curb weight low and the air moving, and the MX-5's body has always done both effectively."

most shoppers can afford. I definitely liked the little red accent on the face of the instrument panel that the Club model adds, but the rest of the interior was a sea of black, scratchy plastic — yum. Why do I say "yum" to scratchy plastic? Well, because it is light and cheap...

When buying any MX-5 other than the Grand Touring, you aren’t looking for the latest and greatest in features. You want it light and you want it cheap, and this is where Mazda really listens to its buyers. Sure, there are the few that opt for the fully loaded Grand Touring model, but they are not the key demographic for the MX-5. That trim is for buyers that want a Z4, but cannot swing the $49k base price that it comes with.

One thing I fell in love with on this hard-top model was the easy-to-operate top. All it took to open it was a pull of one latch — not two latches like on my 2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 — and a press of a button. Not too shabby if I say so myself. Plus that hard top kept things nice and quiet on the inside, which is something that my soft-top model struggles with.

There were a few things that were really off in this cabin though. First of all, the sun visors are made from plastic; I am all for light and cheap, but c’mon Mazda, really? Secondly was the lack of SiriusXM radio. As a huge satellite radio fan (baba booey, baba booey), I see no reason for any car not to come standard with it.

Other than the lack of SiriusXM, the sound system was good for a lower-end convertible. The bass was throaty and firm, and the highs were pronounced. Even at high volume, everything came through clearly and there were no rattles at all.

The seats are thin at best, as they lack any real padding to keep you comfortable, but they do wrap you up in a tight embrace that makes you feel confident in the corners. The steering wheel is leather wrapped, but unpadded so you get plenty of feedback despite the typically numb electric-assist steering. Lastly, the button setup was well planned, and I rarely found myself hunting for a particular button.

Overall, the cabin is acceptable for a roadster at this level. It is not going to stack up to premium roadsters, but it is perfect for drivers that are looking for simplicity and functionality.

2014 Mazda MX-5 Club - Standard Interior Features

  • Air conditioning
  • Power windows with driver’s one-touch-down feature
  • Cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls
  • Cloth-trimmed seats with red stitching
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
  • Trip computer
  • AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible audio system
  • Dual front air bags and side-impact air bags
  • Body-colored decoration panel with Club graphics
  • Contoured IP gauge hood with dark gray meter rings
  • Dark Gray seatback bar accents

Dashboard Accent Detail

Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

Gauges Detail

Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

2014 Mazda MX-5 Club - Interior Specifications

Legroom43.1 Inches
Headroom37 Inches
Hip room50.6 Inches
Shoulder room53.2 Inches
Maximum Cargo Capacity5.3 Cubic Feet

Drivetrain

Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

The drivetrain is where the MX-5 partly makes up for the lack of niceties. Mazda packed in a 2.0-liter four-pot that packs quite a punch at 167 horsepower and 140

"...they do wrap you up in a tight embrace that makes you feel confident in the corners."

pound-feet of torque through a six-speed manual transmission. Yeah, it doesn’t come close to my turbocharged 1.8-liter, but this is a different type of engine altogether, as the powerband is smooth and makes the car feel a lot faster than its roughly 6.9-second sprint to 60 mph may lead you to believe.

What’s more, this engine has the perfect — and I mean PERFECT — exhaust and intake system. The intake lets out a low and throaty note on full throttle that is enough to get any motorhead smiling, and the exhaust actually lets out a little crackle when you downshift. Coming from the whir and whoosh sounds that I am used to hearing from my MX-5, this was certainly a nice change of tune that I really did not expect.

On top of the peppy four banger, the MX-5’s transmission is smooth as silk. It engages positively, leaving no doubt whether you mis-shifted or not, and the clutch is very consistent. The only issue I had with the car is that the 140 pound-feet of torque was not great forgetting the tires rolling, but the byproduct of this are clean launches each and every time, so we’ll take the good with the bad on that front.

In terms of fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2014 MX-5 at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, and I hit both numbers pretty consistently.

Overall, the powertain is very well matched for this sub-2,600-pound roadster. Yeah, it is no speed demon, but it is a perfect balance that I learned to fall in love with after just one drive.

2014 Mazda MX-5 Club - Drivetrain Specifications

Engine Liters2.0
Cylinder configurationIn-Line Four-Cylinder
Horsepower (HP @ RPM)167 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque (LB-FT @ RPM)140 @ 5,000 rpm
No. of valves16
Standard TransmissionSix-Speed Manual
Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)21 / 28 / 24

Suspension Brakes

Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

Where the MX-5 Club completely makes you forget about its lack of features is in its suspension and braking systems. Likely the biggest addition to the Club model is the sport-tuned suspension system with Bilstein shocks — similar to my Mazdaspeed setup. On top of that, you also get a front strut brace to help stiffen up the front end for point-and-go handling.

Taking this little roaster through the country roads just a few miles from my house was a thing of beauty. It effortlessly hugs the pavement and seems to almost pull itself through tight turns, and the suspension is dialed in perfectly as to not be too awful hard on your backside in the process. That said, don’t think that this is a road-trip-worthy rig either, as 500 miles is about all your derriere can take before needing a little break. In all, the suspension really is a delicate balance that my MX-5 simply does not have. Even the road noise was not overbearing; yes, it is still present, but it is not nearly as bad of MX-5s of yesteryear.

The brakes are also superb, but you expect that from a 2,600-pound roadster, Anything less would make absolutely no sense.

It is really clear where Mazda focused when putting together the Club trim level. It decided to leave out all of the cool features and focus on delivering a suspension system that true Miata enthusiasts will fall in love with. Nice work, Mazda...

Pricing

Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

The 2014 Miata starts at $20,000, but the model tested was $28,665.

Competition

The MX-5 Club really lacks a direct competitor in the market, as the Z4 and SLK are way out of its price point and too luxury-based for consideration, and most of the other small roadsters all have four seats, so we’ll just have to use our imagination here.

2014 Mini Cooper Roadster S

Mini Roadster

Okay, the most direct competition for the MX-5 Club has to be the Cooper Roadster S, which checks in at just $28,550. Under its hood is a 1.6-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that puts down a tidy 181 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 177 pound-feet of torque between 1,600 and 5,000 rpm. That’s more power and torque than the MX-5, plus it hits its peak torque much lower in the rpm range than the Mazda. The Mini Mini does weigh a little more — 2,745 pounds — but it still hits 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, which is about 0.2 seconds faster than the Mazda.

I’ve never personally driven the Cooper Roadster S, but just by looking at its 195/55R16 tires and base suspension, I am confident that it is not on the MX-5’s level in terms of handling.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line Convertible

Volkswagen Beetle Turbo R-Line Convertible

Okay guys, you can go ahead and grumble all you want, but the Beetle R-Line Convertible is about the only other realistic competitor to the MX-5 Miata Club. Yeah, it’s bigger, heavier and more powerful than the MX-5, but its sport-tuned suspension, good looks and peppiness all make it a good choice for cross-shoppers that are more open to four-seat convertibles.

Under its hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pout that puts down 210 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 207 pound-feet of torque at ,1700 rpm. Much like the Cooper Roadster S, we assume that the Beetle R-Line Convertible is faster than the MX-5 in a straight line, but nowhere near it in the corners.

The R-Line Convertible starts slightly higher than the Mazda MX-5 Club: $29,395.

Conclusion

Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven

Where do I leave off? Honestly, maybe I wasn’t the best tester, as I am a certified Miata nut; then again, maybe that makes me the best to review it, as I am very critical of them too. The MX-5 Club really does balance out the gap between the base Sport trim and the relatively flabby Gran Touring trim, giving real Miata fans a peppy and precise roadster that they can afford and enjoy. I definitely give the MX-5 Miata Club a huge thumbs up!

LOVE IT
  • Precise handling, thanks to a sport-tuned suspension and Bilstein shocks
  • Engine sounds throaty and exhaust pops off a nice crackle once in a while
  • Perfect power-to-weight ratio and excellent balance in the corners
  • One of the few analog, rear-wheel-drive roadsters left
LEAVE IT
  • Could benefit from modern, twin-scroll turbocharging technology
  • Not built for long road trips
  • The Club model is almost featureless and may become boring to tech people


What is your take?

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