Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT—Top up or down, possibly one of the best sports cars available

2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT - Subcompact Culture

What do you think of when you hear "Miata"? Some think legendary sports car with great driving dynamics, a true driver's car, top-down fun, and razor-sharp handling. Then there are those that think "chick car." Those that think the Miata is a car meant solely for use by the fairer sex, you're sorely mistaken. This is a bona-fide sports car through and through, and if you don't think so, you likely haven't driven one.

Pros: Amazing handling; easy-to-use power hardtop; classic good looks; grin-inducing driving experience with the top up or down.
Cons: Interior can be a bit small; having to stop driving at some point.
Overall: The legend continues. And with the hardtop, year-round enjoyment is even easier.
The venerable Mazda MX-5 Miata has been in production for more than 20 years and has sold more than 850,000 units. It is essentially the quintessential modern sports car. Think "British sports car" but without the terrible Lucas electrics and more safety features. The car is one of the most fun-to-drive vehicles out there, regardless of price, even though the MX-5 isn’t nearly as fast as some other sports cars. With the availability of a power retracting hard top (PRHT) convertible, the Miata could be the ultimate affordable all-weather convertible, and is definitely a modern day sports car icon.

2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT - Subcompact CultureEXTERIOR STYLING: Classic sports car looks, top up or top down

The MX-5 Miata isn't groundbreaking stylistically, rather it's a classic looking convertible. I happen to think the latest generation Miata looks great with both top up and down. Speaking of, the PRHT looks outstanding up and fools many people into thinking it’s actually a fixed-roof coupe. However, at the push of a button, it turns into an open-air vehicle.

2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT - Subcompact CultureINTERIOR: Well appointed, sporting, and a bit cramped

It’s no secret the MX-5 Miata is small, and that translates into the interior, too. On long trips, the MX-5 can become cramped, especially for passengers (or so they told me). I’m a whopping 5’7” tall and I have enough legroom, but my knees do tend to bump up against the center console. Overall, the Grand Touring’s two-tone, leather-clad interior is very nice. And I loved the large easy-to-read gauges with full instrumentation.

A couple of things to note: The power window controls are in the center—something that takes some getting used to. Also, the seats just hit me in the wrong spot lumbar wise, and there isn’t an adjustment. Hey, you can’t make a seat to fit everyone, right? By the way, the Miata's trunk is usable, certainly enough to stow a couple of bags. My wife and I went on a two-day trip to the Oregon coast with two laptop bags, two duffel bags, a backpack, and managed to fit in a couple of purchases along the way.

But lets’ face it: The showpiece here is the hardtop, and it’s super easy to use. Undo one latch and hold down the “top down” button until it beeps. Done. It takes 12 seconds to open or close the top. It’s very cool.

With the top up, there is noticeable wind noise but you can be sure it isn’t going to leak when it’s raining. With the top down, the interior is remarkably quiet, and even more so with the windows up

TECHNOLOGY: Not too much, not too little

The MX-5 has a fair amount of tech goodness including a Bose stereo, an easy-to-use Bluetooth system, steering wheel controls, HIDs, all the safety equipment you’ll want, and of course, that super-cool power hardtop. Navigation is not available. Frankly, I’m glad the MX-5 isn’t laden with over-the-top tech features; I think it’d ruin the car’s classic persona.

2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT - Subcompact CultureENGINE/DRIVETRAIN: Free revving engine mated to a great transmission

Fun, fun fun. The high-revving 2.0-liter engine will cook past 7,000 RPM—it’s a screamer, even if it’s not a rocketship, which makes it feel faster than it is. Regardless, the MX-5 does fine with its 167 hp output. Mated to a close-ratio six-speed manual that begs to be run through the gears, the MX-5 Miata is about as much fun as you can have in a car. It’s proof positive it’s fun to drive a slow car fast (although it’s not exactly slow). It’s a great combination of engine and transmission. Plus, it has a limited-slip differential for those oh so twisty moments. Lots-o-fun!

DRIVING: An incredibly rewarding experience

The Miata never feels underpowered. The combination of a usable powerband and well thought out gear ratios allows for a great amount of flexibility, whether driving in the city or on the highway. Plus, this high-revving engine sounds good, too—especially with the top down. The MX-5 is a sprinter. It loves to get up and go and be tossed around the twisties, and handling is second to none. Basically, think of what you believe a sports car should be, and that’s the Miata. Could it use 30 more horsepower? Sure; what couldn't? However, with that extra power would come extra fuel consumption. I got 28 MPG with mostly highway driving. Pretty good.

For a sports car, the MX-5 rides quite well, too. Whether running up and down city streets or cruising the wide-open Interstate, the MX-5 never feels uncomfortable from a ride perspective. It’s quite remarkable, actually, especially for its short wheelbase.

OVERALL: One of the most fun-to-drive vehicles available

Base model Miatas can be had for just under $23,000 MSRP. However, the MX-5 Grand Touring with the PRHT isn’t cheap: My test model came in at $31,300. That’s quite a bit of dough. Then again, for a true rear-drive sports car, it isn’t that bad. Since the car is so much fun and resale is good, I’d say it’s still well within acceptable territory. You can save some cash by going with the traditional soft top, but the PRHT is just so cool!

The MX-5 is nimble, efficient, simple, and lots of fun. With the top down, it’s nearly impossible not to enjoy yourself unless 1) It’s raining or 2) You’re simply too big for the car. For me, the MX-5 is a grin-inducing form of transportation that I could easily see in my driveway full time. Anyone looking for a fun, simple, and fairly affordable convertible should place this Mazda at the top of their shopping list. And for those that associate the Miata with a “chick car,” I suggest driving one. If this is a chick car, it’s a chick car that’ll hand other cars their respective asses in the corners.

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