Behind The Wheel

2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata — Just Plain Fun

2021 Mazda MX5 MiataModel tested: 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club

Engine: 2-liter DOHC 4-cylinder

Transmission: Skyactiv 6-speed manual

Horsepower: 181

Torque: 151 lb.-ft.

EPA rating: 26/city, 34/highway, 29/combined

Base price: $33,045

As tested: $39,255

Overview: The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the quintessential classic sports car — small, impractical and just plain fun to drive. The fourth generation of this two-seat, rear-wheel-drive roadster was upgraded with a new powerplant two years ago. The Miata comes in three configurations — Base, Touring and Club. Our test driver was the Club and this review focuses primarily on that model.

Walkaround: The Miata’s styling has evolved over the years, and in spite of the 2021’s slim headlights and Mazda’s signature shark-like grille, to us, this looks like a car with a big smile on its face — and it never fails to bring one to ours whenever we get behind the wheel. The Miata comes as a traditional ragtop and a power-retractable hardtop, branded as the RF — which was our test driver.

2021 Mazda MX5 MiataInterior: The interior is classic roadster — spartan and simple — yet cozy and intimate. The steering wheel and pedals are situated directly in front of the driver. Large, easy-to-read-at-a-glance analog instrumentation is positioned horizontally, creating an illusion of space. The prominent center console just barely separates driver and passenger, with Mazda’s infotainment system’s 7-inch color touchscreen mounted above the dash. Round air vents and climate controls finish off the classic roadster styling. The infotainment system works fine — in theory. In reality, it’s inconvenient at best. The standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto help, but if you get or make a phone call, you have to retune the sound source each time because it defaults to the phone’s audio setting. Blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross-traffic and lane-departure warning systems are all standard. Other technology includes hands-free Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, nine-speaker Bose audio and steering-wheel controls, along with the requisite push-button start. The trunk’s 4.6 cubic feet will accommodate a few grocery bags or a small duffel — but not both.

Behind the Wheel: All Miatas are powered by a naturally aspirated, 2-liter inline-4. It boasts 181 horses with 151 lb.-ft. of torque. There’s a choice of either a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters or our test driver’s six-speed manual — our preference. One of the most fun drives we’ve ever done was driving a Miata on the hilly, winding, two-lane blacktop between Longview, Washington, and Vernonia, Oregon — and back. The chassis is evenly balanced, making handling very predictable. The car does exactly what you demand and expect.

Bottom Line: If you’ve ever longed to own a responsive, two-seat, classic-style roadster that’s thoroughly safe, modern and reliable, the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is it. It eschews typical creature comforts and massive technology for pure driving fun.