We’ve reviewed the fantastic Mazda ‘ND’ generation Miata several times now, and there’s absolutely no question it is a perfect weekend car to go explore twisty backroads or enter your local autocross race. But what about using one every day? In the city? I bet you hadn’t thought about that, but it turns out this is an amazing city car, provided you don’t have to take a bunch of people with you. In fact, it can serve as an excuse to not take as many people with you. Just pick a favorite, and you can take them anywhere you want in town – parking will be easy, and you can see the sights with the top down.
Chicago is a beautiful city, especially in the summer – and we wanted to take the Miata right into the heart of it to see how it would be in a more urban setting. As it turns out, the agility, size, and performance are a perfect fit. The small frame means you can fit in smaller than average parking spots. The torquey engine and lively gearbox means you can squirt through traffic from light to light and match just about anything. Getting ahead of cabbies that aren’t paying attention or trying to cut you off? No problem. The turning radius is small, so it can do U-turns with ease. There’s even a decent amount of space in the trunk to throw overnight bags or whatever you need for work.
It’s a bit of an unconventional choice for a city car, but it certainly gets good fuel mileage. With 22-city and 33-highway MPG, it’s not at the top of the heap, but certainly frugal on gas. The 155hp engine sounds like it would feel a bit sluggish, but it’s really the opposite. Short, closely spaced gear ratios means that it uses every last pony in every situation, leaving you feeling like you’re driving a very quick car. And although the engine sound isn’t spectacular, it’s engaging enough. It’s more than made up for by the chassis, which boasts some of the best handling on the market.
Sure, you can buy cars that have higher lateral-G numbers on the skidpad. You can buy cars that run a faster speed through the slalom. But you’ll be hard pressed to find a more lively, balanced handling platform. It’s really the soul of this little Mazda, with extraordinary feedback and precision. The balance tends toward slight oversteer on the way into a corner, and slight understeer on the way out. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a twisty road, or in our case flick our way through 90-deg city streets and curvy on-ramps.
Technology-wise, Mazda is lagging a bit behind in their infotainment.
The screen and interface, which looked very modern a few years ago when introduced, are looking a bit dated now. You can at least now use the screen as a touchscreen, limiting usage of the hard to reach center-console mounted control pad. The most useless interior feature, however, are the cupholders. Either cutting off all your passenger’s knee room or all your elbow room, there’s really no place for them in this car. Maybe they could have added them into the door panel? The speaker takes up most of the room there, but that’s a good thing as the stereo can finally compete with the wind noise. Still glaringly missing, however, is any sort of smartphone connectivity. Mazda promises Andriod Auto and Apple CarPlay soon, and we hope they deliver.
Overall, you don’t buy a Miata for the features, or for the technology. You buy it because it’s fun. The combination of lightweight, reasonable price (starting at $25k for the sport manual,) and performance is intoxicating. Even at our test vehicle’s price, there’s not much else you can get that’s as fun to drive,
Special thanks to Mazda Motor Corporation for providing the 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata for review.