A classic roadster by any other name just wouldn’t be the same. So, let’s celebrate 20 years of the Mazda MX-5 Miata. And, though they’ve dropped the Miata tag from its nameplate, this little two-seater remains unmistakably recognizable. Now, with tweaks here and there, this drop-top is ready to run the rat race once more. But, after two decades, will the MX-5 still make buyers run to dealer lots?
Yes, its official name is the Mazda MX-5, but the name Miata is still used universally by company officials, salespeople, and car enthusiasts, alike. It really doesn’t matter what you call it. For 2009, Mazda’s little roadster still has the same fun loving rear-drive personality it has always had.
Redesigned back in 2006, the MX-5 returns this year with a few minor revisions, and, of course, its choice of cloth or retractable hardtops.
Our tester’s hardtop remains easy to operate with the release of the header latch and a quick flick of a switch. The three-piece roof folds and stacks under a hard tonneau cover in about 12 seconds. Even better is the hardtop adds only about 80 pounds to the curb weight over the soft top.
In terms of styling, the familiar MX-5 shape continues, but it does include a more expressive front end, complete when an exaggerated version of Mazda’s smiling grille theme.
Fortunately, the car’s slick, toy-like proportions are well-preserved.
And its sporty back-end, complete with dual exhaust, is refreshed with tweaked tail lamps.
As before, a good portion of this car’s fun factor resides under its aluminum hood. Meaning, the same 2.0-liter twin-cam 4 as the previous MX-5. Output is 167 horsepower - an increase of one - and 140 pound-feet of torque.
This engine ties to a 5-speed manual, our tester’s 6-speed manual, or a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
On the track, our MX-5 recorded a spirited 0 to 60 of just 6.8 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds at 93 miles per hour. Its stick shift is the blueprint of how a manual should feel-snicky and quick through its tightly spaced gears. And the engine revs in a hurry with a sweet, Euro-tuner sound.
The fun factor rises even more when you turn the wheel, especially with the optional Bilstein sport suspension and limited-slip differential. The MX-5 is super stable, offers gobs of lateral grip, and provides more feedback than one knows what to do with.
It’s incredibly nimble, yet feels solid as a rock. And the steering is both well-weighted and surgically precise. Overall, the MX-5 performs on a level that’s comparable to roadsters with far higher price tags.
And despite its spot-on track agility, it’s neither too harsh nor too stiff on normal roads. Wind noise is kept to a moderate level thanks to the standard mesh wind blocker.
The MX-5’s brakes have also always been top-notch. We didn’t see any way for Mazda to improve on them. Four-wheel discs with ABS stopped us from 60 in a short 122 feet, with a solid, fade free manner.
Inside, the MX-5 exudes the no-nonsense sports car cockpit that fans just can’t get enough of. Motorcycle-style gauges and faux aluminum trim are Miata trademarks.
Fit and finish is good and the instrument panel remains fairly simple.
Seats are just wide enough, firm and well-bolstered, perfect for holding occupants in place. Our uplevel Grand Touring trim had standard leather and seat heat.
The car is commanded with a beefy, three-spoke sports steering wheel.
For tunes, our test car came equipped with a Bose 7-speaker audio system, and safety comes from front and side airbags, plus roll bars.
Unlike most hard-top convertibles, the MX-5 does not compromise trunk space when its top is lowered. The cargo hold remains a small 5.3 cubic feet regardless of the roof’s position.
Fuel Economy for the MX-5 has improved slightly. Government Fuel Economy ratings for the 6-speed manual are 21 city/28 highway on Premium gas. We managed 26.9 miles per gallon in real-world driving.
Our MX-5’s Energy Impact Score is 14.3 barrels of oil consumed per year. Its Carbon Footprint measures a modest 7.7 annual tons of CO2 emitted.
As for value, you won’t find a more-bang-for-your-buck roadster than the Mazda MX-5. Starting at $22,500 for the base SV with soft-top. However, uplevel trims with hardtop and loaded with options, will easily push the sticker into the low 30s.
So after 20 years of carrying the roadster revival torch, the 2009 Mazda MX-5 remains one of the sportiest and most fun-loving two-seater convertibles out there. Changes this time around have been subtle and smart. For that reason, the Miata’s loyal following has remained very much intact…and we think the MX-5 still has its best years to come.
Engine: 2.0-Liter Twin-cam 4
Torque: 140 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.8 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.2 Seconds @ 93 MPH
60-0 MPH: 122 Feet
EPA: 21 MPG City/ 28 MPG Highway
Mixed Loop: 26.9 MPG
Energy Impact: 14.3 Barrels Oil/Yr
CO2 Emissions: 7.7 Tons/Yr