2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata

When first introduced in 1989, the Mazda MX-5 Miata caused a sensation because it combined the positive characteristics of classic British roadsters, namely a lightweight design and incredibly pure handling, with bulletproof Japanese reliability. Fast forward to the present, and the Miata continues to deliver the same qualities in a slightly larger, more powerful package.

Recent Changes
For the latest model year - which will be last for the current generation before a new model arrives - Mazda offered a limited-edition 25th Anniversary Miata with special aesthetics and Bilstein shocks. All 100 examples bound for the U.S. have already been spoken for.

The MX-5 continues to be powered by an all aluminum, 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor that produces 167 horsepower (158 when equipped with an automatic gearbox) and 140 lb-ft of torque. Being a performance-minded product, premium fuel recommended for optimal performance and fuel economy.

Base models offer a five-speed manual as standard, while other trim levels boast a six-speed stick. A six-speed automatic is optional for all models. Fuel economy is rated at 22/28 mpg for the five-speed and 21/28 for both six speed transmissions (that's not a typo - curiously, the five-speed is really the most efficient gearbox).

Raw power and fuel efficiency aren't the MX-5's raison d'etre, however - this roadster is built to tackle curvy roads. Tactile, accurate steering, neutral rear-wheel-drive dynamics and a low curb weight help the MX-5 feel nimble and communicative in a way that few other automobiles of any price can.

The MX-5 features a standard manual soft top that can be raised or lowered in seconds by pressing a button and working a lever. With practice, the process can be accomplished in the driver's seat.

A power-folding hardtop that reduces interior noise and enhances insulation at the cost of some additional weight is offered as an option.

Standard and Optional Features
The MX-5 is offered in Sport, Club and Grand Touring trim levels.

The most affordable entry point for the MX-5 experience, the Sport, comes with power windows, A/C, an AM/FM/CD sound system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lights and 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The available Convenience Package brings keyless entry, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a trip computer.

The new Club trim level packs a unique visual punch, adding dark-finish 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, black exterior mirrors, a front air dam, a rear diffuser and numerous Club badges. Inside, there s black cloth seats with red stitching, a body-color dashboard trim, keyless entry, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, power locks and a leather-wrapped shifter knob. Functional extras include a shock-tower brace, a limited-slip differential a stiffened sport suspension.

Equipped with heated leather seats, a seven-speaker Bose radio, automatic climate control and cruise control, the Grand Touring is the most luxurious MX-5 money can buy. Options available on the Grand Touring including the Premium Package (includes Xenon headlamps, an anti-theft alarm, traction control, advanced keyless entry and a limited-slip differential), the Suspension Package (sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks and limited-slip diff) and the Appearance Package (front air dam and rear underskirt).

Occupant Safety
Standard safety features include dual front and dual side airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and electronic brakeforce distribution.

Key Competitors
Looking for a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive convertible? The Miata is your only option at this price, unless you're willing to consider much heavier and slightly clumsier (albeit quicker) machines like the Ford Mustang Convertible and the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. If having an open air experience isn't important, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ are quite close in character to the Miata.

Front-wheel-drive alternatives include the MINI Cooper Convertible and Fiat 500c.