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First Drive: 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT (Manual)

2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata

For 25 years Mazda has been creating one of the worlds perfect roadsters. While over the years the Miata has received its fair share of criticism, patronizing its size and stylish attributes; this latest 3rd generation MX-5 Miata brings about a different objective. And we’re pleased to drive one before the next fourth-gen MX-5 takes its place.

Now, if this was one of our typical reviews, we’d just do one of our usual, run-of-the-mill road test. But since we have something a little special, we wanted to celebrate by going somewhere extraordinary. So we went a little driving adventure to one of the most rewarding driving roads in Arizona – Mount Graham. A highway which stretches 35 miles and climbs over 9,000 feet in elevation with tight switchback curves and long mountain twisting roads – the perfect stretch for the MX-5 Miata.  With 10 hours of driving ahead of us – it’s best we stretch our legs first.

In terms of a small roadster, there is never a dull moment. The MX-5 dashes to 60 mph in a mere 6.9 seconds ,passing the 7,200 rev limit. That may not break the speed of sound, but from behind the wheel, things feel quicker and snappier. And yet, you never feel the urge to have the need for speed either. The 167 horsepower, 140lb-ft of torque 2.0L DOHC four-cylinder engine is no high performance motor, but the ingredients are there for a proper sports car: rear-wheel drive matted to a six-speed manual transmission – Mazda does make a six-speed automatic for those who can’t shift for themselves.

Because of the MX-5’s sheer size – it’s light, it’s nimble, and it’s agile – all which makes it responsive and consistent in the tight bends. It’s like driving a go-kart. Turn the wheel and it responds as such –no fuss  – the steering is very precise and receptive to your needs.  Our tested Miata arrived with the $650 Suspension Package which provided a Sport Tuned Suspension, Bilstein shocks and a Limited Slip Differential. Upgrading to a sport tuned suspension stiffens the ride, but doesn’t ruin it – it allows for harder maneuverability while limiting the amount of body roll in the corners – but that’s also thanks to the front and rear stabilizer bars that keeps everything balanced.  The Bilstein shocks work surprisingly well for something of this size providing a comfortable ride while taking punishment from the road.

Driving on Mt. Graham could be a car killer – the roads are steep and the turns are tight. We spent most of our time shifting between second and third gear – thanks to the light clutch and smooth gear changes; the MX-5 never gets tiring to drive. Coming back down the mountain is a different story however. We did a good use of testing the brakes the handling. This is where the MX-5 was meant to be, the turns were sharp and crisp… there was a hint of understeer when we pushed it to its limits; but could easily be adjusted with some throttle action, kicking out the rear a touch – we don’t mind a little oversteer. We did think the Miata could use some better brakes however. They aren’t bad with the day to day travels, but on roads like this, we had more confidence in our driving technique than the car.

When it comes straight down to the styling cues – the MX-5 has always been somewhat of a feminine design. This latest 3rd generation does bring out the more handsome side, adding a sportier flair. Our tested MX-5 came a little more sportier, wearing a $650 Appearance Package, which adds a front air dam and a rear underskirt. Our sampled Meteor Gray paint spiced things up with the addition of the Spicy Mocha red leather interior which gave the MX-5 a hardy look and the 17” alloy wheels ties everything in nicely without looking too flashy.

This MX-5 is the hard top version which folds away in a brisk 12 seconds, opening up to quite the simple-minded interior. The clean simple lines works well with the MX-5’s overall design that provides a distraction free zone. All the buttons and knobs are well laid out giving an ease of access to the driver needs. The largest package on our tester here featured the $1,390 Premium Package that offers Keyless Entry with Keyless Start, Bluetooth, Xenon Headlights, and Sirius Radio.

What makes the MX-5 Miata great is how easy it is to live with on a daily basis. The seats are comfortable and supportive, they’re even heated for extra comfort. And it’s economical rated at 21 city/28 highway/24 combined – during our week, we did a mere sight better than that with 23 city and 29 highway. With the top down wind noise is bearable, you’re able to hear the radio or have a conversation without the car next to you listening in. With the roof up we wish we could say it was quieter, at highway speeds the wind noise is unpleasantly loud and slightly uncomfortable – some seat adjustment is required to keep your head from scraping the roof.

It’s not often we find a sports car that can fit the everyday life style. Whether you’re a driving enthusiast or a convertible lover, the MX-5 Miata is never disappointing. It’s the best 2-door roadster money can buy for under 30-grand; except ours came in at $32,935 after options and destination.

2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring: $29,450
Destination: $795
Notable Standard Features:
2.0L DOHC 4-Cylinder – 167 HP / 140lb-ft of Torque
Six-Speed Manual Transmission
Rear Wheel Drive
Heated Leather Seats
Suspension Package: $650
Appearance Package: $650
Premium Package: $1,390
Grand Total: $32,935


    • Well not to worry… Soon I will be driving a Minivan and an electric rodent mobile. You probably won’t be too jealous then. 🙂

      This shoot was taken actually just south of Safford in Mt. Graham. Its about a 3 hour drive SE of Phoenix.

  1. Nice review of a great car. Think the Club edition with soft top is the sweet spot of the NC line up . Please though which do like more the MX-5 or the BRZ/FR-S?

    • I would agree with you. The Club Edition would be the way to go. It has some pretty snazzy features about it. Between the two I would definitely go for the FR-S/BR-Z. They are more comfortable, more economical, and more powerful.

      • I tried out both an FR-S and a Miata – I liked them both, but the FR-S was my favorite due to the seating position and I the steering felt amazing. Power wise, neither are “fast”, but there is a lot to be said for driving a slow car fast 🙂

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