2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata

A few years back, the good folks at Mazda chose to drop the Miata tagline on the most popular two-seat convertible sports car in the world, instead going only with the MX-5 designation. I guess this gave the cute little bugger more of a “macho” image as many consumers have thought of Miata as more a “chick’s” car. Masculinity intact, I thoroughly enjoyed my week in the Mazda MX-5 Miata, which I dubbed “Miazda” purely to enhance the confusion.

In 2006, Mazda launched the third-generation of the fun little roadster and it did not share a single component with previous Miatas. Mazda touted a design principle of “Jinba Ittai” or dynamic harmony between man and machine as the overarching philosophy behind the MX-5 and in 2009, celebrating Miata’s 20th anniversary, they used that again to freshen the funster.

“Jinba Ittai drove all of the development team’s decisions, yielding a car so nimble and fun to drive that the driver and car achieve true unity,” program manager Takao Kijima said. “This unified concept allowed us to create a new MX-5 that’s true to the spirit of the original: exceptionally lightweight and lots of fun to drive.”

Highlights include: A body structure utilizing materials to reduce weight and increase rigidity; fresher-yet interior and exterior styling makeovers; slightly larger dimensions for increased room, comfort and safety; lively 2.0-liter engine for increased performance with higher rev limit on manual gearbox models; advanced front mid-ship layout for enhanced balance; improved steering, suspension and brakes; and top-level craftsmanship and fit-and-finish that yields a high-quality, fun appearance.

MX-5 trim levels have been, well, “trimmed” back to three offerings: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring models – all celebrating Mazda’s trademarked “Zoom-Zoom” philosophy. Touring and Grand Touring Miatas offer the power hardtop retractable roof, an amazing engineering feature in and of itself in the taut little Mazda especially given the vehicle retains a true trunk for carry-ons.

The MX-5 feels like a car built for the track the moment you climb behind the wheel and turn the ignition switch. Dual exhaust tips sing out a high-pitched note worthy of any SCCA event or import car gathering.

Point the car in any direction and hit the gas and go. Braking is equally capable thanks to standard four wheel discs with oversized rotors and standard ABS, and thanks to new oversized wheel openings with broader shoulders, the new MX-5 can accommodate 17-inch wheels and tires.

Suspension duties are handled by double wishbone design up front and multilink setup in the rear with coil springs and has shocks at each corner. There is also a front shock tower brace under the hood for enhanced rigidity. Our Grand Touring model tester was outfitted with a stiffer sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks as well as limited slip rear differential.

Inside the “Miazda” is a good mix of modern technology and craftsmanship including gorgeous black lacquer trim panel running the width of the dash panel and steering wheel mounted audio controls with a satellite capable radio indash. Seating was comfortable and fairly roomy although climbing in and out with the top up is a bit of a twist. Cupholders are convenient and there is storage in the glove box and between the seats “cubby.”

By the numbers, the 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata produces 167hp, 140 lb. ft. of torque and achieves 21 mpg city with 28 mpg highway. Pricing for our top-of-the-line “Miazda” tester began at $28,400 and after adding the premium and suspension packages came to a final sticker of $31,300. A tad pricey perhaps but this is still one fun little car.

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