September 25, 2022

Ordiate

A Class Of Its Own

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: As Fun As It Looks

The 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata two-seat roadster looks and feels like no other car on the road. The Miata is a two-seat convertible meant for people who enjoy the connection between man and machine. The world’s bestselling roadster doesn’t have many competitors under $40,000, which excludes the BMW Z4 and Porsche 718 Boxster. Not much is new for 2022, except for a $540 price increase and brake-based torque vectoring for the inside rear wheel on the base model.

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

The 2022 Mazda MX-5 looks special. Small can be cute, but the diminutive roadster is a master class in design, with a long nose, a snug boot, and curves like an Appalachian road. It’s flawless body earns two points, and the minimalist interior earns another in following orders to being a fuss-free driver’s car.

Mazda pushes the standard 16-inch alloy wheels to the curvy corners, though we prefer the 17-inchers finished in dark silver. The nose dips dramatically into a grinning grille, and the air flows over its rounded shoulders to the rear, where circular taillights complete an almost Anime-level of cuteness.

The black soft cloth top can be put down or up with a one-arm backstroke motion, but the interlocking pieces of the RF body-color hard top ar more appealing. The Brembo package on the Club RF paints the top black, and slaps on red front and rear brake calipers flaming out of 17-inch BBS forged wheels.

The Miata is made to be driven. The MX-5 is the purest form of a sports car: compact, lightweight, rear-wheel driven, close to the road. Its exceptional handling and driving feel keep it competitive on twisty tracks with much more powerful cars. It’s rear-wheel drive and has a perfect 50/50 weight balance.

The Miata’s 181-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 making 151 lb-ft of torque doesn’t light up the spec sheet; it goes from 0-60 mph in just under 6.0 seconds. But the Miata’s driving dynamics light up the driver’s soul. Sitting so close to the road, putting the top down, and pushing the combustion engine deeper toward the 7,200 rev limit makes it feel and sound like it’s going a lot faster.

Direct steering complements the ability to rotate the rear end to maintain speed around curves, which is enhanced with an available limited-slip rear differential. The magic of the Miata is how attuned it is to the road. The front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension wear aluminum arms to minimize weight and increase handling responses. The ride is compliant, but like any other small roadster with a short wheelbase and firm dampers, the Miata can skip over uneven pavement, especially with the heavier RF models.

New for 2022, Mazda adds a feature called Kinematic Posture Control, which is brake-based torque vectoring: A slight brake pulse squeezes the inner rear wheel in turns to keep the corner down instead of lifting as the weight shifts to the opposite side. In Mazda’s words, it enhances the limited-slip effect. We would opt for the real deal on the Club and higher trims, but we’ll report back on its effectiveness when we get seat time.

This year, a 6-speed automatic transmission is offered only on the Grand Touring trim. It’s $500 less than the 6-speed manual, but those savings are a waste. The Miata is made for a manual. The firm clutch pedal isn’t springy, and the short shifts marry the motion between hand and foot. Exclusive to the Club models with the manual is a Brembo/BBS/Recaro package for $4,500 that adds Brembo front brakes, BBS 17-inch forged wheels, heated Recaro bucket seats, red rear brake calipers, and black aero elements.

For a small car, the MX-5 Miata returns average fuel economy. The lightweight, rear-wheel drive Miata with the 6-speed manual has an EPA-rated 26 mpg city, 35 highway, 29 combined with either the soft or hard top. With the 6-speed automatic, it’s a tad more efficient at 26/35/30 mpg, but the manual is a whole lot more fun.

The IIHS and the NHTSA have not crash tested the MX-5. Regardless, the physics of the Miata, small, light, exposed, and dwarfed by every other vehicle on the road, don’t favor it in crashes. Mazda equips it with LED headlights and taillights, automatic emergency braking at speeds no greater than 19 mph, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warnings. The top Grand Touring trim gets adaptive headlights and automatic high beams.

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

Inside, black wins the day on cloth seats and soft-touch surfaces. Some chrome-like plastic on the switchgear and steering wheel accentuates the minimalist design. The roadster fits two who must travel light. The cramped front seats, and lack of rear seats, make the Miata less practical as a daily driver. The two-seat roadster denies extraneous things, and that carries over to its occupants. The cloth seats with manual adjustability have long, low seat bottoms that keep it relatively comfy, but the buckets pinch wider bodies, and taller people may struggle with knee and head room.

The removable cupholders serve their purpose best when removed instead of knocking into knees. Keep the coffee cups out of the car, and plan only on stowing bottles in the compartment behind the center armrest. Or in a bag in the trunk. With only 4.6 cubic feet of space, it holds two carry-on bags and a backpack. The RF provides more quiet and calm from the elements than the soft top, where even the rain sounds loud. A windscreen between the rear headrests minimizes wind buffeting enough to let passengers hold a normal conversation. With the available headrest speakers, phone calls can be made through the infotainment system with the top down at highway speeds.

The 2022 MX-5 Miata does slightly better than most in the value department. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto improve the Miata’s infotainment system. The 7.0-inch touchscreen in the Miata proves Mazda’s infotainment is bad either way, because the touchscreen’s tiny menu icons are tedious to press and most of their functionality is blocked when the car is in motion. Setting the presets with the console dial is equally tedious. Fortunately, it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, where using the dial to switch through icons works better. Basic additional features include Bluetooth, power features, keyless entry, and a telescoping steering wheel wrapped in leather.

The Club costs $31,815 and adds wireless Apple CarPlay (Android users still need a cord), a satellite radio trial, and a Bose 9-speaker system with headrest speakers. Upgrades include black 17-inch wheels, a black rear lip spoiler, as well as Bilstein dampers, a limited-slip rear differential, and a front shock tower brace.

The bummer this year is the Club only comes with the soft top. We like the RF that turns the Miata into an all-season vehicle. But Mazda limits its availability to the $33,815 Grand Touring model for an extra $2,700-$2,750, depending on transmission. The only way to get it on the Club is with the expensive Brembo BBS Recaro package. That package tops the Grand Touring trim at $36,315, or $39,215 for the hard top. You can get a lot of sports car for $40k, but the package ensures you don’t have to mess with the aftermarket too much.

In the end, if your weekend budget is looking for something fun and grin-inducing while looking like something costing thousands more, there really is no better choice. Mazda is smart enough to continually update the Miata so it never falls behind. The 2022 Mazda MX-5 is a driving wonder that everyone should experience and luckily for us, Mazda provides just what we want.