2011 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA GRAND TOURING
- MSRP: $31,300 (Base price starts at $23,905)
- Engine/Horsepower: 2.0-liter DOHC/167
- Fuel Mileage: 21/28 (based on 6-speed manual transmission)
- Features: 5-speed manual; 16-inch wheels; power exterior mirrors; leather steering wheel; power windows; AM/FM/CD player with six speakers; side airbags; dual exhaust pipes
- (Indirect) Competitor: BMW Z4
The folks at Mazda claim that this has been the biggest market for what has become the worldâ€™s best-selling two-seater convertible, since the MX-5 Miata was conceived over 20 years ago. The current generation rear-wheel drive roadster was last reworked in 2009. While the sporty ride is virtually unchanged for the 2011 model year, pricing has risen by approximately $2,000 on the base model MX-5.
Since I was fortunate to get my hands on the top of the line Grand Touring model, my two-seater was outfitted with Mazdaâ€™s optional easy-to-use power retractable hardtop. It was so â€śeasyâ€ť in fact that opening and closing cycles last less than 12 seconds, making this the fastest power-operated retractable hard top in Americaâ€”which is another claim from the folks at Mazda. For those pinching pennies but yearning for an affordable roadster, a soft-top is also available for about $1,600 less. Personally, I prefer the hardtop since it improves the overall appearance of the sexy vehicle, giving it a more upscale look, when the top is up.
Another money saving feature in the compact roadster is the standard 5-speed or 6-speed manual, depending on the trim package. By opting for the manual, as opposed to an automatic, one can keep the sticker price down by approximately $1,100. Just like with the hardtop, though, I preferred the 6-speed manual transmission that was in the well-equipped MX-5 Miata I reviewed.
If price isnâ€™t a big concern, the MX-5 can be equipped with a host of nifty add-ons, including heated leather seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, steering wheel mounted cruise and audio controls, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an in-dash 6-disc CD changer, an anti-theft alarm, a keyless entry system, Bluetooth connectivity, Xenon headlights and a Sirius Satellite radio. Oh, yeah, my two-seater was also equipped with four cup holders.
I last reviewed the MX-5 Miata two years ago, when the vehicle received its last major update and I had a few concerns. Despite the time thatâ€™s passed, they still remain: the rear-wheel drive configuration impedes the legroom of adult-size passengers, the odd location of the fuel filler door release leverâ€”which is located underneath the back rear windowâ€”and it only uses premium fuel! Furthermore, due to the vehicleâ€™s compact size, the MX-5 Miata can be a little dicey to drive on the highway, especially in the midst of a heavy downpour.
While this is a fun and spirited roadster to kick-it around town in, the MX-5 compact size is not an everyday kind of car for most consumersâ€”unless they reside in a warm weather climate. Thus, this may be the leading reason why both Honda and GM have walked away from this contracting segment a few years ago. Currently, besides the MX-5, there are only two players in this field. BMW offers the Z4 at the high end of the segment, while the MX-5 Miata is priced at the low-end of the segment.
Although the number of competitors in this segment has literally shrunk, Mazdaâ€™s sales continue to grow in small increments. In fact, new vehicle sales for the MX-5 are up about three percent from the same period a year ago.
Overall, the MX-5 Miata is a good value, especially when stacked up against the pricier Bimmer Z4, which has a price tag near $50k and the long-term (out-of-warranty) maintenance upkeep could be out of reach for most consumers. In contrast, the sporty designed Mazda MX-5 Miata is a great alternative. With this vehicle, one can still drop the top without mortgaging the future.
Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to JeffCars.com.