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2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Roadster Perfection

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Roadster Perfection

There’s a good reason Mazda doesn’t throw a ton of new stuff at the Miata every next model year: it doesn’t have to. For 2022, Mazda added new colors to the interior and exterior, in addition to something called Kinematic Posture Control, a driver assistance system that brakes the rear wheel when cornering for a better feel on the road.

Mazda says KPC is meant to reduce body rolls, although there’s still plenty in my experience. But that’s okay. Cars that eliminate every inch of movement with a lively driving feeling far too capable for most roads and most drivers, leading to the feeling that you’ll never get every inch of performance out of the thing. The Miata gets around that problem by allowing the body to pitch and roll under braking and cornering; Not only does this improve communication when the car is reaching its limits, it also makes those limits much more accessible at speeds that won’t give you a ticket. The steering is direct and just the right amount of lively, and while this Grand Touring model may lack the Club’s optional Brembo brakes, it still stops in a drama-free rush.

Couple that down-to-earth approach to dynamics with an engine that delivers just the right amount of power, and the result is a car that feels like it’s never been over- or underwhelmed. The Miata’s 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-4 produces 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, and I hope it never makes more. Sure, I have to spend a little more time on the throttle to get enough power to make a pass, but the engine noise is pleasant at higher revs and it gives me more options to use my tester’s six-speed manual transmission.

If other automakers haven’t dissected Mazda’s six-speed transmission, they should. It is the best manual transmission offered in any car today. The clutch has the correct weight and communicates the bite point neatly. The gear lever has sufficient spring travel and grips in every gate in a pleasant way. The accelerator pedal is perfectly adjusted; I’ll never ask for a rev-matching system in the Miata because the throttle gives me pixel-perfect blips for clean downshifts every time. And, best of all, Mazda has never programmed an inch of revs into this car, be it for emissions or otherwise. I depress the clutch and the speed drops immediately. Smooth shifting is so easy, a Geico caveman could do it.

If every other automaker hasn’t already bought a Miata to determine what makes its shift and clutch pedal so good, they should.

Andrew Krok/CNET

The 2022 MX-5 gets a flashy new off-white paint, but my tester is dressed in Mazda’s darling Soul Red, an affordable and generally nice option at $595. The Grand Touring lacks the Club’s flashy BBS wheel upgrade, but the stock 17-inch alloys provide quite a bit of sidewall on the Bridgestone Potenza S001 summer tires, helping to soften the ride quality. A new dark red interior motif is also available, but mine has the traditional black leather. The exterior paint color extends inward on the upper door panels, breaking up the monochromatic monotony.

Considering the Miata is a roadster, it’s no surprise that the practicality doesn’t really seep out of every pore. The storage of the door panel is limited to where your hand goes to close it. The detachable cup holders are clever, but they are short, so the stability of large drinks is constantly compromised. Furthermore, putting something in them when they are attached to the center console will block access to the locking compartment between the seats. The pocket under the armrest is only big enough for a key, but the pocket in front of the shifter can accommodate a wallet or phone. In the back, the 4.6 cubic meter suitcase offers space for a few backpacks or a few bags with groceries. There isn’t much trunk space, but the devilishly simple soft top doesn’t eat up that space at all.

The hood of the Miata is just high enough to keep me from losing my hat. And with a length of 1.80 meters that is not obvious with previous generations of MX-5.

Andrew Krok/CNET

As with any other Mazda, the technology in the MX-5 leaves a lot to be desired. A 7-inch touchscreen controls the Mazda Connect infotainment system, which starts up slowly and is occasionally slow to respond. With standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, I can get around Mazda’s mediocre telematics, but the touchscreen function is disabled while driving (although the dial works fine for switching the screen from Google Maps to Spotify and back again). Two USB-A ports provide the only charging options; Since wireless smartphone mirroring is in place, it would be nice to see a faster USB-C charging solution for quick juice-ups here. On a small display in the meter cluster I can see trip meters, estimated distance to empty and a few other nuggets of relevant information.

Some sports cars are content to ditch safety nannies, but not the Miata. Mazda gave the MX-5 the traditional complement of active and passive driver aids, including blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and lane warning. The Grand Touring takes it one step further with automatic high beam, adaptive headlights and traffic sign recognition. It also adds auto-dimming mirrors, which is a godsend when each pickup’s headlights are designed to reach the back of my cornea.

sure you could be leave the top up, but come on.

Andrew Krok/CNET

The Mazda MX-5 doesn’t have much of a competitive set. The Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ deliver more power and are a bit roomier, but they don’t feel as worth driving, the stick isn’t nearly as good and they aren’t convertibles. The BMW Z4 is a roadster, but it is only automatic and expensive. Mini also makes convertibles, but the lineup is overpriced and disappointing.

As window decals reach a depressing new height every month, it’s nice to see Mazda offering fun at an affordable price in 2022. The MX-5 Grand Touring is packed with bells and whistles, but the base price is a tasty $33,315 with a manual ($500 more for a six-speed automatic), and my tester’s paint job brings that to $33,910, which includes $1,015 in destination fees . If you’re cool with sticking to the base model, you can get into a new Miata for just $28,315. That’s a steal, but when you combine that with excellent driving dynamics, it’s clear that the 2022 Mazda MX-5 is a great car overall.