2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2008

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata brings the classic roadster into the modern era, with fantastic handling and an optional power-folding hardtop.

TheCarConnection.com’s editors researched a wide range of road tests of the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata to write this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com’s resident experts also drove the Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster and hardtop to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, and to add more impressions and details and provide you with the best information.

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 has dropped the "Miata" tag from its official name, but enthusiasts know it best by that--and its fun handling, quick-release convertible top, and deft steering and braking.

This year, there are both retractable-hardtop and soft-top Mazda MX-5 roadsters for sale. Both are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and a five- or six-speed manual, depending on trim levels. The engine makes 166 hp with the optional six-speed automatic. Fuel economy ranges from 22/27 mpg to 20/27 mpg.

The Mazda MX-5 is the closest thing to a reincarnated British roadster on the planet--though one with altogether better reliability and fit and finish. The four-cylinder engines are zippy and responsive, the steering and handling are sportscar-perfect, and the manual transmissions are a sheer joy to shift.

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The new shape introduced last year takes some getting used to--it's more Mr. Roboto than revived Lotus Elan. The interior is neatly trimmed with high-quality materials, and it's even a little roomier than before, though no one will complain about too much shoulder room in a Miata. The soft top is easy to use; just flick the header latches and flip it over the shoulder into a shallow holding area, and you'll still have enough luggage room for a short weekend trip.

Last year the Miata gained the retractable hardtop option. When the hardtop is retracted and folded away, the Miata has 5.3 cubic feet of trunk space--more than enough for the typical overnight bag. This version of the Miata comes in just 80 pounds heavier than the standard soft-top roadster, and the top takes just 12 seconds to fold away, so the effect on performance is minimal.

Standard features include power windows, power mirrors, a CD player, and tilt steering. Optional features include the six-speed automatic, power locks, Sirius Satellite Radio, steering-wheel audio controls, and a sport suspension. Dual front and side airbags, along with anti-lock brakes, are standard, but stability control is only available on the most expensive model. The 2008 Mazda MX-5 has not been crash tested by the NHTSA.

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2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Styling

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata looks like a winner—tough to some, soft to others.

TheCarConnection.com and other reviewers agree that the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata is the closest thing to a reincarnated British roadster on the planet—with pert styling and a neatly organized interior.

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata actually comes in two flavors: a roadster and a PRHT version that sports a retractable hardtop. Cars.com points out that this version of the Miata “retains the fixed headlights but returns somewhat to the original shape, with fewer curves — except for the accentuated wheel arches that recall the Mazda RX-8.” Jalopnik says it "resembles a lightweight power lifter" and describes it as follows: "flared wheel arches rising out of the hood and the trunk, aggressive swells around the headlights and dual pipes poking out of a chiseled, muscular derriere."

It’s not a butch, muscular shape, though, to some reviewers. “It doesn’t have side pipes or a hood scoop or a name that conjures images of bloodlust and rage,” the New York Times says. In fact, Car and Driver calls it a “cutie pie,” though Edmunds gives it some dignity back when it writes that the Miata has “more aggressive styling, without bumping up the price or diluting its perky personality.”

The hardtop edition is good-looking too; Car and Driver says “raised, the body-color bubble looks stubbier than the softtop but is still attractive.”

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata’s cabin functions well and has a bigger dash of style than in the past. “The interior is highlighted with chrome and silver accents, and the driver faces a three-spoke tilt steering wheel,” Cars.com notes of its test car. “The $515 interior trim package,” according to the New York Times, “consists of a few bits of ‘aluminum look’ trim on the door panels and dashboard. Mind you, this isn’t aluminum trim — it’s plastic. For that price, on a per-ounce basis, I’d think you could trim your doors and dash in anything from titanium to sashimi-grade tuna belly.”

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2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Performance

The 2008 Mazda Miata MX-5 is as nimble as it is stylish.

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata has a nimble feel and quick reflexes like a true sportscar should, and power has hit new heights, according to reviews researched by TheCarConnection.com and the firsthand experience of editors.

Almost all reviews about the performance of the MX-5 Miata are glowing--Mazda has created a vehicle that "changes direction like a go-kart, communicates clearly to the driver and accelerates with an inspiring inline-4 growl," raves Edmunds. The New York Times says, “On paper it seems unremarkable, but a mere spec sheet won’t divulge the essence of this car. Its 166-horsepower engine doesn’t make face-melting power, but it seems to have no flywheel whatsoever, and a blip of the throttle results in an instant, melodic zing that begs you to match revs on your next downshift.”

Both the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster and hardtop convertible are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 166 hp (manual-equipped versions make 170 hp). Car and Driver observes of the hardtop convertible, “at 2560 pounds, it was 135 pounds heavier than our last MX-5 softtop and did the 60-mph dash 0.3 second slower (7.0 seconds).”

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes with either a five- or six-speed manual, depending on trim levels. A six-speed automatic is an option. “The six-speed manual has especially short throws,” Cars.com points out, while the six-speed automatic “includes steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles for manual operation.” The manual shifter is a delight, reports the New York Times. “The shifter feels as though a team of engineers spent months working on its action, and a flick of the wrist rewards you with the rare feeling of metal engaging metal, a precision machine at work,” they wax.

Fuel economy in the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata ranges from 22/27 mpg to 20/27 mpg.

Impressive acceleration is matched with deft use of power via the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata’s rear-drive chassis. Kelley Blue Book says the weight balance "allows the car to perform remarkably nimble maneuvers that would be more difficult if the car had more of its weight biased to either end." Cars.com also notes that “the roadster has a 50/50 weight distribution (front/rear) and precise rack-and-pinion steering for legendary handling and predictability. The Miata is one of the most fun-to-drive cars around, despite its relatively modest engine power.”

Mazda Miatas have long been known to accelerate and handle well, but the 17-inch tires are an option than can sully its usually smooth ride. ConsumerGuide says the "ride is choppy and borderline harsh with the less-compliant combination of the Suspension Package and 17-inch tires."

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2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata makes a virtue out of its compact size, but there are no miracles in packaging here.

Reviewers have different opinions about the room and comfort of the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata, and few mentioned its build quality.

Jalopnik says the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata is "anything but practical," while ConsumerGuide says it has "surprising practicality." Perhaps it’s a matter of differently sized drivers; as Consumer Guide points out, "those over 6-feet tall may want more legroom," and "those under 5-foot-6 may have trouble seeing over the high dashboard." Mazda did try to remedy this issue; Cars.com notes that with the Miata, Mazda has added a new driver's side seat height adjustment, allowing shorter drivers to achieve maximum vision and comfort.

“Because there's no backseat, the two occupants get more legroom than you might expect,” Cars.com observes. There’s a little more room for the driver; the "driver's-side foot well has been widened by running the exhaust down the right side of the transmission tunnel," Kelley Blue Book notes. Still the Miata isn’t overflowing with extra space. “The cockpit is wider than the prior generation's and has greater hip room, shoulder room and elbowroom,” Cars.com says, “but the difference isn't as great as we'd hoped when Mazda set out to redo this model.” As with any sexy two-seater, Kelley Blue Book points out, "If this is going to be your only mode of transport, you're not going to win many friends when it's your turn to drive the co-workers to lunch."

Not only is there not a whole lot of room for passengers in the 2008 Mazda Miata, but the trunk is rather small, and there isn't much in the way of storage space. When the hardtop is retracted and folded away, the Miata has 5.3 cubic feet of trunk space--more than enough for the typical overnight bag, but not an excess of room.

Car and Driver also notes “tire roar can still be tiring on long drives."

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2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Safety

Although the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata hasn't been rated yet in crash tests, it has many safety features standard, and stability control is available.

Crash test data is lacking for the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata, but standard safety gear is what you’d expect from a modern roadster.

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata features front driver and passenger airbags, as well as side airbags that "provide head and torso protection," according to ConsumerGuide.

Other safety features available on the MX-5 include a tire pressure monitoring system, which can prevent accidents by alerting the driver when the air pressure is low. A good braking system with anti-lock brakes and vehicle stability control also help keep the riders safe, though the stability control system is an option only on the most expensive version of the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

 

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2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Features

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata has the features a roadster needs to entertain its drivers—though Bluetooth and a navigation system aren’t offered.

The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata provides buyers with many available features, both standard as well as optional.

Three different tops are offered on the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata. The soft tops include a vinyl version on base cars and a fabric one on midscale models. The soft top is easy to use; just flick the header latches and flip it over the shoulder into a shallow holding area, and you'll still have enough luggage room for a short weekend trip. As Kelley Blue Book points out, "the top, for example, can be operated from inside the car with just one arm and, when retracted, collapses into a small well behind the seats.”

Last year the Miata gained the retractable hardtop option. This version of the Miata comes in just 80 pounds heavier than the standard soft-top roadster, and the top takes just 12 seconds to fold away, so the effect on performance is minimal. Jalopnik gives this advice: "just push the button, count twelve Mississippis and do some donuts."

Standard features include power windows, power mirrors, a CD player, and tilt steering.
Optional features include the six-speed automatic, power locks, Sirius Satellite Radio, steering-wheel audio controls, and a sport suspension.

The optional Bose audio system available on the Miata has many adjustments, Kelley Blue Book notes: "Bose has created an optional sound system that adjusts equalization"--it changes according to whether the top is up or down, allowing the driver and passenger to hear the best quality sound in either environment.

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April 28, 2015
2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata 2-Door Convertible PRHT Manual Grand Touring

fun every time behind the wheel

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the Miata handles like a stable go kart with pizazz. Accurate in steering, stable in cornering,; a true driver's car. The power hardtop extends its' use here in the northeast; great in any weather conditions... + More »
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April 15, 2015
For 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata

A RELIABLE, true roadster; handling and driver involvement above all else

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Bullet-proof reliability in a true sports car. 6 Speed gear shift is nearly intuitive; so short and "snick-snick" rom gear to gear. Nearly unlimited customizations are possible to further enhance the driving... + More »
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Styling 8.0
Performance 9.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
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Features 9.0
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