- Rev-happy engine
- Excellent short-throw gearbox
- Direct, quick handling
- Available power-retractable hardtop
- Lack of crash-test data
- Cramped cockpit
- Noisy on the highway
The 2011 Mazda MX-5 is a back-to-basics sports car that you don’t have to drive fast to enjoy—and it has way more practicality than you’d probably expect.
The 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata follows a special formula that's made this model a standout in the market for more than two decades: bring a classic roadster look into the modern age with excellent reliability, great handling—and now, the past couple of years, a weather-tight optional power-folding hardtop. The catch is that there aren't a lot of frills—but plenty of thrills, for sure.
The Miata remains available in two models: a soft-top roadster and a Power Retractable Hard Top model. While most hardtops end up sacrificing some of the beauty or proportions and in a sense ruining the design, the hardtop edition is good-looking too
Not much has changed with respect to the 2011 Mazda MX-5's appearance, and that's a good thing. Yes, you'll hear from some critics that the design is a little conservative and maybe a little on the soft side, but few people can deny that it's about the purest sports car design there is. And Mazda has kept is just enough on pace with its other designs, adding flared fenders and slightly more edgy details. Inside, the Miata feels basic but cheerful, with exactly the layout you'd expect for a classic sports car. Large, round gauges greet the driver front and center, and a short shift knob sits in easy reach. Chrome and silver accents have added a little more to the cabin look in recent years.
Just as the 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata carries on the look and feel of a classic British roadster, it delivers those wind-in-hair thrills with even better-than-expected performance. The 2010 Miata's four-cylinder engine—a 167-hp, 2.0-liter four—is very responsive and rev-happy, with sports car-perfect handling, quick short-ratio steering, and short-throw manual transmissions that are a joy to run through the gears. It's not a lot of power, but since the Miata weighs less than 2,600 pounds it can nevertheless get to 60 mph in about seven seconds. A near perfect 50/50 weight distribution makes its handling predictable, and the quick-ratio steering is both secure at speed and extremely fast for parking or emergency maneuvers. The Miata handles like a go-kart at low speeds and shows a surprising degree of poise for higher track speeds.
The standard soft top is easy to use and surprisingly weather-tight. Just flick the header latches and flip it over the shoulder (most will be able to use one arm) into a shallow holding area. The only downside of the soft top is noise; the Miata's top isn't as well-insulated as some pricier soft tops, and you'll get a fair amount of wind and road noise on the highway.
Feature-wise, the Miata has just enough to satisfy most shoppers, but it lacks some items, depending on the trim level. Anti-lock brakes, along with seat-mounted side airbags, are on the standard-equipment list. But electronic stability control—now thought of as an essential safety feature, especially on cars that might be driven in a spirited fashion or ones that aren't as secure on slippery roads—still isn't standard on all models. Make sure you do get an MX-5 with it.
Standard equipment, at least in terms of comforts, is about on par with that of budget-conscious small cars; features on all models include power windows, power mirrors, a CD player, and tilt steering. Touring models include upgraded wheels and tires, a trip computer, keyless entry, and cruise control, while Grand Touring models add leather trim, heated seats, and automatic climate control, among other features. Options include the six-speed automatic, Sirius Satellite Radio, steering-wheel audio controls, and a sport suspension.