- Peppy engine
- Quick-shifting gearbox
- Direct, quick handling
- Lack of crash-test data
- Smallish cockpit
- Noisy on the highway
The 2012 Mazda MX-5 is a true sports roadster with great handling and fun at any speed, and more practical than you might think.
Mazda's MX-5 Miata is an icon, and the 2012 model builds on the success of the third-generation model with few changes but all of the sporting fun we've grown to expect from the little roadster.
Two core models constitute the range: a soft-top convertible and a Power Retractable Hard Top that packages a sleek folding hard roof neatly and attractively, effectively turning the MX-5 into a coupe on demand. The exterior styling retains its classic roadster proportions, though a more cheerful front bumper introduced in 2009 has met with some controversy. Inside, the layout is simple and in some ways spartan, but with easy-to-use controls and attractive chrome and silver accents to brighten things up. A range of trim packages offer a choice between five- and six-speed manual transmissions or a six-speed automatic, as well as varying levels of interior upgrades, including leather seating.
The entire range is powered by a single 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 167 horsepower. It's not exactly a powerhouse, but it is responsive and ready to rev, a perfect mate to the carefully-honed chassis. Quick steering, nimble responses, low weight (under 2,600 pounds in all guises) and nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution all contribute to the car's predictable, balanced handling, both at low speeds and at higher track-worthy speeds.
Whether you choose the easy-folding manual soft top or the power hard top, going from top-up to top-down and back again is a breeze. The soft top does let in quite a bit of noise, but the hard top does a better job of muffling the road and wind noise at speed.
Being a sports-focused roadster, the MX-5 offers a balanced range of features, though it skips some higher-end features. Power accessories are standard, as is a CD player and tilt steering. Upgrade to a Touring model and you get keyless entry, a trip computer, and cruise control, while Grand Touring models mix in heated leather seats, automatic climate control, and other conveniences.
Traction control is available on most models, but electronic stability control is not. Standard anti-lock brakes, front and seat-mounted side airbags, however, offer a measure of safety. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash-tested the 2012 MX-5.