2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata Performance

9.0
Performance
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 Miata already stood out for its rev-happy yet economical engine, quick, direct steering, and well-balanced handling. For 2009, the Miata got an improved gearbox as well as a raised redline for the engine that made it even more enjoyable to run the eager setup through its paces.

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.

The 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata behaves like a true sports car, and is immensely satisfying to drive beyond its specs on paper.

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 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes with either a five- or six-speed manual transmission, depending on the trim level; a six-speed automatic is optional and includes steering-wheel shift paddles. In the opinion of the editors, though, the manual gearboxes have nice, neat linkages, with easy-to-manage clutches and are a joy—and the only way to go in a roadster such as this.

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