2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Performance

9.0
Performance
Blending light weight, nimble handling, and enough power to get the job done, the rear-drive 2012 Mazda MX-5 is nearly unique on the market. New additions from Toyota, Subaru and Scion will expand available alternatives, but the MX-5 will still be the only rear-drive, lightweight, inexpensive convertible sports car around.

Powered by a revvy 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 167 horsepower, the MX-5 isn't exactly quick, but it gathers speed well thanks to short gearing, particularly in six-speed models. Five-speed cars have slightly longer gearing down low, but settle in well at freeway speeds. Zero to 60 mph times vary by the trim and soft or hard top choice, but the range gets to 60 mph in about seven seconds.

Nearly ideal 50/50 front-rear weight distribution makes handling predictable out of the box, and the quick, accurate steering is well-weighted. Go-kart-like is the most common epithet for the MX-5's low-speed handling, and at high speeds, such as those seen on track, the MX-5 is poised.

True sports car handling, adequate power for its weight, and a classic roadster experience make the 2012 Mazda MX-5 unique.

Somewhat soft springs and relatively tall aspect-ratio tires make for a comfortable ride, but also induce more body roll than you might expect out of a sub-2,600-pound car.

A six-speed automatic transmission is available as an option on higher-end models, outfitted with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. The light clutches, short, precise lever throws, and sheer involvement of the manual transmissions make them the choice of our editors, however, enhancing the experience of open-top motoring in a roadster like the MX-5.

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