2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Performance

9.0
Performance

The 2013 MX-5 Miata is a sports car, but you don't have to drive it fast to enjoy it; in fact, it's immensely enjoyable at lower speeds, on zigzagging back roads.

Mazda has done a great job in keeping the MX-5 light and nimble, with just enough power to get the job done and be entertaining. Only the new Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S approach this keep-it-simple formula, and only the Miata offers a seemingly magical combination of sprightliness, rear-wheel drive, frugality, and affordability.

The MX-5 Miata feels lean and responsive, with sports-car handling, adequate power for its weight, and the classic roadster experience.

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. 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. That's neutralized if you opt for any of the many suspension upgrades, however--including the new-for-2013 Club model, which adds a Suspension Package including Bilstein dampers, a shock-tower brace, high-performance tires, and a limited-slip differential.

The MX-5 isn't exactly quick, but provided you get the manual transmission its revvy 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 167 horsepower, gathers speed well, with short gearing. Five-speed cars have slightly longer gearing down low, but they 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.

Throughout the model line there's a six-speed automatic transmission on offer; you get steering-wheel shift paddles, but we can in no way recommend it over the manual gearboxes, which have light clutches, short, precise lever throws, and levels of driver involvement that really enhance the open-top experience.

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