2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 16, 2009

The 2009 Mazda MX-5 is the closest thing to a reincarnated British roadster on the planet, albeit one with altogether better reliability, fit, and finish.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Mazda MX-5 Miata in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's car experts also researched available road tests on the new Mazda MX-5 Miata to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

With fantastic handling and an optional power-folding hardtop, the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata brings the classic roadster into the modern era. The four-cylinder engines are zippy and responsive, the steering and handling are sportscar-perfect, and the manual transmissions are a sheer joy to shift.

2009 is the 20th anniversary of the Miata, and to celebrate Mazda refreshed the MX-5’s exterior and interior styling, increased its performance, bettered its fuel mileage, and added two new exterior colors.

Performance-wise, redline on the 2.0-liter MZR engine with a manual transmission increases 500 rpm, from 6,700 to 7,200. First- through fourth-gear synchros on the six-speed manual transmissions are now carbon-coated, and the suspension has been recalibrated with less intrusive Dynamic Stability Control.

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The exterior of the 2009 MX-5 features a more aggressive front fascia, a five-point grille, a revised rear bumper, and new lightweight 16- and 17-inch wheels among other changes. Inside, the MX-5’s seats provide both better comfort and support, while the center console has more storage space.

The retractable hardtop became an option in 2007. When the hardtop is retracted and folded away, the Miata has 5.3 cubic feet of trunk space—more than enough for the typical overnight bag. This version of the Miata comes in at just 80 pounds heavier than the standard soft-top roadster, and the top takes just 12 seconds to fold away, so the effect on performance is minimal.

The soft-top is easy to use; just flick the header latches and flip it over the shoulder into a shallow holding area. You'll still have enough luggage room for a short weekend trip.

The new shape of the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata is more Mr. Roboto than revived Lotus Elan, but that just means that the Miata has found a personality of its own. The interior is neatly trimmed with high-quality materials, and it's even a little more spacious than before, though no one will complain about too much shoulder room in a Miata.

Standard features include power windows, power mirrors, a CD player, and tilt steering. Optional features include the six-speed automatic, power locks, Sirius Satellite Radio, steering-wheel audio controls, and a sport suspension. Dual front and side airbags, along with anti-lock brakes, are standard, but stability control is only available on the most expensive model. The 2009 Mazda MX-5 has not been crash-tested in the United States.

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2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Styling

With pert styling and a neatly organized interior, the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata is the closest thing to a reincarnated British roadster on the planet.

According to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com’s editors, the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata looks like a winner—tough to most, soft to a few.

To some reviewers the 2009 Mazda MX-5’s style is neither butch nor muscular. The New York Times says, “It doesn’t have side pipes or a hood scoop or a name that conjures images of bloodlust and rage.” In fact, Car and Driver calls it a “cutie pie,” though Edmunds returns some dignity when it reports that the Miata has “more aggressive styling, without bumping up the price or diluting its perky personality.”

Jalopnik says it "resembles a lightweight power lifter" and describes it as follows: "flared wheel arches rising out of the hood and the trunk, aggressive swells around the headlights and dual pipes poking out of a chiseled, muscular derriere." Cars.com points out that this version of the Miata “retains the fixed headlights but returns somewhat to the original shape, with fewer curves—except for the accentuated wheel arches that recall the Mazda RX-8.”

The 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata is available in two models: a soft-top roadster and a Power Retractable Hard Top model. The hardtop edition is good-looking too; Car and Driver says, “raised, the body-color bubble looks stubbier than the soft-top but is still attractive.”

Inside the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata’s cabin, the seat shape is refined for better comfort and lateral support. The center console has more flexible storage, and a padded armrest provides better comfort. “The interior is highlighted with chrome and silver accents, and the driver faces a three-spoke tilt steering wheel,” Cars.com notes of its test car. “The $515 interior trim package,” according to the New York Times, “consists of a few bits of ‘aluminum look’ trim on the door panels and dashboard. Mind you, this isn’t aluminum trim—it’s plastic. For that price, on a per-ounce basis, I’d think you could trim your doors and dash in anything from titanium to sashimi-grade tuna belly.”

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2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Performance

The 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata has a nimble feel and quick reflexes like a true sportscar should.

According to reviews researched by TheCarConnection.com and the firsthand experience of the editors, the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata is as nimble as it is stylish. With increased horsepower, recalibrated suspension, an even smoother-shifting transmission, and an Induction Sound Enhancer, the new MX-5 only stands to get better.

Depending on your choice of trim level, the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes standard with either a five- or six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional. “The six-speed manual has especially short throws,” and the manual shifter is a delight, reports the New York Times. “The shifter feels as though a team of engineers spent months working on its action, and a flick of the wrist rewards you with the rare feeling of metal engaging metal, a precision machine at work,” they wax. Cars.com points out that the six-speed automatic “includes steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles for manual operation.”

Powering both the roadster and hardtop convertible models is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 167 hp. Car and Driver observes of the hardtop convertible, “at 2560 pounds, it was 135 pounds heavier than our last MX-5 soft-top and did the 60-mph dash 0.3 second slower (7.0 seconds).” Impressive acceleration is matched with deft use of power via the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata’s rear-drive chassis. Kelley Blue Book says the weight balance "allows the car to perform remarkably nimble maneuvers that would be more difficult if the car had more of its weight biased to either end." Cars.com also notes that “the roadster has a 50/50 weight distribution (front/rear) and precise rack-and-pinion steering for legendary handling and predictability. The Miata is one of the most fun-to-drive cars around, despite its relatively modest engine power.”

Mazda Miatas have long been known to accelerate and handle well, but the 17-inch tires are an option than can sully its usually smooth ride. ConsumerGuide says the "ride is choppy and borderline harsh with the less-compliant combination of the Suspension Package and 17-inch tires."

Regarding the performance of the 2009 MX-5 Miata, most reviews are glowing. Mazda has created a vehicle that "changes direction like a go-kart, communicates clearly to the driver and accelerates with an inspiring inline-4 growl," raves Edmunds. The New York Times says, “On paper it seems unremarkable, but a mere spec sheet won’t divulge the essence of this car. Its 167-horsepower engine doesn’t make face-melting power, but it seems to have no flywheel whatsoever, and a blip of the throttle results in an instant, melodic zing that begs you to match revs on your next downshift.”

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2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata is built for fun, not practicality



The 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata makes a virtue out of its compact size, but don’t expect any packaging miracles.

Not only is there not a whole lot of room for passengers in the 2009 Mazda Miata, but the trunk is rather small, and there isn't much in the way of storage space. When the available hardtop is retracted and folded away, the Miata has 5.3 cubic feet of trunk space—more than enough for the typical overnight bag, but not an excess of room.

The Miata isn’t overflowing with extra space. “The cockpit is wider than the prior generation's and has greater hip room, shoulder room and elbowroom,” Cars.com says, “but the difference isn't as great as we'd hoped when Mazda set out to redo this model.” As with any sexy two-seater, Kelley Blue Book points out, "If this is going to be your only mode of transport, you're not going to win many friends when it's your turn to drive the co-workers to lunch." Cars.com observes, “Because there's no backseat, the two occupants get more legroom than you might expect.” There’s a little more room for the driver; the "driver's-side foot well has been widened by running the exhaust down the right side of the transmission tunnel," Kelley Blue Book notes.

Perhaps it’s a matter of differently sized drivers; as ConsumerGuide points out, "those over six feet tall may want more legroom," and "those under 5-foot-6 may have trouble seeing over the high dashboard." Mazda did try to remedy this issue; Cars.com notes that with the Miata, Mazda has added a new driver's-side seat height adjustment, allowing shorter drivers to achieve maximum vision and comfort. Jalopnik says the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata is "anything but practical," while ConsumerGuide comments on its "surprising practicality."

“Tire roar can still be tiring on long drives,” notes Car and Driver.

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2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Safety

Crash-test data is lacking for the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata, but standard safety gear is what you’d expect from a modern roadster.

Although the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata hasn't been rated yet in crash tests, it has many standard safety features, and stability control is available.

According to ConsumerGuide, the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata features front driver and passenger airbags, as well as side airbags that "provide head and torso protection.”

Other safety features available on the MX-5 include a tire-pressure monitoring system, which can prevent accidents by alerting the driver when the air pressure is low. A good braking system with anti-lock brakes and vehicle stability control also help keep riders safe, though the stability control system is an option only on the most expensive version of the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Features

The 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata provides buyers with many available features, but newer tech options aren’t on the list.

Although Bluetooth and a navigation system aren’t offered, the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata has the features a roadster needs to entertain its drivers.

The Power Retractable Hard Top model was released in 2007. This version of the MX-5 weighs just 80 pounds more than the standard soft-top roadster, and the top takes just 12 seconds to fold away, so the effect on performance is minimal. Jalopnik gives this advice: "just push the button, count twelve Mississippis and do some donuts."

Standard features include power windows, power mirrors, a CD player, and tilt steering. Optional features include the six-speed automatic, power locks, Sirius Satellite Radio, steering-wheel audio controls, and a sport suspension.

The soft-top model includes a vinyl version on base cars and a fabric one on mid-scale models. The soft-top is easy to use; just flick the header latches and flip it over the shoulder into a shallow holding area. You'll still have enough luggage room for a short weekend trip. As Kelley Blue Book points out, "the top, for example, can be operated from inside the car with just one arm and, when retracted, collapses into a small well behind the seats.”

Kelley Blue Book notes that the optional Bose audio system available on the MX-5 has many adjustments. "Bose has created an optional sound system that adjusts equalization"—it changes according to whether the top is up or down, allowing the driver and passenger to hear the best-quality sound in either environment.

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