By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – There’s something to be said for flying over America rather than driving through it, especially during the orange-cone laden summer months.
We took a 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata to Chicago and then on to Milwaukee and encountered interstate traffic jams caused by construction, lousy weather, bad directions, traffic crawls caused by accidents and we returned here to the remnants of the great flood.
You’d think that the Mazda MX-5 would not do well in less than pristine driving conditions. After all, it was a small two seat hardtop roadster weighing about 2,500 lbs. It had a 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that made 167 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. But it was very road worthy even in the face of some very big big-rigs.
The car had a six-speed manual transmission. Coupled with its light weight, the manual shifter allowed the driver to manage the car’s torque for muscle when needed. The MX-5 Miata could not be characterized as fast but it was quick and handling was precise.
Gas mileage wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Club got 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
In an oversized world, the Miata did not seem overly small, though it was. And the interior was not cramped. Somehow, Mazda’s engineers created a space that had some space.
The car had a 50-50 weight balance. It steered with rifle shot accuracy. Braking was authoritative. Sight lines were good all round. It even had an almost guttural exhaust note.
There was a small trunk; 5.3 cu. ft. It was big enough to toss a couple of soft bags in and there was still some space to get few small items in on the side. But the best part was that the convertible hardtop did not fold into the trunk.
Mazda called it a power retractable hardtop. There is a soft top too. They both fold into a power operated hard tonneau covered space ahead of the trunk. The top gets in there so quick, it doesn’t make sense to count, but it seemed like less than 10 seconds.
We had the Club edition of the MX-5. It featured 17-inch wheels, a black air dam and rear diffuser, sport tuned shocks, a limited slip differential and Club (as in playing card club) graphics. The interior was black cloth with red stitching. There was a dark gray contoured surround meter and a body colored dash panel. In this case it was True Red.
Although the test car had satellite radio it was not equipped with Bluetooth. That was the glaring omission. It is an option but standard equipment on many cars. What’s more, the satellite radio was inactive and the car only had an auxiliary jack. That meant although you could play music from a cell phone, there was no charging of the phone. The car did not have USB jacks which do both.
Mazda’s MX-5 Miata has been on the market 25 years and it is wildly popular. Still, one of the most competitive areas in the automotive market is, no matter the segment, connectivity. In the future, which is now, the automaker that best connects buyers to the Internet will succeed.
At the dawn of four-wheeled hot spots as in Wi-Fi equipped cars, an automaker without USB plugs is in a lot of long run trouble, no matter how good the product. That’s why we suspect that the next generation of the Mazda MX-5 Miata to have an electrical architectural overhaul to accommodate today’s electronics like USB plugs, SD cards and more.
Still, the 2014 MX-5 Miata was an excellent roadster, it had presence, it was maneuverable, it was lightweight and in every sense it was a true roadster. And at $29,460, it was outlandishly affordable.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.