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2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Roadster Perfection

There’s a good reason Mazda doesn’t throw heaps of new stuff at the Miata with each successive model year: it doesn’t have to. For 2022, Mazda added new colors inside and out, in addition to something called Kinematic Posture Control, a driver assistance system that brakes the rear wheel when cornering to offer better feel on the road.

Mazda says KPC is meant to help reduce body roll, although there’s still a lot of it in my experience. But that’s not a bad thing. Cars that eliminate every inch of movement in spirited driving far too powerful for most roads and most drivers, leading to the feeling that you’ll never get every inch of performance out of the thing. The Miata gets around this problem by allowing the body to lean and roll under braking and cornering; This not only communicates better when the car is pushed to its limits, but makes those limits seem far more accessible at speeds that won’t get you a ticket. Steering is direct and just the right amount of briskness, and while this Grand Touring model lacks the Club’s optional Brembo brakes, it’ll still pull over in a dramatic rush.

Combine this down-to-earth approach to dynamics with an engine that delivers just the right amount of power, and the result is a car that feels like it’s never over- or underpowered. The Miata’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-4 produces 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, and I hope it never does more. Sure, I have to spend a little more time on the throttle to get enough power for a run, but the engine sound is pleasant at higher revs and gives me more options to use my tester’s six-speed manual transmission.

If other automakers haven’t dissected Mazda’s six-speed stick, they have to. It is the best manual transmission offered in any car today. The clutch is the right weight and communicates the bite point cleanly. The shifter has enough travel and snaps comfortably into every lane. The throttle is perfectly matched; I’ll never ask for a rev-matching system in the Miata because the throttle gives me pixel-perfect blips for clean downshifts every time. And best of all, Mazda has never programmed this car to drop an inch of revs, be it for emissions or any other reason. I step on the clutch and the revs drop immediately. Smooth shifting is so easy, a Geico caveman could pull it off.

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata, showing the exterior and top of the cabin

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2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata, showing the exterior and top of the cabin

If every other automaker hasn’t bought a Miata to see what makes its shifter and clutch pedal so good, then they should.

Andrew Krok/CNET

The 2022 MX-5 gets a striking new off-white paint color, but my tester is dressed in Mazda’s favorite Soul Red, an affordable and overall pretty $595 option. The Grand Touring lacks the club’s flashy BBS wheel upgrade, but its standard 17-inch alloys allow for a fair bit of sidewall on Bridgestone Potenza S001 summer tires, which helps soften the ride quality. There’s also a new dark red interior motif, but mine wears the traditional black leather. On the upper door panels, the color of the exterior paint pulls inward, breaking up the monochrome monotony.

Since the Miata is a roadster, it’s no surprise that practicality doesn’t exactly ooze from every pore. The storage of the door panel is limited to the place where you close it with your hand. The detachable cup holders are clever, but they’re short, so the stability of large drinks is constantly questioned. In addition, putting objects in them, if they are attached to the center console, blocks access to the locker between the seats. The pocket under the armrest is only big enough for a key, but the compartment in front of the shifter has room for a wallet or phone. In the back, the 4.6-cubic-foot trunk holds a couple of backpacks or a few bags of groceries. There’s not much boot space, but the devilishly simple top doesn’t eat into that space at all.

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata, showing the seats

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2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata, showing the seats

The hood of the Miata is just high enough so I don’t lose my hat. And at 6 feet tall, that’s not a given with previous generations of the MX-5.

Andrew Krok/CNET

Like any other Mazda, the MX-5’s in-car engineering leaves a lot to be desired. A 7-inch touchscreen runs the Mazda Connect infotainment system, which boots up slowly and is occasionally slow to respond. Standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto let me bypass Mazda’s mediocre telematics, but touchscreen capability is disabled while driving (although the rotary knob does a decent job of switching the display from Google Maps to Spotify and back again). Two USB-A ports provide the only charging options; With wireless smartphone mirroring present, it would be nice to see a faster USB-C charging solution here for quick juice ups. A small display in the instrument cluster lets me check the trip meter, estimated remaining range and a few other nuggets of relevant information.

Some sports cars are content with handing off safety nannies, but not the Miata. Mazda gave the MX-5 the traditional complement of active and passive driver aids, including blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. The Grand Touring goes a step further with automatic high beams, adaptive headlights and traffic sign recognition. It also adds auto-dimming mirrors, which is a godsend when every pickup’s headlights are designed to reach the back of my cornea.

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata in Red, viewed from the passenger side with the roof up

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2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata in Red, viewed from the passenger side with the roof up

sure you could keep the top up, but come on.

Andrew Krok/CNET

The Mazda MX-5 doesn’t have much of a competitive set. The Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ have more power and are a little roomier, but they don’t feel as rewarding to drive, the stick isn’t nearly as good and they’re not convertibles. The BMW Z4 is a roadster, but only automatic and expensive. Mini also makes convertibles, but its lineup is overpriced and underwhelming.

With window decals reaching depressing new heights every month, it’s nice to see Mazda offering fun at an affordable price in 2022. The MX-5 Grand Touring is packed with bells and whistles, but its base price is a palatable $33,315 with a manual ($500 more for a six-speed automatic), and my tester’s paint job brings that to $33,910, including $1,015 destination fees. If you stick with the base model, you can slip into a new Miata for just $28,315. That’s a hell of a bargain, but when you combine that with excellent driving dynamics, it’s obvious that the 2022 Mazda MX-5 is one hell of a car overall.

https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/reviews/2022-mazda-mx-5-miata-review/ 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Roadster Perfection

Chris Barrese

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