If you ever wonder where Mazda got the 'Zoom Zoom'? idea for its marketing campaigns, you only need to drive the MX-5.
You can scoff and talk about extra cargo space all you want, but this is a car that is difficult not to love.
You'll likely hear those that loved the second generation of the car - widely known as the Miata - call the MX-5 by the same name.Â In fact, the Miata moniker has become so common that Mazda officially added 'Miata'? after the MX-5 designation for the North American model.
One drive and it's easy to see what all the fuss is about - the MX-5 handles and performs like the perfect mass market sports car for thousands less than its big name competitors.
I loved the small, but very efficiently designed cabin that cradles occupants much like a nest. It's so beautifully designed that you can find many of the features that you would find in larger cabins yet they are so cleverly disguised they don't detract from the overall look of the cockpit.
Of course the main selling point of the MX-5 is its performance, which keeps you zoom-zooming around corners and down thoroughfares. The car is truly a joy to drive with terrific acceleration and smooth shifting and a pretty darned good EPA rating of 22-mpg city, 28-mpg highway for the five-speed manual Sport model, which I drove.
You might try to resist the allure of the MX-5 when you first see it. It's small size isn't that odd these days when you consider the number of Smart cars and MINI Coopers on the road. Still, detractors could liken the car to something akin to a kiddy-car at a carnival. It's tiny. Again, though, one ride in it and they'll likely fall in love with it.
The car, called a Roadster in Japan, was released in 1989 under the 'Jinba Ittai'? (rider and horse as one) concept. Now in its third generation, the automaker has continually improved the car with optimized weight distribution, safety features and more.
2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Exterior
The exterior of the MX-5 is as subtle as a supermodel on a runway. This car has looks to spare with dual exhausts, bold grille, sculpted fenders and smooth lines over the rear. The wider front and rear bumpers are also practical because they're aerodynamic, moving the wind away from the wheels.
The halogen headlights with projector-type beams and halogen fog lights are nicely upturned to add even more jaunty sports pizzazz to the front.
Both a soft top and a retractable hard top are available, depending on your preferences. I road tested the retractable hard top and loved how each it was to open and fold. What struck me with the top was how solidly it latched into place. That lessened road noise and there wasn't a whisper of air from any part. Nice.
The look is modern and bold just as it was in '09. In fact, there isn't any difference between the exterior looks of last year's and this year's models.
The only downside to the car's looks is that it draws crowds. Expect to park the car and see a group of neighborhood kids gather to ooh and ahh over it.
2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Interior
Don't let critics tell you that the MX-5 isn't comfortable. I have fairly long legs and drove the car with a passenger from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and back. The car wasn't as roomy as a sedan, but it shouldn't be. It was plenty spacious for a sports car.
In addition, the seats were plenty firm with plenty of lumbar support yet not so large that it was difficult to maneuver in or out of the car.
I also take exception with those that say entering and exiting the car is difficult for the less than flexible. As someone with knee problems, I personally had no problem.
I've griped in the past about some Mazda's that are less than technology friendly. Not so with the MX-5 that has well-placed gadgets, including a plug in for an iPod, a well-placed outlet, plenty of vertical storage in a latchable compartment between the two seats, and cool extras such as a cup holder in the door pocket. I loved that.
In fairness, though, this isn't the car you use to haul anything except a few medium-leaning- toward-small pieces of luggage. The MX-5 has 5.3 cubic feet of cargo room. That's enough for a short trip but don't plan to haul steamer trucks on a worldwide cruise or even a large box from Ikea. This isn't the car for those tasks.
2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Performance
I just loved driving this car. It's as simple as that.
Maybe it's not the fastest car out there but you couldn't prove it by me. I loved flying up the highways as I traveled to Philadelphia and found it was plenty nimble in city traffic, too. Such fun!
The bottom line is that the MX-5 hugs the road as it floats along. Mazda notes the 2.0L DOHC 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine has 167 horsepower (models with automatic transmissions have 158 horsepower) and 140 lb-ft of torque. It's a powerful, smooth ride and braking is smooth and clean.
Part of my long trip included stop-and-go traffic due to construction. The shifting was easy, even though I don't generally drive a stick.
One point though is that this isn't the car for you if you're a private investigator or want to keep a low profile for other reasons. Its dual exhausts aren't just for show - they kick up a nice rumble when the motor turns over which is, candidly, delightful.
With an MSRP starting at just over $23,000, it's easy to see why so many opt for a Miata as a weekend pleasure car. If you long for a solid sports car at an affordable price, the Mazda MX-5 should be on your short list.
2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Safety
Besides an array of front and side air bags, the MX-5 has plenty of safety features including dynamic stability control that modulates the throttle and brakes when oversteer or understeer is detected, a four-wheel anti-lock brake system, and tire pressure monitoring system that monitors all four tires.
Crash test ratings weren't available at the time of our road test, but Mazda lists an array of extra safety devices for the car including: 3-point seat belts with pretensioners and force limiters, stability control, side-impact door beams, a collapsible steering column and more.
Although no crash data was found on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web site for the 2010 model year, previous records show the Miata was rated four of five stars in front driver crashes and fives stars for front passenger-side crashes and rollover. The side impact ratings came in at three stars.