Is Smiling Hazardous to Your Health?
An Ode to Joy
There is nothing quite as powerful and healing in this complicated and challenging world than the simple human act of smiling. But to bring about someone’s smile naturally is something that takes a delicate touch and the truest of intentions. In the automotive world, it is safe to say that few vehicles on sale can touch the Mazda Miata for the number of smiles it has brought to the faces of driving enthusiasts.
We know this because we smiled so much during our week driving the 2012 Mazda Miata Special Edition PRHT that we feared perhaps it was time to get some Botox when it was all over. But even though Autobytel may be headquartered in Orange County it does not mean that we need to all look like expressionless cast members from “The Real Housewives” TV show. Besides, we now refer to the smile lines on our face as our “Miata lines.”
So why exactly did we have such a walloping good time behind the wheel of our very, very red Mazda roadster? Well, not only is the Special Edition PRHT the sportiest Miata you can buy direct from the factory but it is also still a highly effective yet endearingly simple sports car. Granted, our tester had the folding metal hardtop but even with that added piece of mechanical complexity the Miata still is one of the most pure motoring experiences that you can buy from any mainstream automaker.
So sit back, slot the divinely engineered manual transmission into gear and gently slip out the clutch because you are taking a drive in the 2012 Mazda Miata Special Edition PRHT with us. And we guarantee that once this ride is over you are going to be wishing you were this sexy little roadster’s keeper. Because if you were, chances are that you would spend most every waking moment thinking up reasons to go drive your two-seat drop top just because every moment spent behind the wheel of it will bring full-on, grown up joy. Okay, part of the joy is childish but that’s half the fun of the Miata.
Our Special Edition PRHT Miata was a vibrant shade of red that perfectly suited the pixie-like dimensions of this nicely proportioned roadster. We do admit, however, that we left the top down the majority of the time as the Miata doesn’t look quite as perfect with the top up. Also, while the folding metal top does decrease wind and road noise inside the cabin, it does not flatter the Miata’s appearance quite as nicely as the Mazda’s cloth soft top. Call us roadster traditionalists, if you will.
The Special Edition is also unique in the Miata line-up because both the top and the two side mirrors are black which served as a sporty contrast on our red test model. Inside the 2012 Mazda Miata Special Edition PRHT there is clearly a strict adherence to traditional sports car themes as the two leather clad bucket seats are mounted low but perfectly in line with the ergonomic needs of the driver. The dual gauge pod directly ahead is reminiscent of old Alfa Romeo designs albeit without the sad prospect that said dials weren’t operating properly.
The steering wheel was also the perfect distance from the driver’s seat to facilitate quick shifts via the scrumptious-as-a-red-velvet-cupcake 6-speed manual transmission. Suffice it to say that the Miata’s gearbox lives up to its near mythical reputation for goodness but unfortunately right behind it are two of the most useless cupholders known to man. Oh yes, and did we mention the trunk only holds 5.3 cubic feet of cargo? Well, in a roadster you really can’t have everything.
But did we also mention that the power folding hardtop can retract in just 12 seconds? On a sunny day we are quite sure that if you were driving this Miata Special Edition PRHT you would forget all about the cupholders and the trunk. In a car like this, worrying about practicality is like wondering where you left your speedo at a nude beach. It will just never cross your mind.Pricing, Features and Fuel Economy
Our top of the line 2012 Mazda Miata Special Edition PRHT stickered out to $31,225 which is about what we expected to pay considering this particular model had so many additional performance add-ons. Normally, a similarly equipped but less hardcore Miata Grand Touring hardtop would sticker at around $29,000 with Miata soft tops starting at just $23,470. This means that even with this rotten economy, the rejuvenating effects of a sporty roadster are within reach of most new car buyers.
Our Velocity Red Mica test vehicle impressed with the high level of standard accessories in its kit which included a performance limited slip differential, unique sport tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, 17-inch alloy wheels with high performance tires, Xenon headlamps, a shock tower brace, a lightweight aluminum powerplant frame and hood, leather seats, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, push button start and keyless go, power windows and locks and a 7-speaker Bose audio system with and auxiliary input jack. The one thing Mazda really needs to catch up on here is iPod and MP3 connectivity with either a USB port, wireless Bluetooth music streaming or both.
According to the EPA the 2012 Mazda Miata with the six-speed manual should get 21 city/28 highway and average 24 miles per gallon. As you might expect from us after spending seven days with this infectiously sporty roadster, our average was a bit lower at 20.4 miles per gallon. Actually, considering how we drove it you should be impressed with that figure even if we would prefer a larger gas tank than the 12.7 gallon tank thanks to our inability to drive frugally. Also note, Mazda recommends premium unleaded for this engine so not everything about the Miata is easy on the wallet.Driving Impressions and Safety
Everything you have heard about the Mazda Miata through all of its different incarnations is totally still true to this day. This sporty roadster mixes agility, mechanical precision, light weight and deft balance with the balanced expertise of a Samurai swordsman. For those who truly love the lost art of driving and being one with an automobile, there are few cars with as much to offer as this 2012 Mazda Miata Special Edition PRHT.
Although our test model stickered out at the high end of the Miata pricing spectrum, this iconic roadster still stands alone in the automotive world due to its affordability and very pure sporting feel. No other roadsters can match it price wise although you might find similar driving pleasure from a Porsche Boxster, Audi TT or some variations of the Mercedes SLK. The only similarly priced sports car we can think of is the hard-top only 2013 Scion FR-S or its Subaru twin. But then, clearly, those vehicles don’t have the Miata’s roadster vibe which harkens back to the days of the original Lotus Elan.
The pleasure center of this little Miata roadster is most definitely the 6-speed manual gearbox which, in conjunction with a smooth and easy to modulate clutch, offers up faultless shifts no matter how experienced you are with this type of transmission. This is a car where we would definitely urge you to not select the automatic option if at all possible. One day, when the manual transmission is a thing of memory, your grandchildren will want to know what it was like to drive this Miata with a self-shifter. Trust us.
The 2.0 liter 167 horsepower/140 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder isn’t the most powerful engine in the world but it loves to be revved and the noise it makes when doing so is sportily contagious albeit not exactly quiet. The 2012 Miata is a sports car for the senses, however, so you should be prepared to hear the engine, the tires and the wind as you effortlessly carve corners on your favorite roads. Steering feel is impeccably precise for a modern car and this low riding roadster hugs tarmac tighter than your Aunt Ethel hugs you each time she sees you at Thanksgiving. Overall, the Miata is a true driving experience for driving enthusiasts of all ages.
According to crash tests done by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the Miata scored a top five star rating for driver front impact and four stars for the passenger. Side impact scores were less impressive with just three stars awarded to the admittedly rather tiny Miata. But as long as you manage to not to get T-boned by a Cadillac Escalade at 60 miles per hour you should be fine.Conclusion
For driving enthusiasts there is no greater or more affordable drop top sports car than the 2012 Mazda Miata. But even if you don’t decide to invest in what amounts to a very capable track day tool in the form of the PRHT variant, you will no doubt find yourself enamored with whichever model you choose to purchase. Why is that? Because the basic Miata platform is so good all the way from its rear drive architecture to the harmony between engine and gearbox all the way down to the near perfect weight distribution which helps ensure that anybody can play a race car driver in their head.
The other thing we found that we loved about our Miata was the fact that with the zesty and rev happy 2.0 liter 167 horsepower/140 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder engine forced us to work it and the shifter hard to get the best from the car. Also, in the Miata 55 miles per hour feels quick enough for plenty of fun for driver and passenger meaning fewer speeding tickets. So smile, enjoy the wind in your hair (or what’s left of it) and rediscover joy on the open road with the Mazda Miata.
What We Loved About the 2012 Mazda Miata
- The Transmission is a Feast for the Senses if you Love Shifting for Yourself
- The Steering, Handling and Grip Offer Endless Fun in the Sun (or Rain)
- You Can Still Have Fun Driving It at Sane Speeds
What We Loathed About the 2012 Mazda Miata
- The Tiny Trunk and Useless Cupholders
- The Folding Metal Hardtop Not as Handsome as Ragtop Version
- Needs a USB port or Bluetooth Wireless Music Streaming for Bose Audio