2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: What Is It
The Mazda Miata is definitely the best-selling two-seat convertible in the world and it could very well be the most loved roadster as well, but only 450 lucky buyers will have the opportunity to park the new 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition in their driveway... and we were lucky enough to drive one for a week. To celebrate the last 23 years, and possibly get ready for an all-new model in the near future, Mazda introduced the MX-5 Miata Special Edition at this year's Chicago Auto Show which is, not ironically, where the original car was introduced back in 1989. Not much has changed for the Miata since its debut, but the Special Edition model gives it one of the meanest and most unique appearances the car has ever had.
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled in Hiroshima, Japan, the Special Edition is the highest trim level of the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata (above the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring), and while the starting MSRP of a base Miata Sport is $23,470, the all-new MX-5 Miata Special Edition comes fully loaded with its $31,225 starting price. Since this car is essentially a better-looking version of the fully loaded Miata Grand Touring with the Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT), it isn't surprising that there are no factory options available leaving the as-tested price of our car right at $32,020 with destination. There are definitely plenty of other capable sports cars out there that you could buy in this price range, but built into this $9,000 premium over a base car is probably some of the most exclusivity you'll ever find in a Miata (including the beloved MazdaSpeed models) since only 450 units will be sold in the United States.
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: What It's Up Against
As unique as the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata is, it isn't without some worthy competition like the Ford Mustang Convertible and MINI Cooper Convertible, but the price of this 5 Miata Special Edition puts it in the same range as the BMW 128i Convertible - which would be a very fun side-by-side comparison test. Considering that the market for convertibles probably doesn't even account for all that many sales in the U.S. in the big picture, sales of the Mazda Miata are still pretty low with only 5,674 units sold in 2011, but sales are up 10.5 percent so far in 2012 with 1,454 Miatas sold through March. While it isn't clear if the 450 planned units will be limited to the U.S. or if they will be spread throughout all of the Miata's markets, it is obvious that this is one very special Miata.
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: Exterior
What's New for 2012:
- Special Edition adds black-painted roof, wheels and door mirrors
How It Looks:
Looking more like a custom, one-off paint scheme rather than a factory-built car, the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition is easily recognizable thanks to its exclusive and limited color palette and the black hardtop roof, wheels and door mirrors. Not only do the black accents give the car a meaner, sportier look, Mazda points out that this is the first time the Miata has been available in North America with a roof that doesn't match the body color... for the record, though, the Miata has only been offered with a hard top roof since 2006. Still, the Special Edition looks like it was plucked straight from the Spec Miata racing class. The power retractable hard top and door mirrors are painted in a gloss black while the standard 17-inch, 10-spoke wheels have a dark, gunmetal finish. Our test car came in Velocity Red Mica, but the car is also available in Crystal White Pearl. Visually, there haven't been any styling updates to the MX-5 Miata since the 2009 model year, but this new Special Edition model keeps the car's look fresh and unique.
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: Interior
What's New for 2012:
- Special Edition adds piano black trim
How It Looks and Feels:
Just like the exterior, the inside of the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition features unique black accents to give the car a more exclusive and sporty appearance. While the standard Miata features bright, metallic accent trim, the Special Edition adds a more monotone cabin with piano black accents on the instrument panel, steering wheel and roll bars behind the seats. Based on the MX-5 Miata Grand Touring, the Special Edition comes fully loaded with heated leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake handle, a seven-speaker Bose audio system and automatic HVAC system. Being such a small car, taller drivers might seem a little crammed when the roof is up, but overall, the Miata's cabin is quite comfortable. With a car as small as the Miata, there are always tradeoffs to be made, and in this case, ingress and egress are probably the hardest of any car on the market mostly due to its low seating position, low ride height and the small door openings. Still, the leather-wrapped sport bucket seats provide plenty of comfort and support for the driver and passenger which can't always be said for sports cars.
Adding to the comfort is a padded leather cover over the center cupholders that doubles as a nice, plush armrest, but if there were a drink in the center, it would be very difficult to shift. Mazda makes use of every possible nook and cranny inside the Miata's cabin for storage with a sizable and lockable cubby hole located between the seats (this is also where the gas filler door release is located). Even the small trunk feels a bit larger than its 5.3 cubic feet of volume might sound which is mainly due to the trunk opening that is wide enough to make it practical for a weekend getaway for two and the top doesn't impede on the cargo space when lowered.
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: The Extras
As mentioned earlier, the fact that the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition uses the Grand Touring trim level as a starting point means the car is already well equipped, but some of the extra money buyers will spend on this particular model ensures that this limited-production car comes fully loaded. Wrapped into the price of the Miata Special Edition is the $1,390 Premium Package and the $650 Suspension Package. Included in the Premium Package are luxury goodies such as the Xenon HID headlights, keyless entry and start, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, antitheft alarm and Sirius XM Radio while the Suspension Package adds in a sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks and limited slip differential.
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
What's New for 2012:
- stability control and traction control now standard on all models
How Does It Go:
The 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata might use a small engine to deliver power, but the true capabilities of the car come from its light weight and near perfect weight distribution. Even though the all-aluminum 2.0-liter inline-four engine produces just 167 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque, the 2,593-pound Miata is refreshingly quick and agile. Three transmissions are offered on the 2012 Miata including a five-speed manual and a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, but the best way to experience this car is with the close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox that comes standard on the Miata Grand Touring. Even with its sporty nature, the 2012 Mazda Miata still returns impressive fuel economy with EPA-rated estimates of 21 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and a rating of 24 mpg in combined driving.
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: How It Drives
It's hard to find a car that is more fun to drive without breaking the bank then the Mazda MX-5 Miata, but the new-for-2012 MX-5 Miata Special Edition brings a whole new level of enjoyment to the mix with its unique appearance and exclusive availability. While there aren't any performance changes made on the Special Edition, it does come with a sport-tuned suspension that features Bilstein shocks and a limited slip differential. All Miatas are known for the ability to hug any corner it encounters, and this beefed-up suspension increases that ability even more. Even without the Suspension Package, all Miata PRHT models are already well balanced with an almost-perfect weight distribution of 51/49 (front to rear) and these cars (like all Touring and Grand Touring models) up the chassis stiffness even more with a standard front shock tower brace under the hood. With the top down, the Miata's uniquely tuned exhaust note is also apparent which helps to make the Special Edition seems even more like a custom job. All Miatas have a sport-tuned exhaust system that emits a sporty note from the dual pipes, but cars equipped with the six-speed manual (as was the case with this test car) even have a unique engine sounds that is a result of the specially designed Induction Sound Enhancer (ISE) which appears to be added pipes and resonance inside the intake manifold giving the car a deeper, throatier tone.
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: Is It Safe
Considering the low production numbers of the third-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata, it isn't too surprising that the car has yet to be tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Still, all 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata models come with standard safety features that include four airbags, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control. Previously, these latter two safety features were only available on cars equipped with the Premium Package, but for 2012, both are standard on all Miata trim levels.
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: Final Thoughts
As the dawn of a fourth-generation Mazda Miata approaches (hopefully in the next year or so), this all-new Special Edition trim level should definitely help to injected a little extra excitement into its sporty little roadster. The Miata is already one of the most fun to drive cars you can buy on the market and its affordable starting price has helped make it the most popular two-seat convertible in the world, but the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition is by far one of the most stylish Miata models ever produced. The black accents in and around the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition give the car more of a custom look while at the same time transforming the friendly, smiley front fascia into more like a menacing grin. With just 450 of the -5 Miata Special Edition cars being built, most people will probably never see one in person, but for those lucky enough to park this special car in their garage, congratulations!
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition Review: Pros and Cons
- unique styling limited to 450 units
- fun to drive... as always
- fast-operating retractable hard top
- high price for exclusivity
- no performance upgrades
- no navigation system
Mazda provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross