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2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Road Test and Review

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
August 27, 2013
8 min. Reading Time

Just like death and taxes - and the Fast and Furious movie franchise - some things are eternal.  Witness the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata, the latest edition of a compact roadster that has sold over 900,000 copies since it was first introduced in 1989.  What makes that inflated figure even more impressive is that the Miata has been able to appeal to so many buyers despite offering only modest power and a public image that masks most of its performance potential behind a cloak of cuteness. 

So what is it, then, that has helped the MX-5 outlast so many of the other competitors that have come and gone during its two-decade reign at the top of the roadster pantheon?  There’s no mystery about that – it’s the automobile’s phenomenal driving experience.  The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata holds on to its crown as one of the best driver’s cars at any price point, and although we wait and wait for Mazda to set an on-sale date for the next generation of the Miata, we are lucky to have the current model to tide us over.

2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Models and Prices

Another factor that has helped the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata stay on top of the roadster game is its affordability.  The Miata’s base Sport trim features an MSRP that is a wallet-friendly $23,720, and while its features list is light it does cover the nice-to-have basics: air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a CD player (with an AUX input), fog lights, power windows, 16-inch rims, and a vinyl top.  Next up is the Club trim (new for 2013, MSRP $26,705) which is targeted at buyers who intend to explore the Miata’s capabilities on the track.  It includes a more aggressive exterior treatment, 17-inch rims, a cloth top to replace the vinyl unit, keyless entry, Bilstein shock absorbers, a limited-slip rear differential, leather wrapping for the shift knob to match the steering wheel, a trip computer, a brace linking the front shock towers under the hood, and stereo controls on the steering wheel.  If you want to approach luxury in the MX-5, your only choice is to go the Grand Touring route (MSRP $27,350), which introduces heated leather seats, a beige top if the black one is unacceptable, automatic climate control, a Bose stereo system, and an automatically-dimming rearview mirror.  Club and Grand Touring models also come with the choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, while the Sport features a five-speed manual or a six-speed autobox.

There are a number of options available with the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata, most notably a power-retractable hard top for the Club and Grand Touring trims as well as the Convenience and Appearance packages which respectively add the comforts and looks of the Club model to the entry-level Sport trim.  The vehicle I drove for a week was a Canadian-market car that was roughly equivalent of a Club model with a hard top, minus the performance suspension and body kit.  Retail for my tester came to about $27,000.


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Design

  • The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata offers the Club model’s redesigned front and rear fascias, along with a fresh bumper treatment all around.

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata puts an end to the ribbing it had received in recent years concerning the wide-mouthed ‘smiley’ grille that proliferated across almost the entire Mazda lineup before being toned down due to popular demand.  Personally, I never had a problem with the looks of the 2012 Miata, but there’s no denying that the 2013 edition is that much sharper thanks to the sportier curves of its new front bumper.  I also really liked the small winglets underneath the front air dam, which protrude from either side of the car and add a touch of extra go-fast persona to the car.  The Miata’s roundness has gotten, well, rounder over the years, and while it’s not quite a jelly-bean I was happy to have the black rims, a black roof, black mirrors, and black side stripe to help break up the car’s all-white landscape.  Dual exhaust tips – a styling affectation – are also a nice touch.

The passenger compartment of the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata contains many direct links to the first-generation edition of the vehicle (full disclosure: I owned one), from the shape of the air vents to the design of the dash gauges to the look of the door panels.  It’s an uncomplicated car, which might disappoint drivers used to the attention-grabbing flourish that now pervades the compact segment.  The point is made, however: the Miata wants you to focus on driving, not on touching the plastics that make up most of its interior surfaces.


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Comfort and Cargo

  • The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata does not feature any new comfort or cargo features.

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata that I drove really wasn’t all that focused on offering a high degree of comfort to its driver and passenger.  That isn’t to say that I had a problem with the vehicle’s cloth seats – I just wasn’t driving the high end version of the roadster, which to be honest isn’t really well-suited to play in that particular price segment, period.  It was a little tough for me to find a seating position that would let me actuate the clutch comfortably, but once that was taken care of I appreciate the clear view of the road ahead provided by the Miata.  Although the seat recline feature is a bit limited, the passenger enjoys a decent amount of legroom.  Taller drivers, however, might feel caged in by the Mazda’s steering wheel.

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata doesn’t provide all that much cargo space, with just a few ticks over five cubic feet available in the trunk to go along with a small glove box and an equally-tiny lockable compartment between the seats.  The good news for retractable hard top buyers is that the power feature doesn’t take up any extra space in the trunk – it collapses into its own special holding cell just behind the cockpit.  You don’t get a package shelf, however, which is something I found myself missing every time I looked around for a place to stow my sweater or hat.


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Features and Controls

  • The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata does not debut any new features or controls.

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata’s basic interior styling is matched by its feature set.  Simple knobs and dials operate the car’s climate control system, and while the stereo offers steering wheel controls it doesn’t provide USB inputs or offer a touch screen.  This is motoring for the sake of motoring, and I can get behind that sentiment, but what I would have appreciated was a set of speakers that could overpower the noise of driving with the top down.  The Miata’s system simply wasn’t up to the task.

Raising and lowering the roof is a simple process that requires one to unlatch the unit from the inside (using a single, center-mounted latch on the roof itself), and then push the lowering button on the top of the center stack until the car beeps to let you know that the mechanism has finished its work.  Putting the roof up is the reverse of putting it down, but you’ll have to keep an eye on the rearview mirror to make sure that the tonneau cover has closed prior to driving off, as the roof can kiss the windshield frame several seconds before the entire operation is complete.  The Miata’s retractable hard top is very, very quick – much faster than several soft tops I have had to deal with – and it’s also quiet, although you’ll have to be completely stopped in order for the system to let you put it up or take it down.


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Safety and Ratings

  • The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata debuts no new safety gear.

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes with a host of airbags, including dual forward and side impact units, and it also offers electronic stability control and traction control.  It doesn’t provide access to the kind of advanced safety systems that are becoming more and more prevalent amongst small cars, which means those seeking equipment like a blind spot monitor are out of luck.

2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Crash Test Ratings: The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata has not been crash tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS.


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Engines and Fuel Economy

  • The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata soldiers forward with the same drivetrain as the previous model year.

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata is equipped with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that develops 167 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque when matched with either one of its five-speed or six-speed manual transmissions.  Selecting the six-speed automatic knocks horsepower down to 148.  Fuel mileage for the base MX-5 Miata is listed at 22-mpg in stop and go driving and 28-mpg during highway cruising, although Mazda recommends premium fuel which will up your operating costs by a few dollars per tank.  I saw 20-mpg combined – a couple miles per gallon under its EPA rating – after a week of hard driving.


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Driving Impressions

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of the most rewarding automobiles I have had the pleasure of driving over the course of the past year.  You might think I am biased due to my past relationship with a very special, now-departed Miata of my own, but the truth is I enjoy the current generation of the MX-5 despite it not being able to match the visceral feel of the early versions of the car.

If that sounds like faint praise, I assure you that it is not.  Let me explain: it’s practically impossible for any modern car that relies not on power but on dynamics to compete with 90s-vintage vehicles due to the increase in curb weight that has resulted from stricter safety regulations and environmental concerns.  The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata features a curb weight of 2,450 lbs in base form (and 2,593 lbs when examining at the hard top model I was driving).  This might be hundreds of pounds heavier than earlier models but it’s a phenomenal lightweight when compared to other sports cars like the Subaru BRZ and the Porsche Cayman.

It’s the Miata’s lightness and litheness that inform its every single telepathic response to the driver’s steering, braking, and accelerator inputs.  Ok, so maybe the latter isn’t quite as snappy as one would like, but keep the momentum going in the Miata, develop a flow through the curves, and you will find yourself braking later and holding more speed through the apex than you would have previously thought possible.  Moving from a powerful but 3,000 lbs+ car like the Nissan 370Z, the BMW M3, or the Ford Mustang to the Miata requires you to re-map your brain even on familiar roads, as all of your previous corner entry and exit data is no longer valid.

Driven properly, the Miata rewards generously, especially with the top down and the wind sailing through the quiet, though lively cabin.  With the drone of the car’s exhaust just behind your ears singing like a low-flying Cessna on a strafing run, the Mazda builds a deep relationship with the driver that is much harder to develop when encased under tin or insulated by hundreds and hundreds of horsepower.  So what if second and third gear are really close together when shifting the six-speed transmission at full throttle?  The Miata is more than a car, it’s an experience, and it delivers the kind of sensations that are becoming harder to find in a world filled with increasingly detached automobiles.


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Final Thoughts

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a truly excellent sports car that can be had at a jaw-dropping price.  If it were up to me, I’d pick a Club model with a soft top, but that’s because I’d keep the Miata as a weekend toy or track-day weapon, carefully stowed in a garage and protected from both the elements and prying eyes.  If you plan to daily drive your Miata, it’s hard to argue against the additional utility of the power retractable hard top, which gives the roadster genuine cold weather capability as well as increased security when you have to leave it somewhere overnight.  It looks good, too, with the roof up – although there’s a weight penalty to pay that you will feel ever so slightly when driving the car hard.

Is the Miata a practical automobile?  No, most likely not, unless your lifestyle is one where a single passenger / single duffle bag is your most common traveling arrangement.  Is it a fun car?  Absolutely – aside from the previously-mentioned Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S twins, you aren’t going to find a purer, more ecstatic driving companion for less than $30,000.


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review: Pros and Cons


  • More aggressive looks than the year before
  • One of the best-driving cars at any price
  • Hard top adds security and all-weather capability
  • Very affordable
  • Comfortable on longer trips
  • Outstanding handling


  • Not very powerful
  • Not practical (two seats, limited trunk space)
  • Hard top exacts a weight penalty
  • Interior is functional, nothing more
  • Radio is not loud enough to overpower wind noise

Mazda Canada supplied the vehicle for this review



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