2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Test Drive Review: A Ray Of Automotive Sunshine

2020 has been a depressing year with people needing a pick-me-up more than ever before. Luckily, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is a ray of sunshine in a cloudy universe, an infinite source of pleasure to break out of monotony with a 7,500-rpm manic drive unit under the hood. Producing 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, the Miata is clearly not the fastest sports car that money can buy, but all of those performance numbers fall to the wayside once you uncork the brilliantly simple little roadster.

The Miata has always been about the feel, capturing the sheer pleasure of driving, making every trip to the grocery store or doctor's office feel memorable. Starting at under $27,000, very few sports cars can put as big a grin on your face as the Miata, though the Fiat 124 Spider (basically a re-bodied Miata), Toyota 86, and Subaru BRZ can certainly try their best. Spending a week with a 2020 MX-5 Miata Club reminded us of what a great little car this really is.

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 MX-5 Miata?

A number of little changes have made their way to the 2020 update of the Mazda MX-5 Miata in the US, including a new keyfob and a revised font for the badging. Some new colors are now on the options list, along with more standard equipment. All new Miata models now feature Mazda's i-Activsense driver-assistance features that include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. The top two trims also gain Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, with the highest trim gaining the handling upgrades that are standard on the mid-level Club trim.

Pros and Cons

  • Peppy, rev-happy engine
  • Sharp handling
  • Comfortable ride
  • All available safety equipment is standard
  • Well-designed interior
  • Confining cockpit
  • Loud at highway speeds
  • Minimal cargo space
  • Upset by rough pavement

Best Deals on MX-5 Miata

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Sport
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
6-Speed Manual
Rear-Wheel Drive
$26,580
Club
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
6-Speed Manual
Rear-Wheel Drive
$30,290
Grand Touring
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
6-Speed Manual
Rear-Wheel Drive
$31,670
100th Anniversary
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
6-Speed Manual
Rear-Wheel Drive
$32,670

MX-5 Miata Exterior

The dramatic styling of the latest generation MX-5 gives it an aggressively sporty look, with sharp creases equally balanced by svelte curves. A manually-folding soft-stop is the defining feature, and LED lighting is standard all-round with 16-inch wheels on the base model. 17-inch wheels are fitted to the higher trims and the Club variant has access to black forged BBS wheels and some aero upgrades. This model also gets a subtle rear spoiler as standard.

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Dimensions

The diminutive MX-5 is exceptionally compact in its dimensions, measuring just 154.1 inches in length. The wheelbase is similarly small, at 90.9 inches, making for agile handling. Width is measured at just 68.3 inches while height is 48.6 inches. Curb weight varies depending on whether you stick with the standard six-speed manual or opt for the automatic. Manual versions start at a base weight of 2,341 pounds while autos weigh at least 2,403 lbs.

  • Length 154.1 in
  • Wheelbase 90.9 in
  • Height 48.6 in
  • Max Width 68.3 in
  • Front Width 58.9 in
  • Rear Width 59.2 in
  • Curb Weight 2,341.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

A new Polymetal Gray paint option is available at no cost for 2020 Club and Grand Touring models while the soft-top on the GT trim can be had in an all-new Gray finish too, at an extra $300. The base model comes in either Arctic White or Jet Black Mica at no charge while the stunning Soul Red Crystal Metallic is a $595 option. On this model, a black roof is the only choice for the Miata convertible. The Club variant is available in the aforementioned colors at the same prices, or you can spec Machine Gray Metallic for $300. The top trim is not available in Arctic White but gains the option of Snowflake White Pearl Mica for $200 or Eternal Blue Mica at no charge. The top trim also features body-color mirrors while the other variants get gloss black. This variant can also be specced with a contrasting Gray soft top. Manual versions of the mid-level Club trim also have the option of Dark Gunmetal wheels and red calipers as part of a package. Our Club trim tester came wearing the new Polymetal Gray option, which looked subtle if not a bit boring. Soul Red would be our preferred choice.

  • Jet Black Mica
  • Arctic White
  • Soul Red Crystal Metallic
  • Polymetal Gray
  • Machine Gray Metallic
  • Eternal Blue Mica
  • Snowflake White Pearl Mica

Mazda MX-5 Miata Performance

Every variant of the MX-5 comes with the same power plant - a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four with 181 hp and 151 lb-ft. Every last drop of power is sent exclusively to the rear wheels and coupled with a near-perfect balance of weight distribution, taking corners is a delightful experience. Mazda doesn't even provide a 0 to 60 mph time, nor a top speed claim, because that's not what you buy an MX-5 for. Here, the car is all about the balance between the driver and the machine, something that Mazda's marketing team will be quick to tell you is based on the cohesion and seamless instinctive feel between an excellent rider and his steed. Nevertheless, independent test drives have shown that the little sports car is capable of completing the sprint in around six seconds, while top speed should be a little over 130 mph.

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Aft View CarBuzz
2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Gear Shifter CarBuzz
2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

The engine in the Miata is Mazda's Skyactiv-G inline four-cylinder, a mill that produces 181 horses and 151 lb-ft of torque. The 2.0-liter engine is still unassisted by any form of forced induction because this car is meant to be linear, approachable, fun, and happy to rev. Don't let the PR people lie to you - nothing ever responds or feels like a naturally aspirated engine and this four-pot is testament to that. It's eager and probably one of the best examples of a "peppy" motor. Mazda's improvements from last year carry over, drastically increasing the engine's redline to 7,500 rpm. This makes the Miata a bit of a screamer, which can be disconcerting if you've only driven turbocharged sports cars. At 5,000 rpm, you'll be tempted to change to the next gear, but trust us, you'll want to rev it out all the way. You can thank us later.

One of the things we love most about the MX-5 Miata is that it still comes standard with a delightful six-speed manual transmission. Smooth and with a satisfyingly notchy feel and short throw, the gear-lever is the perfect companion to engaging driving and spirited cornering. If you can't be bothered to use a third pedal, the MX-5 is available with a six-speed automatic transmission too. Naturally, this is less engaging, but it is willing to hang on to gears in Sport mode and will change with only a slight bit of hesitation. You do need to time your clicks of the steering-mounted paddles a little before you actually intend to change gear, but the auto is otherwise impressive and will generally allow for fairly aggressive downshifts into the higher reaches of the rev range. If you already trusted us on revving out to 7,500 rpm, we implore you to take our advice once again; get the manual.

  • Engine
    2.0L Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Automatic, 6-Speed Manual
  • Drivetrain
    RWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Modern automotive PR departments have brainwashed car enthusiasts into believing that body roll is the bane of their existence, and that all sports cars should remain flat and level through every corner. The MX-5 says bollocks to that. Even our Club tester with the stiffer shocks leans into bends, but once the car settles, it's easy to get a handle on what will happen next. That's because the Miata's lightweight construction and 50-50 weight distribution communicate every sensation back to the driver, making you feel connected to the experience. The steering wheel is a bit less communicative than we'd like, but with such a touchy throttle, we never felt lacking for precision control. As a minor drawback, the Miata tends to bite back unexpectedly when you get it all a bit wrong, but when the rear end steps out, a good driver can correct with a bit of opposite lock.

The Miata isn't a car you drift, but rather one you coax into a bit of tomfoolery. With no fear of immediate death, you can push those limits day in and day out and always trust the tires to communicate feedback through your hands. Opting for the Club or Grand Tourer variants adds a limited-slip differential along with a front shock tower brace and Bilstein dampers, although the latter two features are only available in conjunction with the manual transmission - yet another reason to get the DIY model. In terms of general road manners, the Miata is stiffer than your average commuter car but never unbearable. When it's time to stop, the brakes are sharp yet easy to modulate, and the Club trim is available with more stopping power in the form of larger Brembo calipers. We didn't find the Brembos to feel particularly more impressive, though with such little weight to bring to a halt, they work just fine.

MX-5 Miata Gas Mileage

Gas mileage varies slightly depending on whether you opt for the auto or the standard manual, but the figures are so similar that you don't have to feel guilty for your choice. The manual version returns EPA figures of 26/34/29 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles while the auto is marginally better at 26/35/30 mpg on the same cycles. Even after ragging the engine up to its sky-high redline, we couldn't stop the Miata from averaging 30 mpg. With an 11.9-gallon gas tank, its mixed range is estimated to be around 356 miles between fill-ups - a truly remarkable figure for a dedicated sports car.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    11.9 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 26/34 mpg
* 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport Manual

MX-5 Miata Interior

The MX-5's interior is simple yet focused, with easily adjustable seats that go low enough for a six-footer to be comfortably positioned, but anyone will feel snug. A fair number of soft-touch plastics are offset by the generous use of leather in key areas that are high-traffic touchpoints. Everything is well laid out and surprisingly solid and premium-feeling. The seats are also comfortable and offer a decent range of adjustment, but you won't want to take your Great Dane along for a ride. The infotainment system is easy to use thanks to a responsive touchscreen and easy-to-understand knobs and steering functions, but you'll want a trim higher than the base for standard smartphone integration as well as heated seats.

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Steering Wheel Controls CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

The Miata is a two-seater that perfectly encapsulates the idea of the cabin of a car being akin to a cockpit. You sit down low but still have the ability to perfectly position the steering wheel and the seats for a good view all around. Naturally, blind spots can be tricky with the top up, but standard monitoring of that area helps make lane changes less scary. Headroom isn't the greatest but it is enough for a six-footer, although such an individual may find the legroom to err more on the side of controlling than relaxing. Getting in and out can also be a tricky affair with the top up thanks to narrow door openings, but the general feeling is that you're slipping into a well-trimmed race suit rather than a confining straight jacket. The Club's available Recaro seats hug you even more tightly and should work best for track use and spirited drives, not long trips or a daily commute.

  • Seating capacity
    2-seater
  • Front Leg Room 43.1 in
  • Front Head Room 37.4 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The base Sport model in the Miata lineup comes with black fabric upholstery while the mid-level Club variant gains Light Gray contrast stitching. All models feature leather on the steering wheel, gear-lever, and handbrake lever, but the top Grand Touring trim gets black leather and silver accent stitching on the seats too, although you can opt for Sport Tan leather if your paint is blue or red. If you opt for Snowflake White, Jet Black, or Machine Gray exterior paint, red Nappa leather can be specced for $300. This model also gets Satin Chrome accents on various places like the air-vent surrounds, whereas the lower models get gloss black. The base model also swaps this alu-look trim on the doors for regular plastic. Alcantara door and center-console trimming is also available throughout the range.

MX-5 Miata Trunk and Cargo Space

The Miata has a manually-folding soft-top, which means that dropping the roof won't have any impact on trunk space. This is great news considering that the trunk is not particularly large to begin with. 4.59 cubic feet of volume is all you get, but it's decent enough for a pair of medium duffel bags.

In the cabin, you get a pair of removable cupholders along with a narrow area in the center console for additional storage. The rear-mounted glovebox is also small but is your best bet for storing your wallet, as the shallow door pockets will invariably cause items to fall out.

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Interior Details CarBuzz
2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Seat Belt CarBuzz
2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Trunk Space CarBuzz
  • Trunk Volume
    4.6 ft³

MX-5 Miata Infotainment and Features

Features

The Miata is a fairly basic vehicle, but that's part of its charm. The air-conditioning system in all but the top trim is manually controlled but you do get features like keyless entry, push-button start, a remote trunk lid release, and a rearview camera. The mid-level Club variant gains heated seats and a limited-slip differential. Manual variants also gain a strut brace and Bilstein dampers, along with the option of a package that includes an aero kit, Brembo front brakes, and Recaro seats. While all models feature LED headlights, the units fitted to the top Grand Tourer trim are adaptive. This model also gains rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors, and a light in the trunk. As part of the standard i-Activsense driver-aid suite, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning are included on all models.

Infotainment

The infotainment system in the Miata is a Mazda Connect seven-inch touchscreen displaying clear images and compatible with voice control. On the base model, it's connected to six speakers and features Bluetooth, USB connectivity, HD Radio, aux input, and compatibility with Aha, Pandora, and Stitcher. The Club gets an upgraded nine-speaker system from Bose, along with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio. The top Grand Tourer trim builds on this with standard navigation and SiriusXM Traffic & Travel Link. Overall, the system is basic and easy to use and navigate, thanks in part to supplementary controls that include a central rotary dial and redundant steering wheel controls.

MX-5 Miata Problems and Reliability

At the time of writing, the 2020 edition of the MX-5 has been free of recalls. The 2019 model, however, suffered one blemish to its otherwise good reputation for reliability. The single recall is applicable to the automatic configurations, which could succumb to faulty transmission software that would cause abrupt downshifts.

In terms of the warranty, the MX-5 gets three years/36,000 miles of limited coverage. The powertrain is also covered for five years or 60,000 miles. Some competitors - like the almost identical Fiat 124 Spider - boast a longer limited warranty and a shorter powertrain warranty, with both applicable for four years/50,000 miles.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

MX-5 Miata Safety

Neither of the authorities in the USA has subjected the Mazda MX-5 Miata to review for safety ratings, but thanks to more standard driver aids for 2020, the Miata is safer than ever.

Key Safety Features

As standard, the MX-5 features forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning. The top trim also gains automatic adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams, as well as traffic sign recognition. All models all feature a tire pressure monitor and both frontal and side-impact airbags as standard.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata a good car?

As the adage goes, Miata is always the answer. That's a very broad statement and it's not necessarily true for everyone. Those of a larger frame or a height of more than six feet will likely find the MX-5 to be too confining, and those who have driven turbo cars may find the experience of a Miata too different from what they've become accustomed to. The trunk, too, is tiny, and there isn't a lot of practicality on offer in terms of interior storage either. Nevertheless, the driving experience is all but unparalleled. The feel and communication from the tires right through to your seat are a joy to experience, and the engine's peppy, responsive, and rev-happy nature are wonderful contrasts to the dull and lazy engines that are the norm in most cars at this price point. If you're after a car that you can use for solitary road trips and canyon-carving driving excursions, little will satisfy as much as the Miata. For those who want one car to do everything, this won't tick all the boxes; try a Volkswagen Golf GTI or a Ford Mustang. But thanks to a decent spread of standard features, an attractive interior, and a good balance between handling and comfort, the Miata can put a huge grin on your face, and we think that's worthy of praise.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata?

The base Sport variant starts at $26,580 before a $945 destination fee. Opting for the automatic adds $1,350 to this figure. On the mid-level Club variant, you'll be paying $30,290 for a manual model and $600 more with the auto. The top Grand Touring trim has a starting MSRP of $31,670 with the automatic adding $525 to the price. Fully loaded, this model will set you back just under $40,000.

New Mazda MX-5 Miata Convertible Models

The MX-5 is available in three variants: Sport, Club, and Grand Touring. All are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque being sent to the rear wheels.

The base Sport model comes with 16-inch wheels, cruise control, keyless entry with push-to-start, a remote trunk lid release, LED exterior lighting, and a rearview camera. This model also gets fabric upholstery in black and a Mazda Connect seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers, Bluetooth, voice control, HD Radio, USB connectivity, and compatibility with Aha, Pandora, and Stitcher. Manual air conditioning features along with standard blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision warning with automatic cruise control.

The Club variant gains a subtle trunk-lid spoiler, 17-inch wheels, and heated seats. It also gets an upgrade in the audio department with a Bose nine-speaker system and SiriusXM satellite radio. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included. A limited-slip rear differential is added too, with manual variants also gaining a shock tower brace and Bilstein dampers. This model also has access to a unique package that features forged BBS wheels and Recaro seats.

The Grand Touring is the most luxurious model in the range and gets features like adaptive headlights, leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, body-colored heated mirrors, an LED trunk light, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, automatic high beams, and SiriusXM Traffic & Travel Link. Navigation is also included as standard along with traffic sign recognition. However, the Club's BBS and Recaro package is not available here.

See All 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

The only model with access to a package is the mid-level and performance-biased Club variant. The Brembo/BBS Recaro package basically does what it says on the tin, adding Brembo front brakes and red calipers all round. You also get forged 17-inch wheels from BBS that are finished in Dark Gunmetal paint. Heated Recaro sport seats finished in leather with Alcantara are also added along with an aero kit that adds side skirt extensions and a rear bumper skirt in Brilliant Black. Altogether, this package costs $4,470. If you'd like to add other standalone parts, tunnel under bars can be fitted for $1,000 or you can have a lower arm bar for $250. Navigation can also be fitted for 400 bucks.

🚗What Mazda MX-5 Miata Model Should I Buy?

Our favorite of the bunch is the mid-level Club variant with its standard smartphone integration, heated seats, Bose sound system, and limited slip differential. Since this model comes with SiriusXM satellite radio as well as integration for both Apple and Android devices, we wouldn't worry too much about the navigation option as Google or Apple Maps would suffice. We would, however, be tempted by the abovementioned package from Recaro and BBS, thus elevating the racy feel of the car and adding more aggression to its looks. You can tell how much we prefer the manual version, and if you really want an automatic, we suggest a different ride. This is a car meant to be driven and meant to be driven hard. So get out there and drive with the most aggressive model available, the Club.

Check out other Mazda MX-5 Miata Styles

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata Comparisons

Mazda MX-5 Miata RF
Subaru BRZ Subaru
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Mazda MX-5 Miata181 hp26/34 mpg$26,830
Mazda MX-5 Miata RF 181 hp26/34 mpg$33,045
Subaru BRZ 228 hp20/27 mpg$27,995

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata vs Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

These cars are obviously very similar, with the only apparent difference being the roof. Where the regular Miata uses a folding soft-top, the RF has a Targa-style roof setup with buttresses that remain in place even when the so-called retractable "fastback" is folded away. The RF is also not available in the Sport trim, and therefore starts at a higher price of $33,045. Nevertheless, even the Club version of the regular Miata is almost $3,000 cheaper than the RF. Furthermore, the RF Miata hardtop is over 100 lbs heavier and is more difficult to get in and out of, more difficult to see out of, and overall a more diluted model. We'd stick with the regular Miata here. That way, you can save some cash for extra tires and track upgrades and you'll have a car with a lower center of gravity and better space management.

See Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Review

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata vs Subaru BRZ

Subaru's BRZ and its Toyota 86 sibling are similarly lightweight sportscars with more focus on handling fun than outright acceleration, just like the Miata. Starting at a base price below $29,000, the BRZ is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat-four with 205 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque, making it stronger in comparison to the Miata. It also has two (tiny) seats in the back and comes as a coupe only, making it more rigid. The chassis is as fun and playful as the MX-5's, if not more so, and both novices and the experienced can have a lot of fun with these cars. For daily use, the BRZ also offers more trunk space at 6.9 cubic feet and a larger fuel tank. For us, the Miata is still a car that is unadulterated, simple, and fun. The BRZ follows the same recipe and is certainly worth considering too. Where the Subaru has the advantage in this competition, however, is that it mixes practicality with fun and is a great platform for more power. We love the Miata, but the BRZ is arguably more versatile.

See Subaru BRZ Review

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