There are faster sports cars, but the Miata just makes us happy.
With the stress of jobs, bills, family, and just life in general, everyone can benefit from having something joyous. For us, it's the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata, the automotive equivalent of an antidepressant. Now in its fourth-generation, the Miata received a major update in the 2019 model year, increasing the engine's redline to S2000 levels of excitement. For 2020, the improvements are less impressive but serve to open the Miata experience to a broader audience who might otherwise consider it too impractical, or just a toy for the weekend.
Yes, the MX-5 is strictly a two-seater with a tiny trunk, but if you can look past those limitations, we promise the car will enrich your life. After spending a grin-filled week driving a 2020 MX-5 Miata Club, here are five reasons why we adore it and why we think it's the best sports car on the market.
The CarBuzz crew has owned various generations of the MX-5 between them. This current ND generation car feels more livable and high-tech than any previous model, making it a car that you could drive every day. The standard Mazda Connect seven-inch screen isn't massive by today's standards, but it finally includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, giving drivers access to excellent turn-by-turn navigation, text messaging by voice, and audio playback.
Features that we never thought possible on a Miata, like blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert, now come standard. We particularly love the nine-speaker Bose audio system, which easily overpowers wind noise and includes speakers in the headrest so you can better listen in during phone calls.
With such a tiny footprint, the Miata will never serve as a "practical" vehicle. But Mazda's engineers haven't let that fact discourage them with this latest model. The trunk yields a modest 4.59 cubic feet of space, but whether you opt for the soft-top of the RF model, the roof does not take up any of the valuable storage area. Inside, the annoying cupholders positioned right behind the shifter are gone, replaced by removable units with slots between the seats and an additional slot next to the passenger. No longer will you spill your drink when executing a quick gear change.
Rather than go with forced induction, Mazda's engineers were a bit cleverer in how they chose to increase power. They added lighter pistons and connecting rods, a shorter intake manifold, a larger exhaust manifold, and a more well-balanced crankshaft, all of which increased the Miata's output to 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, up from 155 hp and 148 lb-ft in the 2018 (ND1) model. This current ND2 model loves to rev, much like the fabled Honda S2000. At its 7,500 rpm redline, the SkyActiv 2.0-liter four-cylinder feels like a bomb is about to go off, delivering an unparalleled tingling sensation to the driver.
Even better than the new engine is the Miata's six-speed manual transmission. It delivers notchy gear changes with a short and manageable clutch pedal that won't tire you out in stop-and-go traffic. We often found ourselves slamming on the Brembo brakes, just so that we could downshift, hit the accelerator, hit peak rpm, and shift again. Some cynics like to say that modern automobiles can't deliver the same sense of passion as classic cars, but we dare them to say that after driving a Miata on the edge.
Mazda sent us a Miata Club, the most aggressive trim level, to review for the week. For any enthusiast, this is the ideal MX-5 because it comes with Bilstein shocks and a limited-split differential. For $4,470 on top of the Club's $30,290 base price, you can opt for the BBS and Recaro Package, which dials up the aggression even further. The black 17-inch BBS wheels look phenomenal while the leather and suede combination Recaro seats hug you more tightly through the bends. This package also includes Brembo brakes, with more stopping power than the base units. The Miata often gets picked on for lacking an aggressive appearance, but with the Club trim and this package, we say it looks angrier than ever.