Driving Impressions>>the 2010 Mazda Mx-5

As an old saying goes, it's more fun to drive a slow car fast, than a fast car slow. I'm not sure who coined the phrase, but in a day of twin turbo sports cars and muscle cars that can reach felony-like speeds in a matter of seconds, those words have never sounded better. Although fast cars are great, there's something wonderful about a car built for the fun of driving above all else. The 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of those cars.

Of course Mazda has been doing this for over 20 years of now. For three and a half generations, the Miata, MX-5, or Roadster depending on where you live, has been one of the world's favorite sports cars. Since the first Miata launched in 1990 with a 116hp 1.6 liter, the car has grown in both size and complexity – but never enough to detract from the driving the experience. Having owned a few older Miatas, I was anxious to drive the latest version of the roadster.

Built on the third generation NC chassis, the MX-5 received a significant facelift for the 2009 model year. Changes included new exterior styling, revised suspension, and a 500rpm increase in the engine's redline (now 7,500rpm), among other things. The twin cam 2.0 MZR engine under the hood is rated at only 167 horsepower, but the car's low curb weight and aggressive gearing help get the most out of every pony.

Compared to modern performance cars, the MX-5 will be in the rear of the pack in acceleration numbers, but I never once felt like the car needed more horsepower. Although Mazda is clearly capable of giving the car more power, it would almost be wrong to have a "fast" MX-5 available off the showroom floor, and the car's perfect balance would certainly suffer. Another benefit of the car's modest powerplant are the EPA numbers, 21 MPG city, and 28 on the highway.

The 2009 facelift is most evident on the nose of the car, which now wears Mazda's signature grinning front fascia. A lot of people that saw the car said it looks more like a mini-RX8 convertible than a Miata. The combination of the Miata's styling and its Competition Yellow coloring caused the car to get a lot of attention as I drove it on the streets of Los Angeles. This included a few waves from owners of older Miatas I passed on the road.

Although unmistakably a Miata, features like the buff fenders and dual exhaust tips add a bit of testosterone to the little roadster. You aren't going to see Porsche and Corvette owners trembling at stoplights, but the car does have significantly more road presence than before.

I think my favorite of the 2009 changes is the tail lights. The simple design brings back memories of the original NA6 Miata's tail lamps, and they are a big improvement over the dated chrome tails on the '06-'08 MX-5's.

As with all past Miatas, the interior is laid out wonderfully, with everything in arm's reach, and simplistic styling. My test car was the Grand Touring version, with nearly every option in the book, save for the power retractable hard top. Equipment includes the 6-speed manual transmission, leather interior, HID headlights, DSC with traction control, and the suspension package with includes Bilstein shocks and a limited slip differential. MSRP with all the options came in at $29,310.00.

Of course if you don't need options like a leather interior with heated seats, you can get the basic Sport model for around 23,500. I have to admit though, there's something nice about driving top down on a cool fall night with the seat warmers on!

Even though the MX-5 is larger than past models, it is still a very small car. You'll probably be below the trunk line of a new Camry at stoplights, and SUV's will tower over you on the highway. When driving a car like this, you have to be extra alert that other motorists see you on the road. Luckily with small size, comes impressive maneuverability…

Being over six feet tall, a lot of people though I was crazy for owning an NA Miata, and I admit those cars are a tight fit for me. I couldn't take much more than an hour behind the wheel of the one without needing a stretch break. The New MX-5 on the other hand, is a much more comfortable car – even for us tall folks. Although the footwell is a little on the narrow side, I found plenty of room under the steering wheel for my long legs. You won't mistake the cockpit for a Lincoln, but I never once felt cramped in the car – even after a long road trip to central California, including a lot of time in LA rush hour traffic.

The only real negatives I found with the car are drawbacks of any two seat roadster – room for only one passenger, not much cargo space, highway noise, and a big blind spot with the top up. A bit of a moot point really, as anyone in the market for a car like this will be well aware of those issues.

Once you drop the top (something you can do pretty much all year long here in SoCal), and experience the precise gear changes of the transmission and response of the chassis all those negatives leave your mind. Another change made for 2009 was the addition of an "Induction Sound Enhancer", which gives the MX-5 a classic four cylinder growl as it revs up. Again, we are seeing Mazda's dedication to the overall driving experience over skid pad numbers and quarter mile times. I found the tunnel on Sepulveda boulevard under LAX the perfect place to enjoy the Induction Sound Enhancer…

As you can probably tell by these photos, I rarely drove the car with the top raised. In fact, maybe Mazda should consider building a "SoCal Edition" MX-5 that doesn't even include a top? It's almost a crime to drive a convertible with the top up on the streets of Los Angeles…

The MX-5 has always been one of the best handling cars in any
price range, and the 2010 model is no different. I didn't take the car
to race track, or hammer it on any canyon roads, but even on a relaxing run through Rancho Palos Verdes, the MX-5 was a blast to drive. The
Bilstein suspension gives the car a firm, planted ride, and helps to
make cornering effortless. The concept of Jinba Ittai is as evident here as ever…

Really that's what the MX-5 is all about. You don't even need to be at a race track or on a deserted stretch of highway to enjoy the car. Just cruising through traffic, running through the gears, feeling the wind in your hair, and listening to the growl of the 2.0 is more than enough to put a huge smile on your face – all while staying at completely legal speeds.

For the entire time I had the 2010 MX-5, I was thinking of reasons to go out for a drive – asking my wife if there was anything she forgot to pick up at the grocery store. Everytime I looked outside and saw the Competition Yellow MX-5 I parked on the street, I felt the sudden urge to stop what I was doing and take it for a spin. That's really about the best compliment you can give a car, and one that the MX-5 certainly deserves.

Damn, now I want to go for a drive…

-Mike Garrett



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Mazda did a good job with the face lift, it looks a lot better. :) Tail lights are much better! Only problem I found is that there's no PRHT available in Yellow... And the yellow looks great in person. (Pictures don't do it justice.) Though it does need to be mentioned that if you're looking for more power, the Cosworth super charger is an easy upgrade. ;)


I have a 1991 1.6L and i love everything about It. This is my 2nd one and I'm pretty sure ill own one my whole life! Working on getting the 09 with PRHT (power retractable hard top) pretty soon. Awsome writeup!


great job Mike! :D


Im an euro lover but i would so buy this car, it looks and sounds like such a fun car to drive. Great review overall


"it's more fun to drive a slow car fast, than a fast car slow"

Words of the wise. Its too bad this country is so power hungry with its muscle cars, people really cant drive well here in the states for the most part.


Great test Mike. Even though I personally could own an mx-5 myself (prefer the s2000) your text really gave me the urge for one! Seeing as it's cold and snowing here the pics gave me a longing for summer aswell!


I can't wait to see the next one as product development chief Robert Davis promises to lighten the next model by 220 pounds or more. I've always thought Miatas were cool cars, even if ignorant people love throwing the "gay" title around a lot. There's only one thing that keeps me from going the Miata route; the S2000. Yeah the Mazda is simpler and cheaper, but I've always had a soft spot for Hondas and a rwd roadster screaming away just seems better.


It's way too easy to make an MX-5 fast. Amazing handling + low weight + fat tires + turbo = ridiculous win. Slaying in a 1.6 girls car: priceless.


It's way too easy to make an MX-5 fast. Amazing handling + low weight + fat tires + turbo = ridiculous win. Slaying in a 1.6 girls car: priceless.


god i miss Palos Verdes....must go back there sometimes...


nice! ive want one NA model :D


when the kids leave home in 20yrs, i'm gonna get an old mx5 for me and the mrs. Just like my dads got a old MGB now.


Have never liked the styling and still don't.


2010 MX-5? Mehh!! Don't really care for it. To be honest... The stock MX-5 doesn't deserve a post on Speedhunters for the fact that "speed" isn't what it has (at all). The only interesting pictures were the first and the second from the bottom and thats only because the Ferrari 246 Dino and the Ferrari 360 in the backgrounds. I mean you did a great job Mike and i give you respect for your writing skills but the choice in car to post about is quite lame.... No offence. I think the older Miata's and MX-5's are awsome but these new versions are ALOT bigger, under powered even for their size, look like a bar of soap, and come in putrid colors like the one in the photo's.


If you think a stock MX-5 is 'slow' then you've never driven one round a track.


Being quick in the bends doesn't change the fact that the car is a 'slow' car.

Also, Why waste $25k-$29k on a vehicle that is no faster, less respectable, and nowhere near as good looking as its 10-20 year old successors?


im not a big fan of the littlegoofy looking smiles on the front makes me just hate the car


Some STILL don't get it...RobbyturboAMG...don't be so Ignorant...it is obvious you are talking out of your backside, the Na MX-5 was a 1.6, the NB was a 1.8, this NC is a 2.0, so the "facts" are the Power to Weight ratios is higher with the 2010 than any other standard Miata/MX-5 ever made..

SPEED is not what the Miata is about, NEVER has been, as for the S2000, they are No longer made, the MX-5 is still KING!


Robbyturbo, its plenty faster than the previous models. I own a fairly well worked 91model and I'm only as fast as a stock NC. On a tight track they pull in faster times than the stock turbo Mazdaspeed models from a few years ago.


Nice write up Mike.

Coming from my bonkers FD3s to a Miata was an interesting experience.

But i don't miss the FD around town. And it was too fast in the mountains also.

It became a circuit car.

I find that I can hammer my NC and get driving rewards in places that I'd be 1/4 throttle in my old car.

Food for thought.

But you need two car. For circuit use, i'd want more power but for circuit reliability an NC would be a good choice.

BTW. PHRT is over-rated.




@Ash: So we're going to talk power-weight ratio's? The gen 3 MX-5 being 2446lbs to 167hp is a better power to weight then a gen 1 MX-5/Miata going 2093lbs at 140+hp? What you're saying is that that 27 extra hp and 20+ extra ft-lbs's of torque makes up for that 353lbs? Is there Something I'm missing? How is a 14.6lb per hp ratio in a gen 3 MX-5 better then the 15lbs per hp ratio from the gen 1 MX-5/Miata? "ignorants"? That only comes from somebody that hasn't done their homework on the subject. I obviousely do the homework so Ash, plug your "backend" from talking.

@Joe: As I said to Ash. If you're in a first gen MX-5 and you're being beat by the third gen, then you need a tune up or a rebuild. Also, the Mazdaspeed turbo second gen MX-5 is the fastest MX-5 produced yet and if somebodies pulling worse times in that then its their driving skills and not the car.

Ok, I'm done with arguing about this car. Its pointless to argue about something so lame. You guys want a real corner car then buy a Lotus Elise/Exige second hand for less then the price of this vehicles going MSRP.


I love Miatas! Can't wait to finally get an NA.. Been holding out for ages but i think it's time



I"ve owned 1.6 and 1.8 first gen Miatas, and the new car is significantly faster in a straight line. The NA Miata made 133hp at the most with the 1.8, while the earlier 1.6 cars made 116hp. Also keep in mind the new car's power is under the revised, more conservative rating system.

According to most magazines who have tested the car, 0-60 is around two seconds faster compared to the original 1.6.


very nice written mr. garret! It's a pleasure to read.

but you make it hard for me to sell my roadster. I wanted to buy something more practical (04 sti)..


Your posts are way too confident for the bullsh!t you're writing, it seems you don't even understand what power to weight ratio is. +you did your homework wrong ! There is no stock 1st gen with 140hp. There is the 1.6 with 116/120hp and 1.8 with 131hp, and in europe some 1.6 with 90hp. So do your homework again.. and if you do it right this time, you'll realize what nonsense you wrote.

imo 167hp is plenty of power for the new nc. Maybe some americans will think I'm crazy (in america is everything under 800hp really slow, right?), but for me it's a fast car.


Is this the Moab edition? It looks ready to crawl on some rocks.




I think this is one of the very few times I've seen "Youtube style flame war" on speedhunters. lol. It's funny to read. Major FAIL.

Anyway, I'm always bothering the crap out of my friend to drive his MX-5 at every chance I get :D . And this article has started one of those urges again hehe.


"I obviousely do the homework so Ash, plug your "backend" from talking."

You OBVIOUSLY need to work on your grammar. lol


From the MazdaUSA website, Competition Yellow is not an available choice. Was this a 2009 model being tested?


I love convertibles but, Mazda and Honda forgot that Americans are taller and unfortunately wider.

I am 6.2 and the first thing I do in a car is test for Heal-n-Toe.

If my knee whacks the steering wheel, I am out.

The F1 scream of an I4 at 9,300 rpm is addicting.

I would have bought the S2000 the first day it was out.

These 2 manufactures just don't get it. Make it a little roomier please.

Till then, my s13 will do just fine.


Here's an imaginary-internet-wave from a fellow MX-5 for ya, Mike.



I have an 07 sti and a 90 NA... And I gotta say the NA is more fun to drive. It is EXACTLY the point log driving a slow car fast. The Miata has always handled great, just keep the revs up and it is a blast. The sti is great for road trips and driving in the snow but i usually find myself in the Miata. It's just more fun. Period. Even if it "slow".


thanks for your comment Henry !

It's usefull for me because I have a 90 NA too (and a turbo fc3s), and I'm planning to sell both for a 04 sti.

Because I'm tired of having old cars that aren't really suitable for long trips, and I'm tired of the need of a daily driver too. The fc would be a good tourer actually (better than for winding roads imo) but I don't trust the rotary engine (that never had a rebuild) that much, and it has no AC and drinks too much fuel. I live in vienna-austria and I want to make roadtrips to the nürburgring, italy, france, spain, maybe someday even to africa....so really long trips where I probably will have to sleep in the car. Which shouldn't be a problem with an impreza I guess?

If you read this, please tell me a bit more about the spirited driving and everyday use experience of a sti, from a NA-drivers point of view. Is your sti stock? I wanted to keep it stock, because I'm sick of modified cars too (always problems with the police in austria). thanks


Can I have the first or the third to last photo as desktop please? It's so cold here and I love the warm sun on your shots. Excellent article btw.


@ $PEEDDEVIL: I live in Seattle so the sti is great for all of the great mountain roads and occasional snow here... It is great on long trips, but a bit thirsty (I average about 24mpg in the sti and 33 in the NA). The sti does have an intake and exhaust; more for how the car sounds than performance... It's plenty fast stock. I spend about $1500 a year fighting tickets! I commute with the NA just over 500 miles a week and it has never gave me a single problem. Sleeping in the sti not bad, but I would leave that as a last resort (I've done it twice out of necessity). Both cars are really great, but they are almost polar opposites... If the sti DCCD had a "rwd only" setting it would be more engaging and get used more. Hope that helps.