Our test car was a Soul Red roadster with a brown top, an odd but striking combination. A power-retractable top is available as the Miata RF. This top-tier Grand Touring trim comes with features like automatic climate control, heated seats and leather seats. It might not be the most practical or versatile car on the road, but it might just be the most fun for the money.
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: I was excited when I woke up to the Miata covered in snow in my driveway. After all, this tester came equipped with Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires. By the time I could pry myself away from my work and take the car for a spin, though, the snow had mostly melted. I still had fun flinging this around on the cold, wet roads.
The first thing I noticed was actually what I didn’t notice … I wasn’t wishing for just a little more power, for once. Chalk it up to the conditions, or to the extra 26 horsepower Mazda added for 2019, but this felt appropriately potent for once. If anything, it’s just enough to help get the rear end to wiggle a bit and the tires to more readily chirp in second gear. The Miata, fresh from the factory, has learned to do the cha-cha.
Oddly enough, though, my wife, who has been salivating over this generation of MX-5 since the first time I brought one home, has cooled on it a little bit. We went out on a date night, and she was hyper aware of the noise and bumps, and I was, too, frankly. Something about bundling up under an icy soft top can kill the mood of this convertible. In the summer, the sound of the engine and telegraphic feel of the road beneath you blend with the warmth of the sun and the tug of the wind in automotive harmony. It’s still fun to drive in the cold, but it doesn’t quite turn on the charm like it normally does.
Associate Editor Reese Counts: I’ve spent a lot of time behind the wheel of various NDs over the past few years. The weekend I got married, my wife and I drove a Soul Red roadster from Los Angeles to San Francisco for a brief honeymoon. Months later, we took that same car for a 14-hour jaunt through Death Valley to see the superbloom. Everything about the car, from the slick short-throw shifter to the perfectly-weighted steering, feels perfectly balanced. It taught me a lot about driving dynamics and how to feel a car’s limits. It’s easy to get it to step out, but it’s just as easy to reel back in.
While I’ve never really been one to complain about a lack of power in the Miata, I’m certainly not going to complain about some extra breathing room up top. Mazda did it the right way, eschewing forced induction and keeping the four-pots’ sweet, linear power delivery. Turbos are great, but as more and more cars make use of them, I’ve come to have a heavy appreciation for naturally-aspirated engines.
Is love too strong a word?
— Reese Counts (@rmcounts) November 8, 2018
Assistant Editor Zac Palmer: The Miata excels, better than any other car remotely close to its price, at bringing true joy and fun to the driving experience. It is all about the 2,339-pound curb weight. I could have had 50 horsepower less and still had a ball, but the little Mazda roadster went the other way for 2019, and I couldn’t be happier for it.
High-revving naturally aspirated engines aren’t entirely dead yet. This re-engineered 2.0-liter winds quicker, smoother and much higher than before, all the way to 7,500 rpm. Do I feel like I’m going significantly faster than the 2018 MX-5? Not really, but Mazda managed to make going a smidgen faster feel a lot better. The pre-refresh 2.0-liter was fine and all, but didn’t have the torque curve of a proper sports car engine. It was torquey, but the shove into the seat trailed off as you neared its 6,800 rpm redline. This new engine just pulls harder as you fly past 7,000 rpm before stabbing the short clutch and shifting gears. And my goodness, that transmission. Few in the world are as satisfying to row through the gears again and again on.
It bears mentioning that our tester has the Bilstein shocks because it’s a manual transmission car. The ride is stiff as a board over rough pavement. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think Mazda should change it, but be prepared to feel every crevice and crack in the road. It’s so engaging to drive because Mazda doesn’t insulate you from the road. There’s a true connection between the car and the driver in every component you interact with — a quality sadly lacking from most new vehicles today.