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Mazda MX-5 Miata: 2018 Motor Trend Best Driver’s Car Contender

More power amps the fun factor

More power amps the fun factor

We’ve shown a lot of BDC love for the Miata, lapping six of them over the years. Only the Viper, Corvette, and 911 have garnered more invitations. The world’s best-selling roadster has reached the podium twice, finishing third in 2009 and 2015. Every time this wee David takes on a field of Goliaths, we gush about its light, nimble chassis, excuse its lack of headline-grabbing horsepower, and crab about its excessive body roll. When we heard the lightweight Club model was getting the RF targa’s stiffened rear suspension plus an engine retune with 26 more horses, we eagerly invited it and raised our hopes that this might be the Miata’s year.

Although there was universal agreement that the Stelvio is the Best Driver’s SUV and a true credit to its species, there is still the matter of its avoirdupois, high center of gravity, copious corner-entry understeer, and body roll. Nonetheless, the Stelvio is a trailblazing crossover in a field of supercars.

“Two things: It rolls too much, and it oversteers all the time,” Randy Pobst declared. “I have fun with that, but it’s a better driver’s car if it’s balanced.” The oversteer issue is new, and it’s not power oversteer, so maybe those revised rear suspenders need fine-tuning. The engine is transformed, pulling hard to its higher 7,500-rpm redline instead of petering out before 6,000 rpm. It’s only a tenth quicker through the quarter mile, but it feels lustier and requires less shifting. Pobst used that modest power bump and slidey rear to shave 2.21 seconds off the 2016 Club model’s lap time, though at that pace he faded the brakes in four laps—another new issue.

Want EVEN MORE from 2018 Best Driver’s Car? See the cars in action right here.

Editorial opinions were mixed on Route 198. Scott Evans was in love. “The stiffer rear suspension still moves and leans with you but doesn’t bang down on its bump stops,” he said. “It makes you feel like you’re going so much faster.” Jethro Bovingdon disagreed: “It feels terrific when settled under some cornering force but seems all at sea during the transitional phases.” He and Mark Rechtin found the steering a bit vague. Ed Loh took issue with aggressive stability controls that intervened officiously to rein in that inherent oversteer and made things a bit nervous.

Miguel Cortina summed up the staff’s feelings: “There is a lot to like about the Miata – it’s lightweight, with a good engine and swift transmission, and it’s a fun and affordable car to drive.”

More 2018 Best Driver’s Car Contenders:

“Always tends to punch above its weight. Such a joy to drive—playful, entertaining, fun. More power amps the fun factor.” -Angus MacKenzie, International Bureau Chief
2019 Mazda MX-5 (Club)
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD
ENGINE TYPE I-4, alum block/head
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 121.9 cu in/1,998cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 13.0:1
POWER (SAE NET) 181 hp @ 7,000 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 151 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
REDLINE 7,500 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 12.8 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 2.87:1/2.87:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO 15.5:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.7
BRAKES, F; R 11.0-in vented disc; 11.0-in disc, ABS
WHEELS 7.0 x 17-in, cast aluminum
TIRES 205/45R17 84W Bridgestone Potenza S001
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 90.9
TRACK, F/R 58.9/59.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 154.1 x 68.3 x 48.8 in
TURNING CIRCLE 30.8 ft
CURB WEIGHT 2,318 lb
WEIGHT DIST, F/R 52/48%
SEATING CAPACITY 2
HEADROOM, F/R 37.4 in
LEGROOM, F/R 43.1 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 52.2 in
CARGO VOLUME 4.6 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 1.9 sec
0-40 3.0
0-50 4.3
0-60 5.7
0-70 7.8
0-80 9.8
0-90 12.7
0-100 15.8
0-100-0 20.2
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 3.2
QUARTER MILE 14.4 sec @ 95.5 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 112 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.95 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.2 sec @ 0.73 g (avg)
2.2-MI ROAD COURSE LAP 108.47 sec
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,500 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE $30,485
PRICE AS TESTED $35,255
STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/Yes
AIRBAGS Dual front, side/head
BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 3 yrs/36,000 miles
FUEL CAPACITY 11.9 gal
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 26/34/29 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 130/99 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.67 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded premium