What the experts say about the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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In this ongoing series, Boston.com talks with automotive authorities about why you should consider driving — or avoiding — a specific model.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The nimble, pintsized Mazda MX-5 Miata is a true driver’s car. Low to the ground and easy to park, the two-seater packages the best of the best: It’s strong on fuel economy, athleticism, and ― starting at less than $25,000 ― value.

“Enthusiasts adore the Mazda Miata because it is a lightweight throwback to an era when driving a sports car was engaging and fun,” said Michael Harley, an automotive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “The drop-top is small, modestly powered, and offers few amenities, but none of that matters as the behind-the-wheel experience is blissful — balanced, agile, and responsive.”

The Miata gets a 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is available. The rear-wheel drive convertible comes in three trims: Sport, Club, and Grand Touring. The Miata’s standard soft-top folds down manually, but the new-for-2017 RF (“retractable fastback”) version raises and lowers the roof with the push of a button.

The base trim is equipped with Bluetooth and a six-speaker audio system. The Club trim adds features typical for the segment: satellite radio, a nine-speaker Bose premium audio system, and the Mazda Connect infotainment system. The Miata’s Grand Touring trim boasts heated seats and leather upholstery, as well as a navigation system.

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Mazda’s convertible has not been evaluated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which does not test sports cars. Unlike rivals, the Miata cannot be equipped with a rearview camera. The Club trim includes blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, and Grand Touring adds lane departure warning.

When equipped with the standard manual transmission, the Mazda MX-5 Miata delivers 26 miles per gallon in the city and 33 on the highway.

The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata starts at $24,915. The Club and Grand Touring trims begin at $28,800 and $30,065, respectively. The RF retractable roof, available on upper trims, adds about $2,500 to the starting price.

 

What the experts are saying

An industry favorite

“This is one of my favorite cars, period. As an enthusiast, it’s everything I want out of a pure driver’s tool — lightweight, great steering, perfect balance. Every part of the Miata was designed to work around the driver, even down to small details like the shape of the seats’ side bolsters, to allow for better body movement while manually putting the roof up and down. A great car for warm weather, the Miata manages to charm me year-round. Despite its small size and canvas roof, this is indeed a car that’s fun for all four seasons.” – Steven Ewing, managing editor at Motor1

True to heritage

“The latest MX-5 Miata reflects Mazda’s ability to maintain this iconic roadster’s original vibe in a world far more complex than when it debuted in 1989. That growing complexity, involving everything from emissions controls to required safety equipment, could have swept away the MX-5’s nimble and sporty nature. Some might even argue past generations of the Miata did indeed reflect a loss of the original’s mojo. But the current version has restored the MX-5’s core character. It continues to be the most engaging and entertaining vehicle you can buy for less than $25,000.” – Karl Brauer, executive publisher, Autotrader & Kelley Blue Book

Enthusiast niche

“There is no customer more engaged in our brand than MX-5 owners. People love the fact that Mazda offers a roadster with such style and driving dynamics for such a great price. Many customers also cite the reliability and lower cost of ownership. Although we don’t sell these cars in the same volumes of our other models, both the vehicle and customers create incredible excitement in our showrooms. This year the retractable hard top has been a big hit and exceeded all our expectations. Cars that are not pre-sold don’t last long. New England customers also like the retractable hard top because many believe it allows them to use it as a more year around vehicle.” – Joe Shaker, owner of Wellesley Mazda and North Shore Mazda