There’s a good reason Mazda doesn’t throw heaps of new stuff at the Miata with each successive model year: It doesn’t need to. For 2022, Mazda added new colors inside and out, in addition to something called Kinematic Posture Control, a driver-assist system that doles out dashes of rear-wheel braking while cornering to deliver better on-road feel.
Mazda says KPC is meant to help reduce body roll, although there’s still plenty of it in my experience. But that’s not a bad thing. Cars that eliminate every inch of movement in spirited driving feel far too capable for most roads and most drivers, leading to the feeling that you’ll never get every inch of performance out of the thing. The Miata bypasses that issue by letting the body pitch and roll under braking and while cornering; not only does this better communicate when the car is reaching its limits, it makes those limits feel far more approachable at speeds that won’t earn you a ticket. The steering is direct and just the right amount of lively, and even though this Grand Touring model may lack the Club’s optional Brembo brakes, it will still stop in a drama-free hurry.
Couple that down-to-earth approach to dynamics with an engine that makes just the right amount of power, and the result is a car that feels like it’s never over- or underwhelmed. The Miata’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-4 produces 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, and I hope it never makes more. Sure, I have to spend a little more time digging into the throttle to eke out enough power to execute a pass, but the engine note is pleasant at higher revs and it gives me more opportunities to use my tester’s six-speed manual transmission.
If other automakers haven’t dissected Mazda’s six-speed stick, they need to. It’s the best manual transmission offered in any car today. The clutch has the right amount of weight and communicates the bite point cleanly. The gear lever has enough travel and it notches into each gate in a pleasant way. The throttle is tuned perfectly; I’ll never ask for a rev-matching system in the Miata because the gas pedal gives me pixel-perfect blips for clean downshifts every time. And, best of all, Mazda has never programmed an inch of rev hang into this car, whether for emissions or otherwise. I depress the clutch, and the revs drop immediately. Smooth shifting is so easy, a Geico caveman could do it.
If every other automaker hasn’t yet purchased a Miata to determine what makes its shifter and clutch pedal so good, they should.
The 2022 MX-5 gets a flashy new off-white paint color, but my tester is clad in Mazda’s darling Soul Red, an affordable and overall pretty option at $595. The Grand Touring lacks the Club’s flashy BBS wheel upgrade, but its standard 17-inch alloys allow for a good bit of sidewall on the Bridgestone Potenza S001 summer tires, which helps soften the ride quality. There’s a new dark red interior motif available, as well, but mine sports the traditional black leather. The exterior paint color stretches inward on the upper door panels, breaking up the monochromatic monotony.
As the Miata is a roadster, it’s no surprise that practicality isn’t exactly oozing out of every pore. Door panel storage is limited to where your hand goes to close it. The detachable cup holders are clever but they’re short, so tall-drink stability is constantly in question. Further, putting anything in them when they’re attached to the center console blocks access to the locking cubby between the seats. The pocket under the armrest is only big enough for a key, but the tray ahead of the shifter will accommodate a wallet or phone. Out back, the 4.6-cubic-foot trunk will hold a couple backpacks or a few bags of groceries. There’s not a ton of trunk space, but the devilishly simple soft top doesn’t eat into that space at all.
The Miata’s cowl is just high enough to keep me from losing my hat. And at 6 feet tall, that’s not a given with earlier generations of MX-5.
Like every other Mazda, the MX-5’s in-car tech leaves a lot to be desired. A 7-inch touchscreen runs the Mazda Connect infotainment system, which is slow to boot and occasionally slow to respond. Standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto let me bypass Mazda’s mediocre telematics, but touchscreen capability is disabled while driving (although the rotary knob does a fine job swapping the display from Google Maps to Spotify and back again). Two USB-A ports provide the only charging options; since wireless smartphone mirroring is present, it’d be nice to see a faster USB-C charging solution here for quick juice-ups. A small display in the gauge cluster lets me check out trip meters, estimated distance to empty and a few other nuggets of relevant info.
Some sports cars are content to ditch safety nannies, but not the Miata. Mazda gave the MX-5 the traditional complement of active and passive driver aids, including blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning. The Grand Touring takes that a step further with automatic high beams, adaptive front headlights and traffic-sign recognition. It also adds auto-dimming mirrors, which are a godsend when every pickup truck’s headlights are engineered to reach the back of my cornea.
Sure, you could leave the top up, but come on.
The Mazda MX-5 doesn’t have much of a competitive set. The Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ make more power and are a bit more spacious, but they don’t feel as rewarding to drive, the stick is nowhere near as good and they aren’t convertibles. The BMW Z4 is a roadster, but it’s automatic only and expensive. Mini also makes convertibles, but its lineup is overpriced and underwhelming.
As window stickers reach depressing new heights with each passing month, it’s nice to see that Mazda is offering fun at an affordable price in 2022. The MX-5 Grand Touring is loaded with bells and whistles, yet its base price is a plenty palatable $33,315 with a manual ($500 more for a six-speed automatic), and my tester’s paint job brings that up to $33,910, including $1,015 in destination charges. If you’re cool sticking with the base model, you can slide into a new Miata for as little as $28,315. That’s one hell of a bargain, but when you combine that with excellent driving dynamics, it’s obvious that the 2022 Mazda MX-5 is overall one hell of a car.