I love testing cars but since I’m not so proficient at driving an automatic, I had to outsource this review to my convertible loving husband, Jim. Yes, his first assignment as a contributor was truly a hardship as I enjoyed the view from the passenger’s seat.
Leticia can’t drive stick, so when Mazda offered her a one week test-drive of the 2015 Miata, I had to step in.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Mazda Miata, and even though I now have two kids and a dog, I still want one. It’s impractical as a family car, but I want one. You can’t take it to Costco, but I still want one.
My first car was a 1979 MGB convertible, one of the cars that Mazda took inspiration from when designing the original Miata. The Miata is everything the MG was not. The Miata features Japanese engineering. It’s reliable. It has airbags. The MG left me stranded on the side of the Dumbarton Bridge access road late one night. Enough nostalgia, let’s talk about the Miata.
The Miata continues to be an affordable 2 seat roadster for buzzing around town with the top down. Pure and simple. It’s a tiny car that puts you low to the road and is a pleasure to drive. Dare I say it’s a street-legal go cart with airbags?
The 2015 Miata comes in a variety of gray/black/silver colors, white, and 2 shades of red. If you’re going to buy such a fun car, you need a fun color. In previous years, there have been blue, wine-red, British racing green colors. For the 2015, I’d probably start with red and then consider something else if-and-only-if you decide that red doesn’t work for you. Take a look at this photo below:
About the Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring Edition
Mazda provided a 2015 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring Edition. It’s the souped up model with all of the options, including a fully retractable hard top. For those of us who live in places where it still rains, the retractable hard top is a masterpiece (Californians won’t understand this). Here in the DC area, it’s just on the verge of spring. I drove the car for the entire week and the daytime temperatures ranged from 36 to 76. One day I had the wipers on and the heat cranked. The next afternoon it was 76 degrees and I took the scenic route home from work with the top down.
Compared to a rag top, the retractable hard top is a thing of beauty. It reduces road noise when the top is up, because you have a solid roof over your head. It makes it bearable to drive the car in the winter because it provides better insulation than a soft top. Lastly, it makes you feel better about parking the car in a sketchy neighborhood because it provides more security. To put the top down, you push a release button and release a lever, and then press a button on the dashboard. The car does the rest for you.
Driving the Mazda MX-5
The Miata is a fun car to drive thanks to exceptional handling. I was constantly on the lookout for banked cloverleaf interchanges or tight corners to put the car to the test. Even at highway speeds, the steering is tight and extremely responsive.
You’re low to the ground, ready to pop the clutch, shift gears, and blow past someone doing 55 in their minivan. It begs you to go somewhere fun and enjoy the drive.
Want to change lanes? There’s always room for a Miata.
What once might have looked like a boring drive down the freeway now becomes “Daytona USA— Beltway Edition.” You don’t need to drive it like a jerk, but in a small, nimble, zippy Miata, the road is yours to enjoy.
Inside the Miata, everything is compact and efficient.
The Grand Touring Edition came with a two-tone leather interior called Spicy Mocha. The sides of the seats are black, and the front is an orange/brown color. It looks much classier than all black.
It’s a cozy fit, but they still manage to squeeze in most of the necessities. There are 2 cup holders in the center console and another one in each door. The doors have mesh pockets for paper and small item storage, like a phone charger or something else.
It has a dome-light and comes with home link to open your garage door. The Grand Touring Edition comes with a leather wrapped steering wheel, shifter knob, and parking brake. They’re black and soft to the touch.
This Miata had all of the mechanical upgrades that Mazda sells, including 17 inch high performance tires, a sport tuned suspension, and high performance shocks. The model tested had a 6 speed manual transmission, and all Miatas are rear wheel drive.
For cold mornings or off-season driving, the leather seat warmers worked great. They have 5 levels of adjustment, with 5 being “smoking hot.” There is a heater in the seat bottom and another in the seat-back. Between the seat warmers and the strategic mounting of heater vents, we were able to enjoy the car “top down” on a sunny day even though the temperature was in the 40s.
The Miata I drove had the top of the line Bose Stereo with 7 speakers and Sirrus satellite radio. The stereo sounded good, but it lacked the thumping bass that I expect from cars with Bose stereos. I guess there just isn’t room in the Miata for a giant subwoofer. Back over 20 years ago, a friend of mine had a Miata and it had speakers in the head rests that I thought were super cool.
In the 2015, there are no speakers in the headrests, but they’re on the dashboard, doors, and between the two seats. The Bose stereo is the best model available from Mazda, but it lacks many features standard on most cars today. The Miata features an in-dash 6-disc changer and has a single line of monochrome text on the display. There is no display with the name of the artist/song/album whether on FM or Satellite. There is no iPod dock or USB port. No Bluetooth streaming audio either. There is an aux-input jack for playing music from your phone/iPod through the car, but then you must change songs using the mobile device (not the dashboard or steering wheel buttons), and you need a separate cigarette lighter adapter for charging.
There is a flat tray in front of the gear shift which is perfect for resting your phone, but if it’s got 2 different wires plugged into it, it’s going to become a dangerous spaghetti mess.
My current car is a 2010 and I have only played 1 CD in the stereo since purchasing it new. I listen to the radio and use the USB iPod dock. I took the Miata on a 2.5 hour drive up to Philadelphia and brought my iPod. I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble and listened to satellite radio once I lost DC stations.
What’s Missing from the MX-5
There are a few other features surprisingly missing on the 2015 Miata: Automatic headlights for one. You have to turn the headlights on and off yourself. Yes, a first-world problem for sure, but it does have a chime to remind you that they’re still on. Given the low height and small size of the Miata, I would probably prefer to have daytime running lights, but Mazda only offers them in Canada (where it’s the law).
It’s also surprising that there is no GPS navigation offered on the Miata. While many people use their smartphone for navigation, I think it would be hard to find another 2015 car for sale that didn’t offer in-dash navigation as an option. Particularly with the top down, I could see an advantage of having it built-in so people don’t swipe your GPS from the dashboard. Perhaps the screen wouldn’t be readable in direct sunlight?
The biggest disappointment on the Miata came from the Bluetooth system. It was more difficult than most to setup, but then barely worked once I got my phone paired. It can pair with up to 6 phones, but with my Galaxy S5, neither the car nor the phone would automatically connect each time I returned to the car. I turned on the car, nothing. I hit the phone button on the steering wheel and said “Connect Phone,” and it said “Phone not available.”
I went to the Bluetooth settings on my phone and forced the phone to attempt to the car, and it couldn’t find it. Every time I got in the car I had to manually go several layers deep in the voice menus to “select phone” and then select phone #1 from the list of paired phones even though there were no other phones in the list. I spent a lot of time parked at a highway rest stop, a gas station, and a city street corner trying various ways to get the phone and the car to talk to each other but failed.
I even read the manual.
I didn’t try an iPhone, but Bluetooth is a standard protocol and the Galaxy S5 is not an outdated device. When the phone and car were connected, the audio came through the Bose speakers and was good quality. It was possible to talk with someone while doing 65 with the top up. I also received a call while driving 45 MPH down a scenic parkway while driving home. It was a quick call, but people could hear me.
The kids loved riding around in the Miata for a whole host of reasons.
First off, there was only room for one of them at a time, clearly allowing them to demonstrate superiority over the sibling who had to stay at home. Second, there is no back seat, so the kid rides shotgun. Yes, it is legal. The Miata has a weight sensor in the front seat so that the passenger airbags wouldn’t deploy with a small person riding in the seat. Third, it’s a fun ride whether the top is up or down. My son asked me several times if the Miata was a “low rider.” We’re going to have to get on Google image search to fully explain that question.
The Miata is engineered for fun. Its design prevents you from doing un-fun things like picking up people at the airport, running carpools, or shopping at big-box stores. It’s very convenient. “Honey, I’d love to, but I’m driving the Miata.”
The 2015 Miata may not have all the technology features of other new cars, but it’s awfully fun to drive. If you’re in the market for a convertible at an affordable price, the Miata is your choice. If you can’t drive stick, they do offer an automatic transmission. Just don’t tell Leticia about it.
The 2015 Mazda Miata starts at $24,790 with cloth seats, manual door locks, and a ragtop. Various trim models add keyless entry, leather, cruise control, satellite stereo, and the power retractable hard top. The model tested was the Grand Touring edition with all the optional packages and priced out at $32,935.
I received a week with the Mazda MX-5 and a full tank of gas. No compensation was received for this review. Some images courtesy of Mazda. Others taken with the Samsung NX1 or NX3000. Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.