2022 Mazda Miata

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Here is a tonic – for those who still see cars as more than just  . . . transportation: 

Mazda no longer offers an automatic transmission in two out of three versions of the 2022 Miata, the company’s much more than mere transportation car. 

An automatic is still available – optionally, if you swing that way. But – in contrast to the general practice – it is only available in the most expensive trim. 

And you pay extra for it.

As it used to be, with automatics – which were designed to make driving a more passive activity, for those who just want to get there and back.

But that’s precisely what the Miata’s not all about.

What It Is

The Miata is a two-seat convertible sports car that’s been in continuous production since1989 – outselling and outlasting numerous rivals along the way. Probably because it hits the sweet spots of fun – and affordability. 

Plus, practicality – in that it’s as easy to drive as it is easy on gas. It’s an everyday car that makes the everyday drive something much more than just another drive.

Prices start at $27,650 for the base Sport trim – which comes with everything a sports car ought to come standard with, including a manual transmission and a one-hand-throw-it-back soft-top.  

The Club trim – which stickers for $31,150 – is even sportier. It comes standard with the same manual transmission and free-revving 2.0 liter engine that spins to more than 7,000 RPM – plus a limited slip rear differential, strut tower brace, Bilstein shocks, wider (17 inch) wheels, plus some additional niceties, such as heated seats and an upgraded nine speaker Bose stereo.

And the manual soft-top.

The Club can be optioned with a Brembo/BBS/Recaro package that adds higher-performance Brembo brakes, BBS light-alloy wheels and  . . . Recaro sport buckets.

But sportiest of all is the fact that neither of these two Miatas is available with an automatic transmission. 

If you want one, it’s only available – at extra cost – in the Grand Touring trim, which stickers for $32,650 with the manual and $33,150 with the optional six-speed automatic transmission. 

Because of the intersectionality of its price-features as well as the intangibles, the Miata has few, if any direct competitors. 

The Toyota GR86 (and its Subaru twin, the BRZ) is a much bigger – much heavier – car and also a hardtop-only car.

The VW Golf GTI is a four-door and a hardtop car. 

There are no other rear-drive, soft-top, manual-equipped sport cars. At least, none you can buy new for less than $28k. Or for that matter, less than $50k – which will just barely buy you a soft-top BMW Z4. 

But not with a manual transmission – as the current Z4 is automatic only.  

What’s New

The main functional change for 2022 is an upgrade to the Miata’s suspension. All trims come standard  with Kinematic Posture Control, which uses light braking pressure (automatically applied, via the ABS) to the inner rear wheel during high-speed cornering. This reduces body roll by subtly altering weight transfer/loading to the opposite wheel. Mazda says this also provides for more “linear” steering feel.

What’s Good

More fun than sports cars that cost twice as much – precisely because more people can have fun in this car. 

You drive this car. If you want “assistance,” you need a different  car. 

Everything a car of this type ought to be – that none of its rivals are.

What’s Not So Good

The 12V power point socket for your radar detector is awkwardly located in the passenger side footwell. 

Under The Hood

Every Miata trim comes standard with the same 2.0 liter four cylinder engine – a size of engine that’s become very common in other cars of all types. The Miata’s engine is nothing like any of them, though – because it does not make its full 181 horsepower until it is revved to 7,000 RPM – encouraging the person driving the Miata to do just that.

It is easier to get to 7,000 RPM in a Miata, too.

Because each gear change is controlled by you – via the standard (and de facto) “mandatory” six speed manual transmission that is the only transmission available in two out of three Miata trims. You can hold first until you reach 7,000 RPM – and beyond. The willing engine loves a fast dance. Then, second – until third is needed. Up to fourth, fifth and sixth – as you like. And it’s up to you to decide when to go down a gear – or three.

It’s true that most modern automatics have what is styled a “manual” function, too. But it is an electronic rather than mechanical function. The computer allows some degree of manually-activated say-so over up and downshifts. But it is programmed to over-ride your button-pushing when your inputting is at odds with its programming. The automatic will automatically upshift – or not allow a downshift – when what you’re asking it to do is “outside bounds,” as for example beyond the allowable rev range or road speed for that gear, according to the computer.

It is also not possible to slip the clutch with an automatic transmission and by dint of the initial non-mechanical connection between the engine and automatic transmission (which is connected hydraulically, via a fluid coupling – the torque converter) there is less immediate immediacy. This is an important intangible, one that transcends lifeless data, such as how quickly to 60 (in this case, 5.6 seconds) and how much gas does it use (which isn’t much; more on that below).

Automatics have gotten very good; they are extremely “efficient.” They work really well with high-torque engines, due to the torque-multiplying effect of the torque converter. But small engines that make their horsepower at high RPM do their best – their most enjoyable – work when they are paired with a manual.

And that is probably why, in this car, the manual transmission is the only transmission option in two out of three trims. Mazda knows that an automatic Miata is like listening to Vesti la giubba on an AM radio with one (bad) speaker. It is an affront to the art of the thing. Automatics do not sing. There is nothing to feel.

And little to do.

The Miata’s available (if you must) automatic is a six speed automatic – not one with eight or nine (god help us, ten) speeds, none of the extras needed except as far as “compliance” with federal fuel efficiency mandatory minimums. It works well, to the extent that an automatic – any automatic – works in a car such as this.

Speaking of fuel economy: One of the many greatnesses of this car is that it uses little of it – with either transmission. With the manual, the rating is 26 city/36 highway. With the automatic, 26 city and 35 highway. With either, you’re driving a car that uses only a bit more gas than many current-year economy cars. A Toyota Corolla, for instance, rates 30 city and 38 highway.

And while the Corolla is a superlative appliance, it’s no Miata.

On The Road

Where to start? How about not wanting it to end?

Driving the Miata is what driving was all about, once – when the trip was as important as the destination and you went to some lengths to prolong the former.

This car connects you to the drive as you both become part of it. With the top down – just unlatch and throw it back – you are in every moment, as each passes into the next.

The sounds of the engine mingle with the sounds of the road, even to the extent of hearing the gravel bits as they pass underneath the tires, to be spat out behind as the detritus of your passing. Your eyes take in just as much, as the view surrounds you. Cruising along in fifth, your left elbow rests on the top of the door,  feeding the light but precise power steering the necessary minute course corrections . . . the next moment, you’re heel-and-toe’ing it through the esses, both hands (and feet) fully occupied.

It is both Nirvana and Revelation.

And you are born again.

There’s no turbo to boost the power down low. It’s up to you to wring the power out of the thing – and that’s precisely what it was made for.  Clutch in, your right foot holding the brake. Then over to the gas, bringing up the revs at the same time your left makes the connected between flywheel spinning and those gears winding. Off the clutch, the hammer down. In an instant, 7,200 RPM – and time for second.

Pavarotti never sang this sweetly.

This car wasn’t designed to be a commuter car primarily –  obviously.

But it can be used for that.

It is light – just 2,745 lbs., almost 1,000 pounds lighter than a Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, which accounts for why it’s still quicker than they are, despite not having the 228 horsepower they have. It is geared such that there is almost always enough gumption for getting going.

It is perhaps the only expert’s car that can also serve as a learner’s car, because of its easygoing, unponderous nature. I taught my 17-year-old niece the art of the clutch in this car.

And now she understands Vesti la giubba, too.

At The Curb

This may be a sports car, but it has the multi-demographic appeal that the original VW Beetle had. Men and women, young and old. Everyone seems to like this car. Perhaps because it is so very likable.

And not just because it is a nearly perfectly sports car. It is also a very practical car, in the spirit of the Old Beetle. Like the latter, the Miata is purposely simple. It has a pull-up emergency brake rather than an electrically-activated parking brake. You want to drop the top? Unlatch the catch and throw it back. Even the seemingly inescapable LCD display is minimalist.

Same goes for the hilarious removable cup-holders that snap in and out of place.

But it goes deeper than that. Here is a purpose-built sports car that also rivals the fuel efficiency of an economy car. That doesn’t have or need artifices such as turbos (to make up for being too heavy, which it isn’t) that has a three-decades-long track record of being among the most reliable/durable cars ever made. The Beetle had the virtue of being easy and cheap to fix. The Miata has the virtue of not needing fixing. Change the oil faithfully and the 2.0 engine will give you nothing but smiles for 200,000 or more miles. These things are hard to hurt and almost never break – even when subjected to regular track days.

It is the perfect sports car in that it is the always-works sports car.

The Rest

There has to be something . . . right?

Yes, there is one thing. The 12V power point – essential hook-up for the radar detector that ought to be standard equipment in a car such as this – is located absurdly, deep upside the dash on the passenger’s side footwell. It is impossible to reach it from the driver’s side and the only way to see it from the passenger side is to get out and shove your face under there, maybe holding a flashlight. Why Mazda chose to put it there rather than somewhere accessible to the driver, such as the center console – as is usually where it’s found – is a mysterious, perplexing thing.

Perhaps to give car journalists something negative to say about this car.

The Bottom Line

There’s a reason why the Miata has been in production without interruption for more 33 years – while so many others have come (and gone) during those years.

All you have to do is drive one to understand why that is.

. . .

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33 COMMENTS

  1. Here’s a cheesecake pin-up photo of a 2018 Miata in Machine Gray, with a Dark Cherry soft top:

    https://ibb.co/XZhdk9M

    Put it side-by-side with classic vehicles that I love — such as the 1937 Alfa Romeo 2900 B convertible — and it totally rhymes across 85 years.

    Before they take these beautiful machines away from us, this is damn near as good as it gets.

  2. The 4th generation Miata is one of the few cars that got lighter, the 3rd generation NC 2546 lb, the newest 4th generation ND 2341 lb curb weight.

    The 3rd generation is the least liked but……
    The third generation MX-5 was met with positive reviews. Jeremy Clarkson, in his “Driving” column of The Sunday Times, wrote that the MX-5 “represents better value for money than any other car on sale in Britain today.”

    He went on to say: “You waste your money on a Mustang or a Ferrari. The fact is that if you want a sports car, the MX-5 is perfect. Nothing on the road will give you better value. Nothing will give you so much fun. The only reason I’m giving it five stars is because I can’t give it 14.

    • A Porsche 924 is a better Miata. It handles better, it has a longer wheelbase so it rotates better in corners, it is perfectly balanced so handles better then anything else. The one drawback is it isn’t an open car. Used prices have been rising so a Miata might be cheaper. For pure fun a Super 7 is the best, it weighs 50% less so is better, they also have 50/50 weight distribution.

  3. Buy a Miata today and go and enjoy it before it is too late….

    WEF Issues Edict to Global Leaders: Phase Out Car Ownership,

    People Can ‘Walk or Share’
    Earlier this month Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum ordered compliant governments around the world to increase the already sky-high price of gas. Now the WEF is claiming people have no right to own cars and must instead “walk or share.”

    your government is probably full of wef stooges/graduates

    https://www.truth11.com/untitled-376/

  4. Wrote an article about Miata’s awhile back. Using an inflation calculator I discovered Miatas cost the same now as they did when they came out in 1989. OK, special models cost more, but the base price has only changed about $200.

    • ‘Miatas cost the same now [in real terms] as they did when they came out in 1989.’ — BlahBlahBlah

      This is admirable: find a configuration that works, and stick to it no matter what.

      Why do other auto makers not see the spectacular success of not messing with what works?

      Dozens of examples can be cited of car models that started out small and light, then grew, grew and grew into fat-assed, lumbering behemoths.

      Mazda refused to succumb to this temptation with the Miata — and hit the ball out of the freaking park.

  5. Looks more serious now, probably can shake the Northwest owner stereotype prevalent when these first came out. They were very popular with the female aerospace office drones fitting a certain profile: Divorced, middle age, just overweight enough, poodle dog perm, smoker.

    Most had the license plate frame “51% Sweetheart 49% Bitch, Don’t Push It”

    Anyway, kudos to Mazda for still building fun cars in a cookie cutter industry!

    • Hi Sparkey

      They used to call them hair dresser’s cars, I didn’t like them, then I drove one, then I got it, it was like a little go cart……

  6. Hi Eric,

    Not surprised that you didn’t even mention the biggest upgrade of all, in the “What’s New” section. I’m talking about the fact that this car has Finally improved its power to weight ratio to the point that it is no longer pathetically, disgracefully slow.

    Better be careful when you try your beloved “driving fast while going slow” technique. You could find yourself actually “going” fast. 🙂

    Even the bodywork is no longer so “cutesy.” It’s almost “serious” looking.

    I’m afraid Miata may lose a big segment of the “rainbow trade” that so adored what this car “used to” be. But that’s more than OK. The Miata should become attractive to a much larger market group, that previously “wouldn’t be seen dead in one.”

    Major kudos to Mazda for transforming the Miata into a REAL sports car!

  7. The LAST Affordable RWD Manual Gas Cars! 2022 Toyota GR 86 vs Mazda Miata MX5

    Mazda Miata curb weight 2341 lb. has a 2.87 diff price $27,650 to $38,000
    Miata has a longer diff, maybe for better fuel economy in 6th gear.

    Toyota GR 86 curb weight 2811 lb. has a 4.10 diff price $27,700 to $30,300
    GR 86 has a shorter diff maybe to offset it’s extra weight, is better for burnouts.

    The GR86 is a better track car stock, the Miata is softer stock, more body roll, some test drivers say the Miata’s steering is a bit numb.
    Lots of after market to make the Miata into a track car.

    The GR 86 is the new Porsche 944, it is focused on handling.

    NOTE: Most new cars have far too much electronics, computers, 1/3 to 1/2 of the cost of the new cars is in the electronics, the Miata and GR86 are very basic have far less electronic junk, so are cheaper, lighter, better.

    Other new cars people usually buy: can make numbers and lap times but they are over weight, they understeer everywhere because they are too heavy and they are unstable with the driver aids turned off, they aren’t involving (the AI computers drive the car, that is how they make lap times), they are boring,

    the EV’s are way worse they are another 1000 to 1800 lb. because of the lithium fire bomb battery, their biggest problem, which is huge is, they are horrible on corners, bad lateral acceleration, only good at linear acceleration, can’t stop, bad brakes because they weigh 4000 to 5000 lb., a light car will outbrake them by huge margins and out corner them, (lateral acceleration) by a lot. they are very unstable, so AI computers have to drive them to get them around a track and out of the ditch. They have no sound or soul they are boring.

    Jason Cammisa’s take
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaR843im04A

    • the Mazda Miata was an Lotus Elan copy.

      in the 1960s, Toyota wanted to show that it was a player on the world automotive scene and they introduced the 2000GT

      Under the 2000GTs skin, though, the car is a near copy of the Elan’s chassis.

      There is no question that the Elan’s backbone frame, Chapman strut rear suspension, and general layout was copied by the 2000GT. Other than the two extra engine cylinders, the two cars’ chassis look almost identical.

      the Mazda Miata was an Lotus Elan copy.

      Tom Matano and the other Mazda designers involved with the first Miata used the Elan as a design brief is common knowledge. someone had the opportunity to ask Matano how it felt to be “the most successful sports car designer ever”.

      Matano told me that because the Miata was based on the Elan, he was actually prouder of the last RX-7, which was a clean sheet design.

      Colin Chapman’s son said lotus should have kept making the Elan, Lotus made 12,000 Elans,

      Mazda sold over a million Miata’s, On April 22, 2016, Mazda broke its Guinness World Record by producing its one millionth MX-5

  8. Fantastic tribute to a fantastic car. The Miata is the perfect companion to a driver and is a superb teacher of how to handle an automobile. I’ve never driven one without exiting it with a smile on my face. It’s a little cramped for my 6-4 frame, but you almost wear this car and wield it like Tony Stark in the Iron Man suit.

    The shifter is snick-snick perfect and although people complain about the power, it is plenty. Driving a slower car fast is a lost art when even a danged minivan has 300 hp.

  9. Miatas are one of the last, great driving cars. They’re also the most raced car in the US. Spec Miata racing is one of the cheapest ways to get into wheel-to-wheel racing, and given its light weight, the cost of consumables like brakes and tires is low. It’s a wonderful car. I’ve coached a number of new drivers at the track, and frequently they’ve asked me to do a lap or two in their car to show them what it can do, and the Miata is great. Compared to really fast cars ten times its price, it’s more enjoyable, while those beautiful, fast Italian cars feel like a video game and what’s exciting about them is the power and noise, not the driving feel.

    I’d have one as my daily driver if I wasn’t daily driving a Lotus Elise – 800lb lighter than the Miata, 1.8L high strung engine that only starts to make power over 6000 RPM and it has 218HP.

    • Hi OP

      I daily drive a super 7 clone, 1200 lb, half the weight of a Miata, It has a Lampredi designed Fiat Lancia 4 cyl 2.0 lt. twin cam, hemi, 120 hp, 5 spd, people that drive 7’s like the lightness and throttle response. great track car, hard to follow down a winding narrow road.

      Lotus should have kept developing the seven and done this….. Donkervoort did it for them…..

      In 2003 and 2004 a super 7 clone, a Donkervoort had the lap record for street legal cars at the Nurburgring 7 min 13 sec. it had an Audi 1.8 lt. 20vt 4 cyl. engine 400 hp, about 1200 lb. it was the quickest street legal car in the world on the ring 2003, 2004….

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDynrJdUEzI

  10. I love my 2016 ND. It is an absolute hoot-and-a-half to drive up here in the Colorado mountains. As an aside, Eric, what radar detector do you use? After my last ticket I’ve decided I need one.

  11. Financing your Miata or buying used….

    A Flood of Repossessed Cars Poised to Hit the Used Car Market

    Worst Time to Buy in 30 Years

    There has never been a worst time in the last 30 years to buy a vehicle. Within the span of 2 years, cars went from being the largest depreciating asset one owned, to doing better than most of our stock portfolios, and I’ll explain exactly why.

    To get a better understanding of the insanity which is the car market, lets start with a number that we’re all familiar with: 9.1% (CPI for June). New & used cars are a large portion of that. New vehicles rose 11% yoy and used cars 7.3%.
    But percentages don’t do a good job at painting the whole picture so here are the raw numbers: 2 years ago: Average new car: 38k, Average used car: 20k. So what about 2022? Average new car: 50k (+24%)Average used car: 31k (+35%)[Used Car Image from Sully Below]

    Not lookin so hot is it? We went from walking into a dealership, buying a brand new car with $5000 in incentives, to dealerships asking for 10k “market” adjustments on seemingly boring cars (Lookin at you RAV4 hybrid). The culprit?
    Short supply combined with literally 0% rates caused many people to start buying any car that could “fit into their budget”. Why responsibly buy a 30k car, when you can finance a sick 100k truck at 84 months with 0% rate? I mean it’s free money after all. (this is a 7 year loan btw).

    Dealerships saw this, and started to push higher and higher loan terms. Telling customers its “only 900$ a month”. The average loan term right now? 72 months — an increase of about 33% since 2010 (48 months).
    But the era of 0% loans was last year, when the fed thought inflation was errrrr transitory (lol), so what’s going on now? Same thing… which makes it even worse. Car loan interest has gone up quite significantly, which means people are financing their car at insane APR.

    Imagine paying 7-8% interest on a 7 year loan for a car, and that is the scary part. People are literally paying hundreds of dollars a month just in interest for their car.

    The auto industry collapse has just begun and this would be one of the worst times for you to buy a vehicle. In a normal market (pre-2020), Auto Loan delinquencies hovered at 2 to 3%. Today that number is exploding with nearly 1 in every 4 loans in default in Washington DC

    The best-performing state is Utah with 4.5% of loans in default whereas other areas are much worse. California – 8.7%, Texas – 10%, Washington, DC – 23%. Once payment is more than 90 days late, the lender can repossess your car.

    https://mishtalk.com/economics/a-flood-of-repossessed-cars-poised-to-hit-the-used-car-market

  12. Always wanted a Miata, maybe I’ll buy myself one for my 75th birthday coming up this week. Would prefer a used one though – didn’t they have a model with a retractable hard top awhile back? That would be better here in the snow belt.

  13. It is curious that the “club spec” used to be the no frills and cheapest model, not even air conditioned. And hard to find. Designed for those who intended extensive modification. Now it’s the factory built high performance model?

  14. After using one for my daily driver for 20 years, I have almost nothing bad to say about them. They are peak automotive engineering. In my ’99 model, the battery was in the trunk, to facilitate weight distribution. Everything about them is engineered to improve performance, except engine power, which is well balanced to its light weight. Apparently, per your stats, they are gaining weight. My last one, an ’06, was around 2500 pounds. 2700 pounds is a slight weight gain compared to what happened between the Z3 and the Z4. They are indeed an engineering miracle in this anti-driving world we live in. Wish I could still drive a manual.

  15. ‘It is light – just 2,745 lbs.’ — eric

    The svelte Miata is like the only female classmate at your 30th reunion who kept her youthful figure, while all the other former beauties now pack BMIs of 30 and up.

    How did an obesity epidemic among people spread to vehicles, too?

    Ayyyyyyyyy … make it stop!

    • Jim,
      I think you answered your own question there. Could you really picture these self propelled stomachs shoehorning themselves into something like a plymouth horizon or even the modern mitsubishi mirage? Maybe the yokes making inroads just to clear those enormous guts and limit chafing on absurd cellulite jello arms. I’m sick of seeing these disgusting blobs jiggling around with their heavy breathing. Enough is enough!

  16. Wish I had this for my drive up to Flaggstaff from Phoenix and back yesterday on the I-17. Absolutely the craziest insterstate with dozens of high speed turns / steep inclines and descents, With a Miata it could have been fun, with a Crosstrek not so much. I see one of these in my not distant future. Great write up!

      • Hi Mark,

        Any detector can be hard wired/embedded within the dash, etc. But then, you can’t use it in more than one vehicle! I am regularly driving a different vehicle so I need one that easily transfers from vehicle to vehicle. And – yup – they are illegal here in VA. Which I actually like – because it makes having one more effective in that AGWs assume most people are sheep and will Obey the Law.

        I, of course, do not!

  17. Eric:
    I love reading the rare article from you that leaves me feeling uplifted rather than depressed!
    As a manual fanatic, I never expect to buy a pickup newer than late 00s, since they quit putting manuals in them. (Hopefully my 04 Cummins/ 6speed combo will last a long long time.)
    If I ever have money to buy a sports car, the Miata will be a serious contender. Sounds like a great little car!

    • Hi Mark,

      It’s a superb little car! The only change I’d make would be to make the LCD display in the center stack a delete option. Who needs it? Also maybe make the AC optional – and wing vent quarter windows standard…

      • Eric
        Considering how much genuine AC components cost you could probably discount your new miata to the tune of a thousand bucks if you were willing to delete the system yourself. Same goes for the infotainment junk.

        • Hi Callous

          Absolutely. I have suggested to Mazda people I know that they ought to consider a true Club Spec version; AC delete, no LCD screen. Skip the power window and locks. Maybe even Lexan side glass. I am certain such a de-contented iteration could be sold new for around $24k. If it didn’t have to have air bags, closer to $22k – and it would be significantly lighter and quicker and efficient, too.

          Would people buy it? Hell yes, they would. People who buy Miatas like that type of thing – and more people could afford to buy a $22k Miata, too.

  18. If I could buy another Miata, I’d buy this one. Great article Eric!

    Power point? Meh, I usually have to add an external 3 port expansion to my vehicles to power the dash cam, charge phones, etc. Double side sticky tape it where it is more convenient to use.

    If there is one thing about the “future” that automakers don’t seem to grasp is that we will have more and more devices to have to keep charged and they will need more places to plug in.

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