By KBB.com Editors
The third-generation MX-5 Miata roadster continues to capture the hearts of driving enthusiasts and open-air aficionados everywhere. The lightweight roadster may not be big on horsepower, but its 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution, dynamic suspension and lightening-quick steering make it a blast to drive, while its excellent fuel economy makes it the perfect commuter car. Despite its small proportions, the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata is easy to live with. The top, for example, can be operated from inside the car with just one arm and, when retracted, collapses into a small well behind the seats, as does the new available power-operated hardtop. As a result, the MX-5 Miata's small trunk is unaffected by the top's position, a claim the Pontiac Solstice, for example, can't make.You'll Like This Car If...
If brutal winters make owning a soft-top car a nightmare, the 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata's new retractable hardtop is a dream come true. The MX-5's excellent fuel economy makes it a viable commuter car for those looking to leave their gas-thirsty SUVs at home. Driving enthusiasts and sports car club members love its wonderful handling and overall nimble performance.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're long of leg or over six feet in height, the MX-5 Miata can still present you with a cramped driving position. The MX-5 has a small trunk and does not offer much in the way of interior storage space. If this is going to be your only mode of transport, you're not going to win many friends when it's your turn to drive the co-workers to lunch.What's Significant About This Car?
The MX-5 Miata gains a manual driver's-seat lift and a tire pressure monitor. Touring and Grand Touring models now feature an in-dash, six-disc CD changer as standard equipment.Driving It Driving Impressions
A turn of the key demonstrates a noticeable reduction in vibration from the previous-generation Miata. Past Miatas would buzz and shudder at idle, but the new MX-5 Miata hums as serenely as a happy humming bird. The 2.0-liter pulls strongly and keeps right on giving well past the 55-mph mark. Once in motion, the MX-5 rolls comfortably over smooth pavement and takes dips and bumps with few theatrics. The MX-5's 50/50 front/rear weight balance allows the car to perform remarkably nimble maneuvers that would be more difficult if the car had more of its weight biased to either end. We later learned that, at speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour, the MX-5's windshield creates an air curtain above the driver's and passenger's heads, effectively directing at least moderate levels of rain to the rear of the car.Favorite Features
It's tough to get a good sound system in an affordable convertible, but Bose finally pulled it off. With crisp highs and a thumping bass, the Bose system can easily defeat the most deafening wind noise.
Retractable Hardtop design
The MX-5's hardtop roof adds a mere 77 pounds to the car's weight and can be raised and lowered in just 12 seconds.
The MX-5 Miata's interior is wider than the first two generation Miatas, offering much-needed improvements in hip and shoulder room. The driver's-side foot well has been widened by running the exhaust down the right side of the transmission tunnel. While good news for the driver, the passenger now has to deal with limited foot and knee space. Fit and finish are excellent, with easy-to-read instruments, steering wheel-mounted controls for audio and cruise control and a perfectly situated shift lever. The MX-5's center console could do with some padding, though, as we found our elbows starting to smart a bit during aggressive cornering. Bose has created an optional sound system that adjusts equalization settings depending upon whether the top is up or down. The system even has different settings for leather versus cloth interior.Exterior
The third-generation MX-5 Miata shares not a single part with its predecessors, but the familiar Miata DNA is still evident. The differences become more obvious once you get closer. Where the previous generation Miata's doors bow out, the MX-5's are slab sided. Restrained wheel arches have given way to the same pronounced flair that first appeared on the RX-8. The convertible top is even easier to use than the original, capable of being operated from the driver's seat with just one arm, while the new retractable hardtop permits year-round driving without adding significant weight or cost. In addition, 16-inch aluminum wheels are now standard on the base car, with 17-inch rims offered on the performance models.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata SV Convertible comes with a five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), 16-inch alloy wheels, glass rear window with defroster, vinyl top, dual power mirrors, power windows, three-spoke tilt steering wheel, cloth bucket seats, mesh windblocker, AM/FM stereo with CD and side-impact airbags. The Sport and Touring models add more standard features such as larger wheels, cruise control and power door locks. The Touring and Grand Touring add a six-speed manual transmission, while the Grand Touring trim adds a cloth (rather than vinyl) top, tan or black leather seats and Bose audio.Notable Optional Equipment
A six-speed automatic with manual shift mode is optional on the Touring, Sport and Grand Touring trims. The Suspension Package offered on the Sport and Grand Touring adds Bilstein shocks, limited-slip differential and sport suspension. Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control, the limited-slip differential, Smart Key and xenon headlamps can be had by ordering the Premium Package, which is available only on the Grand Touring trim level.Under the Hood
The MX-5's 2.0-liter engine has plenty of pep and a newfound reserve of low-end torque that allows for quick off-the-line sprints. Both the five- and six-speed manuals provide precise shifts that make quick work of gear changes. The six-speed automatic delivers crisp gear changes designed to maximize every bit of the engine's power. When switched to manual mode, the six-speed automatic performs admirably, though we think you lose some of the gas-and-clutch driver interaction that makes the MX-5 so much fun to drive.
2.0-liter in-line 4
166 horsepower @ 6700 rpm (manual); 158 horsepower @ 6700 rpm (automatic)
140 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/27(five-speed manual), 21/28 (six-speed manual), 20/27 (automatic)
The four trim levels comprising the MX-5 line-up range from a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of around $21,000 for the SV to about $25,000 for the Grand Touring model. The retractable hardtop is available on the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring and adds about $2,000 to the bottom line. An increasing number of competitors, including the Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky and MINI Cooper, may make it easier to deal on the MX-5. The Fair Purchase Price shows the typical transaction price being paid in your area, so be sure to check it out before you begin negotiating. As for the MX-5's long-term value, Kelley Blue Book expects the MX-5 to retain strong residual and resale values in the first three years, but then drop to average in years four and five.