By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/13/2011
Most of the world's automotive legends come from earlier times, with very few post-1970s cars making the list. One that does is the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata, a 23-year mainstay of the Mazda line and the only compact, modestly-priced 2-seat roadster offered in the U.S. Since its introduction, the Mazda MX-5 Miata has garnered fans from all ages, both male and female, who simply love the open-air experience, the go-kart-like handling and near bullet-proof repair and reliability ratings. Over the years, Mazda has refined the MX-5 Miata formula, adding more safety and convenience features, as well as more power and chassis rigidity. But the basic MX-5 Miata flavor is still the same, which is why this little roadster remains popular, year after year.
If you grew up attracted to classic British roadsters from Triumph and MG, or you just love the feeling of a small, well-connected roadster that was born for curving back roads, you're a candidate for the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible. Open-air fans will find lots to like, especially the Miata's sub-$25,000 starting price. Those who live in cold climates will appreciate the retractable hardtop option.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you need one car to do many things, and there is more than one of you to consider with this purchase, the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible may be a poor choice. The compact trunk and two-seat configuration severely limits the MX-5 Miata's cargo and people-hauling abilities.What's New for 2012
The only significant change to the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible line is the addition of electronic traction and stability control on all models.Driving It Driving Impressions
There is nothing about the 2012 Mazda Miata convertible that we don't like. Is it loaded with horsepower? No. But, with a total weight of roughly 2,500 pounds, the 167-horsepower 2.0-liter engine is more than sufficient. From the lovely quick-shifting manual transmission to the near-instantaneous steering turn-in response, the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a true enthusiast driver's dream. The MX-5 Miata's all-independent suspension and almost 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution contribute to the terrific level of handling, as well as the compliant ride. And, while its development over twenty years has necessarily accommodated new safety and emission legislation, the tight, lithe platform continues to deliver an almost magical connection with the asphalt and fresh air. It's more than mere transport; it's transport to another place.
2.0-liter DOHC 4-Cylinder Engine
There is no supercharger or turbo to boost output, no V6 crammed under the hood to throw off the 50/50 weight balance, just a marvelously rev-happy 2.0-liter engine that responds without complaint and sips fuel to the tune of 28 mpg.
To look at the MX-5 Miata's spec sheet, you'd think the starting price was in the mid-$30s or even $40s, rather than mid-$20s, as the structure utilizes a remarkable amount of lightweight (and relatively costly) aluminum. Hood, trunk, front suspension control arms, rear suspension uprights and rear brake calipers are all crafted in a material many carmakers seem yet to discover in any meaningful quantities. It keeps the MX-5 Miata commendably light and wonderfully responsive.
There is no getting around the fact that the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible's interior is a snug affair but, for those who can wedge themselves inside, it promises to be a great ride. The beauty of the MX-5 Miata's interior is that, if you're shorter than six feet tall, there is ample leg and head room, even with the top up. The seats might be marginally comfortable for some, and a few people may find them not to be the best for longer trips. Amazingly, the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible's trunk is big enough to fit a large overnight bag or a few days' worth of groceries. The interior materials are well above what we'd expect at this price, with Grand Touring models outfitted with heated leather seats, Bose audio and automatic climate control.Exterior
We could describe the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible's most alluring features to you, or you could just look at a picture, because what you see is what you get. The sleek exterior shares no sheet metal or parts with the last-generation Miata, but the two look amazingly similar. The MX-5 Miata's retractable soft top is a marvel of engineering, requiring only one arm to open and close. Those looking for a bit more comfort and security can opt for the retractable hardtop version, which amazingly takes up no trunk space and results in the loss of only a small storage compartment behind the driver's seat.Notable Standard Equipment
Despite an entry-level price tag, the base 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport is comprehensively equipped. A 5-speed manual transmission, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, electronic traction and stability control, side-impact airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, glass rear window with defroster, power windows, leather-wrapped steering wheel, adjustable-height driver's seat and AM/FM/CD with MP3 playback capability are but a few of the highlights. In short, despite a relatively low price tag (under $25K), the entry-level 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata is almost elegantly equipped.Notable Optional Equipment
Most of the 2012 MX-5 Miata's available options are packaged in the trim-level upgrades. Touring and Grand Touring models add a sixth gear to the manual transmission; all three trim levels offer an available 6-speed automatic as an option. The Touring - and by extension, Grand Touring - has 17-inch alloy wheels, a chrome grille surround, power door locks, an in-dash 6-disc CD changer and remote keyless entry. Moving up from the Touring trim level to the Grand Touring adds a black or beige cloth top (instead of the Sport and Touring black vinyl top), automatic air conditioning, leather seating and a Bose audio system. A more aggressive Sport suspension (with Bilstein shocks and limited-slip differential) can be added to both Touring and Grand Touring models equipped with the manual transmission. The retractable hardtop is offered on Touring or Grand Touring trim levels and adds the power retractable hardtop with a glass rear window and rear defroster.Under the Hood
With 167 horsepower at 7,000 rpm from its 2.0 liters of displacement, the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata's powertrain is merely middle-of-the-pack in terms of power output. But what it provides in driving enjoyment puts it solidly in pole position, with feedback - both mechanical and aural - fully appropriate to the classic sports-car experience. And much of that has been engineered into the car. One example: The engine's plastic composite intake manifold is designed to transmit - rather than mask - certain frequencies that duplicate a sports car's "sound." Both 5-speed and 6-speed manual transmissions are short in their throws and precise in their actuations. And, as noted, a 6-speed automatic is optional across the board, but truly appropriate only if you've lost your left leg in a racing accident.
2.0-liter in-line 4
167 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm (manual); 158 horsepower @ 6,700 rpm (automatic)
140 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 (5-speed manual), 21/28 (6-speed manual), 21/28 (6-speed automatic)
The three 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible trim levels - Sport, Touring and Grand Touring - range in price from about $24,000 (5-speed Sport) to almost $29,000 (Grand Touring automatic), plus whatever port or dealer-installed accessories the consumer would care to add. The power retractable hard top Touring starts around $28,000 and a loaded Grand Touring tops out around $33,000. Be sure and check kbb.com's Fair Purchase Price for what consumers are paying in your market area. Historically, MX-5 Miata resale value has been consistently strong, a testament to both its long-term reliability and desirability to successive generations of car buyers.