Mazda Miata: 30th Anniversary Edition gets more power

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The Mazda MX-5 Miata is sexy, fun-to-drive, and it proves that great things can be found in very small packages.

With ties to Chicago, the MX-5 made its debut at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, where few attendees (or enthusiasts) could have predicted Miata’s longevity. Since its debut, many competitive models have appeared and disappeared. The Miata has not only survived, but has flourished into iconic status.

Miata continues to enjoy a cult-like following. Back in April 2016, the one-millionth MX-5 Miata rolled off the production line. This past February, Mazda returned to the Chicago Auto Show to unveil the 2019 MX-5 Miata 30th Anniversary Edition. It featured an exclusive Racing Orange paint job along with unique styling cues and performance upgrades. Unfortunately, only 3,000 units will be sold globally, and all 500 reserved for the U.S. have been spoken for.

New & Improved

While it is too late to land one of the 30th Anniversary Editions, Mazda has made all 2019 MX-5 Miata models even more desirable thanks to some new standard features and a new engine that produces more power.

The MX-5 engine adopts new technologies, including lighter pistons and a freer breathing exhaust. A new lightweight, dual-mass flywheel is utilized. The new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine now produces 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque – an increase of 26 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque. Plus, the engine now redlines at 7,500 – an increase of 700 rpm.

While it may not sound like big numbers, keep in mind that the MX-5 Miata has a curb weight of just 2,339 lbs. Retractable hardtop models, known as RF (Retractable Fastback) weigh slightly more at 2,453 lbs.

Miata’s more powerful engine is a welcome addition and definitely adds to the exhilarating driving experience. Teamed to the new powerplant is a standard 6-speed manual gearbox, or available 6-speed automatic transmission. The automatic includes steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual shifting when desired.

I recommend the manual gearbox. It features a sweet short-throw shifter and a nicely-balanced clutch pedal feel. Also, opting for the automatic deletes available performance upgrades like Bilstein shocks, front shock tower brace and limited slip rear axle.

3 Trim Levels

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata is offered in three trim levels; Sport ($25,730), Club ($29,590) and Grand Touring ($30,780). The RF is available in Club ($32,345) and Grand Touring ($33,335).

RF models feature a power retractable top and an obviously quieter top-up driving experience. Miata soft top models require the top to be operated manually, but it is quick and easy to do from a seated position inside the car.

With the top up, taller folks will need to be careful when entering the cabin as you may strike your head if you forget to crouch. Rear visibility with the top up is a bit restrictive, too. Of course, that all changes with the top down. Without a doubt, the Mazda MX-5 Miata was meant to be enjoyed topless.

Yes, the cabin is snug, but that is to be expected when driving a small roadster like the Miata. I like that all 2019 Miata models now include a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and rearview camera.

However, I am disappointed that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are only available in the 30th Anniversary Edition.

Miata has a small cargo area (about 4.5 cu-ft) but it is deep enough for groceries or overnight bags.

On the road, the small and lightweight MX-5 Miata roadster feels nimble and is such a joy to drive. There are no cars in this price range that put the driver more in touch with the road and offer such an exhilarating driving experience.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication

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