Look up the word fun in an automotive dictionary, and you’re likely to find a picture of a 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Available with a power-folding targa top or as a traditional soft-top convertible, Mazda’s lightweight roadster is an enthusiast favorite, offering incredible handling, memorable performance and strong fuel efficiency for an affordable price.
The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a two-passenger roadster. The rear-wheel-drive convertible is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which is governed by a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can choose from Sport, Club or Grand Touring trim levels. The new-for-2017 RF (retractable fastback) model is available as a Club or Grand Touring model. A limited-edition 1,000-unit RF Launch Edition trim is also available, and it features auburn Nappa leather upholstery, a hand-painted black top and Machine Gray Metallic exterior paint.
The introduction of the RF model isn’t the only change for 2017. Miata Club models also add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert to their list of standard features.
The 2017 MX-5 Miata is a near-perfect blend of classic roadster and modern sports car. The long hood and short rear clip evoke comparisons to the British classics while the aggressive styling lets you know the MX-5 is fresh and new. The all-new RF model adds a graceful electric power-folding targa top. The retro-styled C-pillar may inhibit rear vision, but it certainly looks fantastic. To our eyes, both versions of the MX-5 look more expensive than they are.
Our top-of-the-line Grand Touring model includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights and an LED adaptive front lighting system that includes auto on/off headlights and high-beam control. The Grand Touring adds premium touches like body-colored heated power side mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
The base Sport model features an aggressive front grille surrounded by LED headlights and halogen daytime running lights. Black power side mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels and a black cloth top with a glass rear window add to the overall design. Upgrades include a rear spoiler. There’s also an available Appearance package that adds side sill extensions and a rear bumper skirt.
The 2017 Miata’s cabin is simple but nicely finished, and it complements the sporty nature of this roadster. The driver-centric cockpit features manually adjustable sport seats that provide good support. The tilting steering column provides enough travel for most drivers to find an optimal seating position during enthusiastic jaunts or extended highway cruising.
Our Grand Touring test vehicle included automatic climate control and leather-trimmed seats. Base models come with piano-black seatback bar trim, a three-spoke leather steering wheel, a leather shift knob, cloth-trimmed bucket seats and a leather-trimmed parking brake.
Optional equipment includes an Interior package that adds alloy pedals and door sill trim plates. There’s also an available Weather package that enhances the cargo space with a tray and all-weather floor mats.
Cargo space is limited in this compact roadster. The deep trunk provides room for an overnight carry-on bag or two, but the 4.59 cubic feet of cargo space (4.48 in RF models) isn’t very impressive, and many competitors offer more. It is worth noting that the cargo space does not change whether the convertible top is up or down.
It is difficult to describe the driving dynamics of the MX-5 Miata without sounding like we are on Mazda’s payroll. The suspension is tight, steering is precise and braking is inspiring. Very few cars are as enthusiast-friendly as the Miata. The little two-door begs to be pushed around sharp corners, and is pleasant on long stretches of the highway. Upgrades like the Club model’s Bilstein shocks only improve the driving experience.
The 2017 MX-5 Miata is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. The Miata has always been praised for its smooth shifting and intuitive manual transmission, and the standard six-speed found in the 2017 model is as good, if not better, than any before. A six-speed automatic is also available.
Fuel economy is excellent, and even spirited driving returns surprisingly good numbers. The MX-5 Miata has an EPA rating of 26/35 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission and 26/33 mpg with the manual.
The base Miata Sport comes with a modest amount of standard technology equipment. Standard features include a CD/MP3-compatible six-speaker audio system, and two of the system’s speakers are located in the driver’s-seat headrest. Other standard features include Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
Moving into the mid-grade Club trim increases the standard feature list exponentially. Club models feature a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with satellite and HD radio. An additional 4.6-inch color LCD screen provides a trip computer and other vehicle information.
Our top-trim Grand Touring model uses the same nine-speaker Bose audio system but adds navigation. The Bose system delivers loud and clear audio that fills the cabin even with the top down. Mazda’s proprietary control knob system is intuitive and the MX-5’s navigation is straightforward and easy to use. While Mazda’s included apps are good, the fact that Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone compatibility isn’t offered even in top-trim models is unfortunate.
The 2017 Miata has not been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, that lack of crash-test data isn’t unusual for a car in this class.
Standard safety features include electronic stability control, daytime running lights, tire-pressure monitoring and antilock brakes. The Miata’s optional safety features include adaptive headlights, high-beam control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning. A rearview camera isn’t available.
If fun is the MX-5’s first definition, then affordable is listed as a second entry. The MX-5’s starting price of $24,915 (plus an $835 destination fee) makes this roadster one of the most affordable new convertibles on the market today. Club models start at $28,800 and the top-trim Grand Touring begins at $30,065.
The new RF model is offered in Club ($31,555) and Grand Touring ($32,620) trims. When you consider that many reviewers are comparing the MX-5’s design and driving characteristics to the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman, the Miata seems like a bargain.
Fun, affordable and historically reliable, the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata just might be the perfect weekend vehicle. If you want to use this compact two-seater as a daily driver, you will want to consider its limited cargo space and rear-wheel drive limitations. However, if you can live with the roadster’s inherent shortcomings, the fuel-efficient Miata makes commuting a blast.