A hot sports car for around $30,000? Yes, ma’am.
When this gorgeous red sports car was delivered to my driveway, it was a show stopper. And that was before I opened the hard top. That spiffy little 12-second process had the neighbors stopping to stare.
I’m not a car freak. For nearly a dozen years when I lived in a congested urban area well-served by public transit, I didn’t even own a car. I rented one when I needed it and, whenever Chicago weather cooperated, I rented a convertible.
There’s something about having the sun on your shoulders and the wind in your hair that makes driving all that much more fun. My kids are off to college now. When I finish writing those tuition checks, I plan to take all of that extra cash and invest it in a Car Just for Me. Without a doubt, that car will be a convertible.
After spending a week tooling around in this hot little hard top convertible, the Mazda MX 5 has made the short list of cars to consider. There’s a reason (actually lots of reasons) this car has been name a 10Best by Car and Driver magazine 16 times.
Who This Car is For
This is a teeeeeeny 2-seat sports car. My 6-foot, 4-inch husband had to fold himself into the passenger seat. When the top was closed, it felt a little claustrophobic when I had someone in the passenger seat.
So this car is for:
- People who don’t mind a tight fit
- Empty nesters ready for some fun
- People who believe in traveling light
- Drivers who like to have fun without breaking the bank
What It Costs
The fully loaded 2017 Mazda MX 5 I drove retails for $33,885. (That included $300 for the hot red paint job. An entirely reasonable investment, if you ask me.)
- Sport: Starts at $24,915
- Club: Stars at $28,800
- Grand Touring: Starts at $30,065
All of the models come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission. You can opt for an automatic for about $1500 more, but why would you? This is a fun car to drive, at least in part because of the ability to wind out those gears and drive for speed.
Space is Tight Inside the Mazda MX 5
This little roadster is built for fun, not for storage. So, when it was time to drive to Detroit to pick up my daughter from her summer job so she could head back to college, I told her: “I have a hot little convertible I can bring to pick you up. But if you have a lot of stuff, I’ll bring the SUV.”
She, of course, assured me that she had very little to bring home. I, of course, believed her. Both of us were wrong.
We pushed, shoved and tucked stuff into every nook and cranny of the Mazda MX 5. Lucky for us, there were plenty of nooks. The trunk is surprisingly large for such a small car. We got one roll aboard suitcase in the deep section of the trunk and tucked the rest of her stuff into the corners around it.
We found more space behind the two seats and a few cute little storage areas built into the cockpit area behind the seats.
We drove with my handbag on the console between us and hers in her lap.
When we got home, we unloaded, then ordered an extra large pizza to reward ourselves—only to find out there isn’t really any place to carry an extra large pizza box in the MX 5! My daughter road with the box balanced on the dashboard and tucked under her chin.
Technology Two Ways: Touch Screen and Dial Controlled
The 7-inch display offers radio—satellite as well as local channels on the model I drove—navigation, car diagnostics and controls and Bluetooth pairing for a phone.
All are very easy to use. When the car is stopped, I used the responsive touch screen. When I was traveling, the dial was positioned in the right place for me to easily reach it, although my tall, long-armed husband found it a bit too close for comfort.
My phone paired easily and immediately each time I climbed into the car. My daughter also paired hers and we listened to her music via the Bluetooth connection. We found, however, that the sound tended to go in and out along the drive. That may have been a lose wire in the sound system. I asked, but haven’t yet heard back where anyone checked and found a problem.
The large 7-inch screen made it easy to see the navigation, which is relatively easy to use. It got us to our destination just fine. Still, I prefer Apple Car Play. There is no need to figure out a new system when your phone simply links to the car’s computer and brings up a familiar screen that looks just like the one you use every day on your phone. Here’s hoping the next iteration of the Mazda MX 5 moves to Apple Car Play and Adroid Auto. It only makes sense.
Can You Feel Safe in Such a Small Car?
The Mazda MX 5 is very lightweight—Mazda calls it Skyactiv Technology. It allowed Mazda to build a powerful car that is 148 pounds lighter than the previous iteration of the Miata.
Since the two vehicles I drive regularly are big and bigger (an SUV and a dual cab pickup truck), sliding into this hot little number gave me pause, especially when I considered the challenges of taking it on the highway.
The responsive handling eased my concerns. I figured that I could steer away from danger. And I did—until the last hour of our return trip when the skies opened up. The downpour left standing water on the highway, particularly in construction zones. I watched the car ahead of me hydroplane and nearly hit the semi truck in the right lane. I learned from his mistake and immediately pulled over to the dryer right lane.
Along the way, the rain kept threatening, intermittently spitting and misting. That’s when my daughter and I discovered one of our favorite things about this cute little car: the wipers can be set to sense when the windshield is wet and automatically turn on! We loved that.
Some Safety Features, But an Important One is Missing
The MX 5 RF model I drove came equipped with:
• Anti-lock brakes
• Tire pressure monitoring system
• Dual front airbags
• Side impact airbags
• Lane departure warning system
• Blind spot monitoring
• Rear cross traffic alert
What’s missing from that list? A backup camera! I was, frankly, a little shocked to look at the nav as I put the car in reverse and see….nothing. No pretty picture of my driveway. No guidelines telling me how close I was to backing into my husband’s truck. Nothing. It seemed like a weird choice to include safety features like lane drift warnings but not a backup camera. Especially in such a small car.
Backing out of a parallel parking spot into downtown traffic was a bit unnerving. The rear cross traffic alert system dinged so I stopped, but I had no eyes helping me see what was behind me. And the sight lines on the hard top are not great. In a full convertible, it would be less of a problem.
Note: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has decreed that all cars have a backup camera as standard equipment starting in May 2018 and Mazda has confirmed that the MX 5 will meet that deadline.
What We Loved
- 6 speed manual transmission that made it So. Much. Fun. To. Drive.
- Great gas mileage—37.7 mph on the highway, 34.2 at home
- Hot sports car design
- Responsive handling
- Surprisingly affordable price
- 60 month or 60,000 mile powertrain and 36 month or 36 mile bumper to bumper warranty
- 24 hour roadside assistance
- Rain-sensing windshield wipers
What You Need to Know
- The interior of this small car is really tight. Getting in and out takes a bit of work and extra tall or extra large people might find the fit is too tight.
- There’s no back-up camera, although there are other safety features, like the rear cross traffic alert system.
Disclosure: The Mazda MX 5 was provided for my test drive and review. All opinions are my own.