- 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata (MSRP: $26,830 – $31,770)
- 2016 World Car of the Year Award
- 2016 World Car Design of the Year Award
- Pro: Extremely nimble handling and very responsive powertrain
- Con: Infotainment interface could be better. Ride can be harsh at times
If you’re looking for a small roadster that can be tossed around corners easily while providing a perfectly reliable way to get to work, then the answer is definitely “Miata.” More specifically, the 2021 Mazda MX-5.
The MX-5 has a classic and aggressive design that should withstand the test of time. But underneath it all is a front-engine/rear-drive layout that’s connected to a chassis that’s as predictable as it is progressive. The Mazda MX-5 is the perfect way to get into a rear-drive car if you’re a novice driver as it won’t get you into too much trouble. But if you’re in the advanced group, it will still put a huge smile on your face whenever you get behind the wheel with its sprite handling and smooth engine.
The 2021 Mazda MX-5 looks strikingly sophisticated
The Mazda MX-5 was redesigned for the 2016 model year and this time around, it seems like the design engineers outdid themselves. Now in its fourth generation, the Mazda MX-5 remains a tiny, two-seat roadster. But despite its diminutive size, the MX-5 has a lasting presence with its sharp edges and angled headlights. It has a bold and aggressive look that is a far departure from Miatas of the past, but it’s a welcomed one that will last.
For the 2021 model year, the MX-5 hasn’t undergone any extensive changes. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are now standard equipment and optional white leather upholstery is now available. My test car came with this new interior and I think it paired nicely with the car’s Machine Gray Metallic exterior.
The Mazda MX-5’s interior is small but elegant
It’s a little weird to describe the Mazda MX-5’s interior as “elegant,” but I would be doing it a disservice if I didn’t. I can’t speak much for the Sport and Club model’s cloth seats, but the top-trim Grand Touring model’s leather seats make it feel as luxurious as a roadster can be. After squeezing into the car’s small doorway, I noticed that the car’s simple but effective interior was a nice place to be. A seven-inch touchscreen sits front and center while the HVAC dials and vents are within easy reach.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel, shifter, and parking lever are all standard as are a pair of manually adjustable seats. However, they are heated in the Club and Grand Touring models, so that’s an added plus. Overall, the MX-5’s interior layout is sleek and simple, but it’s not for taller occupants as anyone taller than 6-feet, 2-inches might feel cramped with the top up.
The Mazda MX-5 is surprisingly tech-savvy
While it may be simple inside and out, the Mazda MX-5 is pretty tech-savvy when it comes to its electronic features. All 2021 Mazda MX-5s come with the i-Activsense suite of driver-assist features, LED headlights, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Cruise control, Bluetooth, and Apple Carplay/Android Auto are now standard, as is a six-speaker sound system.
However, if you want a better audio experience, opt for the Club or Grand Touring trim levels, which come with a Bose nine-speaker sound system with headrest speakers and a subwoofer. The highest trim also comes with rain-sensing wipers, auto climate control, and adaptive headlights.
The Mazda MX-5’s handling prowess is second-to-none
To say that the Mazda MX-5 can carve corners like a “hot knife through butter” would actually be an understatement. The Japanese automaker has done well to refine the MX-5’s handling abilities throughout the years and this latest iteration is no exception. The car responded to my inputs as if it were an extension of me. Every slight turn of the wheel or press on the pedals was met with a sharp response; even heel-toe downshifts were a breeze.
According to Car and Driver’s testing, the 2021 MX-5 scored a .90g on the skidpad and that sounds on point. It didn’t matter what kind of hairpin turn I put the car through, it stuck to the road and it even felt like it was egging me on at some points.
The interesting part is that despite its agility, the MX-5 is softly sprung so it doesn’t punish you when going over dips and speed bumps. That being said, the only downside is that some might find the sport-tuned suspension and Bilstein shock absorber a little choppy over some road imperfections at highway speeds.
The MX-5’s sole engine has more than enough power
While any die-hard enthusiasts can easily complain about the MX-5’s lack of turbocharged thrust, I’m going out on a limb and saying that it doesn’t need it. While it’s certainly not fast, the MX-5 is definitely not slow either. Under the hood is a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque and can be connected to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
I personally recommend opting for the manual transmission as that’s the best way to experience this plucky roadster. Additionally, a limited-slip differential comes on the Club and Grand Touring trims, which will help the car gain more traction in the corners and off the line.
Car and Driver was able to get the MX-5 from 0 to 60 mph in a respectable 5.7 seconds and down the quarter-mile in 14.5 seconds. While I couldn’t do any instrumented testing, I will say that I had no issues getting the car off the line quickly, and merging on the freeway wasn’t a struggle at any point.
The MX-5 is small, but safe
The Mazda MX-5 is small, but that doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe. In fact, it garners a respectable four-star rating with the Euro NCAP in 2015. Not impressed? Well, the MX-5 has yet to be rated by the NHTSA and the IIHS.
However, it does come with a host of safety features and technologies to quell some of your safety woes. Every MX-5 comes standard with dual airbags, side airbags, and side-impact door beams. On the technology front, the MX-5 comes standard with Smart City Brake Support, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and a rearview camera. Opting for the higher trims will add traffic sign recognition and blind-spot monitoring.
The Mazda MX-5 is as reliable as you would expect
Mazdas are pretty well known for being reliable and the MX-5 is no exception. Consumer Reports gave the 2021 MX-5 a perfect five out of five in the “predicted reliability” category and JD Power gave the 2019 model a 70 out of 100 when it comes to “quality and reliability.” Repair Pal also gave the MX-5 a four-star score for reliability and estimates that it will cost an average of $429 in annual repairs, which is pretty low.
Fortunately, MX-5 owners won’t have to worry too much about repairs for the first few years as the car is backed by 3-year/36,000 basic warranty. The powertrain is also covered for the first 5 years or 60,000 miles and it even comes with a 24-hour roadside assistance program for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles.
The 2021 Mazda MX-5 is the best two-seat roadster to buy, if you can fit in it
Ultimately, the 2021 Mazda MX-5 is easily one of the best two-seat roadsters on the market. Considering its low price of entry, even when you opt for the highest trim, it’s tough to beat the sheer value that you can get out of an MX-5 every day. No, it’s not super practical — and taller folks might not fit in it — but if you can, then you will be treated the most top-down fun you can possibly have for the amount of money you’ll spend.
MotorBiscuit gives the 2021 Mazda MX-5 an expert rating of 8.4 out of 10
The editors at MotorBiscuit rate the 2021 Mazda MX-5 an 8.4 out of 10. It’s hard to argue with the two-seat roadster’s excellent acceleration and handling capabilities. We also liked the MX-5’s aggressive look and renowned reputation for reliability.