Can You Still Have Fun In a Mazda MX-5 Miata With an Automatic Transmission?

As much as us driving enthusiasts would love to “save the manuals” and beg automakers to keep making cars with sticks, the truth of the matter is that we can’t. With the increasing number so millennials not learning how to drive stick – and not caring – we can’t expect that the do-it-yourself transmission is going to hang around much longer.

Although, I can think of one car that will probably always be offered with a manual transmission: The Mazda MX-5. Because there’s no way that Mazda would be so sadistic as to take that away from us. But in case they do, is the automatic version of Mazda MX-5 worth buying?

2020 Mazda MX-5 with a manual transmission

I had the pleasure of driving the 2020 Mazda MX-5 a couple of months ago, and thankfully, that one was outfitted with a manual transmission. Needless to say, as a Honda S2000 owner, I really enjoyed it. The shifts were smooth and precise and the clutch feels matched the shift mechanism perfectly by not feeling too heavy or too light in addition to having a gradual and forgiving engagement point. To be clear, it’s no S2000, but it’s close enough.

2020 Mazda MX-5
2020 Mazda MX-5 | Joe Santos

But the main part of the driving experience is the car itself. When driving the new MX-5, you can tell that Mazda not only poured countless hours into building a well-tuned car but also learned from whatever mistakes they made in the previous generations and improved upon them.

There’s a great sense of refinement when you sit in the driver’s seat and that feeling is further complemented by the car’s agility in the corners, precise point-and-shoot steering, and glorious engine sounds. Yes, being able to downshift and put in work before each turn is a fun part of the experience, but it’s not everything.

2020 Mazda MX-5
2020 Mazda MX-5 | Joe Santos

Six-speed automatic transmission

Truth be told, I’ve only driven an ND Miata in automatic guise once, but it was enough to get a feel for the car. My main takeaway is that although the six-speed automatic transmission did make the car feel slower when accelerating, it didn’t hinder the overall driving experience too much.

Putting the car in “sport” mode did help make the MX-5 feel quicker, but it didn’t do much as far as bringing back the excitement of rocking a stick. Neither did the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. If anything, those made me want a manual transmission even more.

However, I will say that the car was still fun to drive as it’s nimble handling and responsive engine made every corner fun. Additionally, everything else in the car is exactly the same, as you would expect, and the car was easier to drive in low-speed situations.


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Is an automatic Mazda MX-5 worth buying?

In my experience and opinion, a Mazda MX-5 with an automatic transmission is worth buying. And before anyone starts throwing negative vibes my way, just remember, not everyone cares about driving a car with a manual transmission and some people could be too lazy to learn. That doesn’t mean that those people need to miss out on the joys of driving a car like the Mazda MX-5. If anything, they’ll have much as those of us that like to shift our own gears.