2012 Mazda MX-5 GT
2012 Mazda MX-5 GT. Click image to enlarge
Test Drive: 2012 Mazda MX-5 Special Version
Final Drive: 1990 Mazda Miata

Manufacturer’s web site
Mazda Canada

Review and photos by Michael Schlee

Photo Gallery:
2012 Mazda MX-5

Road Trip: 5,200 km in a Mazda MX-5

Nearly 1 million Mazda MX-5s (or Miatas) have been sold worldwide since it was launched in 1989. That makes it far and away the number one selling roadster of all time. With such a simple concept and proven sales success, it is a wonder that no one has copied the formula yet; although Scion and Subaru have come close recently with the FR-S and BRZ hardtop twins. In 2011, the MX-5 sold 612 units during the Tsunami-interrupted sales year and was able to achieve 736 sales across Canada in 2010. That is not bad for a purpose-built sports car whose last full redesign came in 2006. Good news for Miata-philes is that a fourth-generation MX-5 is on its way being co-developed with Fiat/Alfa Romeo.

2012 Mazda MX-5 GT
2012 Mazda MX-5 GT. Click image to enlarge

Regular readers of Autos.ca will recall that I recently took a 2012 Mazda MX-5 GT on the 2012 Rally Dixie. Unlike the MX-5 Special Version reviewed by Associate Editors Chris Chase and James Bergeron, the MX-5 I had for review was the fully decked out GT model. This means my test car came loaded with features like the Bilstein shock–equipped sport suspension, a limited slip differential, xenon headlights (HID), smart keyless entry system, leather seats, Bose seven-speaker stereo system, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and a leather parking brake handle. For 2012, all MX-5s now feature stability control standard and all but the base GX are equipped with a power folding hardtop roof.

Now I know what you are thinking—although fun, a diminutive two seat roadster does not seem like the most practical choice for a cross country road trip. Although a valid point, in reality there were just as many pros to taking this vehicle as cons. Sure, we had trouble packing and unpacking the tiny 150 L trunk, just two carry-on bags and two computer bags would fit, and on our longer driving stints the fact the passenger seat couldn’t recline even a few inches made catching a few Zs difficult. But overall, the fun in the sun, nimble handling, and decent fuel mileage made this a great long distance companion.

2012 Mazda MX-5 GT
2012 Mazda MX-5 GT
2012 Mazda MX-5 GT. Click image to enlarge

While on the topic of comfort, the front seats of the MX-5 were very supportive and comfortable initially. However, after hours behind the wheel my entire lower body would slowly go numb, muscle by muscle. Hampering comfort further for the passenger was an engine/transmission hump that invades the left side foot well. Headroom, on the other hand, was fine and my six-foot-one height fit with the roof closed, though barely. I couldn’t wear my hat with the roof closed as the odd bump in the road would cause me to hit the roof and smash that little metal circle on the hat firmly into my skull. When the top is up, sightlines aren’t great over the driver’s left shoulder as the side of the roof becomes a massive blind spot….

The top will only operate with the car stopped and out of gear. If you put it in gear, operation will halt and the car will start beeping incessantly. I was able to drive it at one point with the roof cover sticking way up in the air like a strange spoiler as I had to move from one red light to the next before the top finished going down. But this car is about top-down open-air motoring. Once down, sightlines become amazing, headroom is unlimited and the mix of soft and hard interior materials glisten. There is even a small wind buffeter between the seats that does keep wind from blasting you in the back. I found that the windshield wasn’t quite tall enough for my tall torso and the top of my head would get a direct hit of wind on the highway. A hat is required on long distant drives, otherwise the wind will attempt to remove the hair from your head.

Sure, the otherwise great-sounding, bass-rich, seven-speaker Bose stereo washes away with top down at highway speeds, but the MX-5 does feature an engine-intake noise tube that adds a little growl into the cabin regardless of whether the top is up or down. The engine making this soundtrack is Mazda’s 2.0L inline-four-cylinder engine rated at 167 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque.

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