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More FPH

The 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata

FPH of course, being “fun per horsepower.” And more than 900,000 buyers can’t be wrong since 1989.

Arriving at Northtown Mazda in Amherst, I looked over the MX-5 Miata inventory and chose the True Red Touring car with a soft, folding, black top and black interior. There’s also a retractable hardtop available, which disappears into the trunk with the push of a button, but for the price (not to mention how much better the soft-top looks), I think if I were a buyer I’d pass. Is the hardtop version warmer in the winter? Perhaps. But you don’t see many of these cars on the road in the winter anyway, so why bother? And speaking of color, which I was back there somewhere, I think Mazda missed the boat when they eliminated the dark green paint choice, which looked especially good with the tan top and interior.

So the test car was the Touring model, which sits at the lower end of the Miata lineup. Below it is the Sport ($23,470) which has a five-speed manual, a 167-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine (the only Miata engine choice), a/c, power windows, and 16-inch aluminum wheels. Next up is the Touring ($25,830), which adds a six-speed manual, shock tower braces, fog lights, 17-inch wheels, remote keyless entry, and six-disc changer (among other things). The Grand Touring soft top ($27,100) gives you heated leather seats, leather steering wheel, BOSE sound system, automatic climate control, and the additional choice of a tan-colored top. The Touring and Grand Touring power retractable hardtop models round out the range. The hardtop adds from $1,710 to $1,850 to the prices. And if you’re that type, a six-speed automatic is available across the board. The test car stickered at $27,275 including destination.

Standing next to the little red car with the top still up, I had to wonder how well I’d fit in there. Also, with a temporarily bad back (since about 1975), I also wondered if I’d even be able to wiggle myself in. I needn’t have worried on either count. With the top still up, I slipped right in there. Sales consultant Robert Neuner had moved the driver’s seat to its farthest-back position, and in order to reach the clutch I actually had to bring it back forward some. There was also plenty of headroom. Putting the top down was a simple matter of unlatching the mechanism at the top of the windshield and flipping the top up and over my shoulder where it tucked into a cavity out of the line of the driver’s sight. All this with just one hand. It raises back up again just as easily.

But of course, all of this stuff, while important, don’t answer the main question: Is it fun to drive? Heck yes it is! Driving the Miata is what it’s all about. The six-speed has a short stick with short throws, but not so short that you find yourself in the wrong slot like some cars. Nothing more embarrassing than missing a gear when everyone is looking at you in a bright red convertible with the top down on one of the hottest days of the year. The cabin wasn’t overly hot, however. Having my baseball cap screwed on tight kept the sun off of my head and face, and the a/c was up to the task of keeping me cooled down.

The test car also had one option that I highly recommend: the $650 suspension package, which consists of a sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shock absorbers, and a limited slip differential. It’s like putting chocolate syrup on your favorite ice cream—it only makes it better. I haven’t had as much fun throwing a car around back-road curves in months, and I’ve driven cars that cost two and three times as much.

Like I said, more fun per horsepower without a doubt. More info at

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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