Prices: $25,000-$31,000 (estimated)
The 2017 MX-5 Miata is a fourth generation grown-up version of the original Miata that hasn't lost its fun-loving personality
The original arrived as a 1990 model with pop-up headlights and revived the market for small sports cars in America because it was affordable and modernized the classic sports car concept.
The 2017 Miata (let's drop the official "MX-5 designation for now) is sold as Sport, Club and Grand Touring models. List prices haven't been announced as of this writing but are estimated to approximately range from $25,000 to $31,000. There are Sport, Club and top-line Grand Touring models.
Coming is a Miata with a power retractable targa top and fastback roofline. The previous generation Miata had a more conventional folding hardtop.
The MX-5 Miata now on sale has a more muscular look that it got last year. It has a wider, sleeker body, wider tracks, a more aggressive front fascia and smoother, sportier lines. The hood is lower, and windshield pillars are yanked back and made more upright for better visibility.
All versions have a high-revving 2-liter four-cylinder engine with 155 horsepower. Doesn't sound like much? Well, the Miata only weighs approximately 2,300 pounds, so acceleration is quick. (0 to 60 m.p.h. in approximately 6 seconds.)
I found fourth gear to provide the best 65-75 m.p.h. passing times. Even fifth provides an acceptable passing time, but sixth is strictly an overdrive gear.
My test Miata delivered in the mid- to high teens in the city and low 30s on highways. Premium fuel is recommended.
I tested the Grand Touring MT, which had a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic with a manual shift feature also is offered.
The manual has short throws and works with a light clutch. However, it calls for some muscle to use because it's notchy. I've found Miatas with the efficient six-speed automatic transmission to be far less tiring to drive in congested traffic.
The Miata is a low, small car with wide doors and two supportive seats in a snug cabin with several storage areas. You must "fall in" to enter the cabin and "climb out" to leave it. It helps to be agile and on the thin side.
Gauges can be quickly read, and controls are easy to use. Climate controls are especially large. But the dual beverage holders are between and behind the seats, where they're difficult to reach.
However, my test Miata Grand Touring MT had power windows, automatic air conditioning, heated leather-trimmed sets and a color touchscreen display, along with blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. It even had a Bose audio system with nine speakers.
The manual cloth top took just seconds to lower and erect. It's one of the best convertible cloth top I've encountered.
The steering was firm, but extra-quick. Handling almost seemed in the go-kart class. The ride was fine on smooth roads, but highway or freeway expansion strips caused the Miata to bounce a bit. This isn't a comfortable car for prolonged highway travel.
The trunk isn't very large, but is nicely shaped and deep enough to handle, for instance, a fair amount of groceries or two overnight bags. The trunk cover opens on struts so they don't get in the way of cargo.
Open the heavy hood, which is supported by a prop rod, and you'll see an engine that looks like a piece of sculpture. It's set way back to help create sharp handling.
As always with Miatas, the 2017 model has an over-the-top personality characterized by driving fun.