Test Drive: New Mazda MX-5 Miata remains true to original, but more macho

What’s left to be said about the Mazda MX-5 Miata? Mazda’s beloved 2-seat roadster has been around for nearly three decades, and it remains true to the original concept — fun most of all, but also reliable, fuel-efficient and modestly priced. Those qualities haven’t changed for 2017.

One thing that has changed — and may help to explain this year’s rising sales — is the MX-5’s increasingly masculine appearance. While still diminutive, the MX-5 has flared fenders reminiscent of classic Chevrolet Corvette models, and subtly angular lines. Our test car featured a manly color scheme, with Soul Red paint, black trim and optional forged dark alloy wheels. The cabin remains too small to accommodate a truly big man — that is, one who’s much taller than 5-10 — and it rewards agility rather than brawn. But the MX-5’s look and performance have more potential than many previous incarnations to lure men into showrooms. All MX-5s have convertible tops. Our test car had the soft top, which can be released and locked down in seconds from the driver’s or passenger’s seat. Best of all, the top doesn’t intrude on the 4.6-cubic-foot trunk. The MX-5 RF (“Retractable Fastback”) is mechanically identical but has a steel top that can be lowered. For a more Italian look and personality, but with Mazda innards, the Fiat 124 Spider may scratch that roadster itch for many drivers.

Our test car, an MX-5 Club, had a base price of $28,800 and sticker price of $33,460. Optional equipment included Brembo brakes and the dark alloy wheels.

Naturally, the MX-5 was a frolicsome companion on the road, taking corners confidently and accelerating briskly. The 155-horsepower inline Four has plenty of punch, and emits a satisfying, determined roar under hard acceleration. The 6-speed manual transmission is a smooth-shifting delight to operate.

We had the MX-5 for a week and put quite a few miles on it. We were surprised to find ourselves growing increasingly proficient in accessing and egressing the little roadster, especially when the top was down.

The interior was cozy, but we didn’t feel uncomfortable even after a one-hour drive covering highways, rural roads and city streets in central Connecticut. Our biggest complaint about the interior involved neither legroom or headroom. We found the MX-5 sadly lacking in storage space. There is no glove box in front of the passenger seat, no space under the center arm rest and no map pockets. A small cabinet can be found behind and between the seats, but loading or removing small items required some contortions.

The MX-5 is rated at 26 mpg city, 33 highway. We averaged 32 overall, well above the predicted fuel economy of 29 mpg. Mazda recommends, but does not require, the use of premium unleaded gasoline.

For roadster aficionados, medium-priced alternatives are relatively few. Only the Fiat 124, and the similar Toyota 86 and related Subaru BRZ, are priced in the MX-5’s range.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Price: $33,460

Engine: 2.0-liter inline Four, 155 horsepower, 148 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: rear-wheel

Weight: 2,332 lb.

Suspension: double-wishbone front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 17×7-in. forged dark alloy wheels

Tires: P205/45R17 high performance

Seating capacity: 2

Luggage capacity: 4.6 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 11.9 gal.

Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)

Steven Macoy (semaocy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.