2015 Mazda Miata: It’s Great, But Is Now the Time to Buy? [Review]

2015 Miata

Since 1989 the Mazda Miata has been one of the most loved roadsters on the planet. They are affordable, fun, reliable, and easy on the eyes. In 2016 we’ll get a fourth generation mx-5, which begs the question: Is it worth it to buy a 2015 Mazda Miata now or wait? (In the interest of full disclosure, I have owned a first generation Miata and my daily driver is a 2001 Miata.)

STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2015 Mazda Miata $29,450 $32,960 167/140
EPA Rating MPG As Tested MPG
Rating: LEASE IT!
21/28 Combined 24  19.4

The 2015 Miata is a member of the third generation of Miatas, and has essentially remained unchanged since a 2008 refresh. When compared to previous generations, this Miata has gotten wider, longer, and heavier. Our test model in the Grand Touring trim line has the signature Mazda “smiley face” grill, accented by two dimple like foglights. There is less overhang in the front and the shoulder line and trunk are both noticeably higher than in previous generations. Overall this design attempts to rid the Miata of its chick car reputation among those who judge a car by its sheet metal.

2015 Miata

This is no chick car. Nor is it a dude car. This is a driver’s car. Powered by a 2.0L four cylinder engine, the RWD Miata produces 167 horsepower and 140 lb/ft of torque. Are those numbers anything to write home about? Not really. 0-60 comes in about 6 seconds, though it seems like an eternity, and you’ll cross the quarter mile mark in about 14.5 seconds. So why is it a driver’s car? One word: Twisties.

Take this slow car fast through the corners and you’ll understand why the Miata is loved by enthusiasts the world over. A limited slip differential  and sport tuned suspension are available in the GT as part of a suspension package. Front and rear stabilizer bars and Bilstein shocks are standard. With a 51/49 front to rear weight distribution, the handling is very neutral, but a little light hooning with the traction control off and the mechanical parking brake utilized results in the rear kicking out in a controlled slide. Pure driving joy.

The traction control does a great job at keeping you moving during less than ideal driving conditions. While the Miata will never be a snow car, the traction control overcame the shortcomings of the standard high performance tires in an ice covered parking spot. I wouldn’t take it out in a snow storm, but the traction control got the car moving and out to dry pavement, when I saw other RWD cars spinning their wheels on ice and hard packed snow.

2015 Miata

My test model was equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. A 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters is also available but really, why would you? There is a special place in hell for those who opt for the automatic when the manual is so finely engineered with short, crisp, and precise throws. It allows you to rev the engine to peak torque at 5000 rpm and peak horsepower at 7000 rpm. Further, you lose 9 horsepower with the automatic, which is a sacrifice nobody should have to make.

Fortunately the good folks at Mazda have kept the hydraulic assist power steering, which is one of the reasons people keep coming back to the Miata. Although it seems to have gotten just a touch lighter over the years, it is still quick and precise, with enough road sensitivity that pavement changes are easily felt through the wheel. You can practically feel when you cross the paint of a cross walk through the steering wheel. The suspension is tuned for a stiffer ride, but it’s by no means uncomfortable on the mean city streets.   The quick steering ratio means you can always avoid any nasty potholes, should your reflexes be fast enough.

2015 Miata

When it comes to luxurious interior features, look elsewhere. Infotainment system? Nope. USB port? Not available. You can get Bluetooth, keyless entry and start, HID headlights, and satellite radio with the Premium package. My test model was equipped with the power retractable hard top. Unlike most electric hard tops, the car has to be stopped and in neutral before the top will move up or down. Wind and engine noise are loud, especially at higher speeds, and I would expect it to be even worse with a soft top.

The Miata’s Achilles heel is it’s less than stellar gas mileage. EPA ratings for the manual and automatic are 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined.   For such a small car one would expect better numbers. My week consisted of mostly high revving, quick-off-the-line-don’t-even-challenge-me-Mr.-Taxi city driving with a 50 mile jaunt on the highway, and I averaged 19.4 mpg. I’m sure that reasonable, non-lunatic drivers will get a better number.

2015 Miata

If you’re looking for direct competition, meaning a 2 seat, RWD, convertible under $30K, you’ll be looking long and hard.   Sure there’s the Mini Cooper Roadster Convertible, but its FWD drivetrain will give you a completely different driving experience. The Fiat 500 Abarth comes to mind, but again that is FWD, with the addition of a turbo and a backseat.   The Porsche Boxster is a 2 seat, RWD, convertible, but it’s twice as expensive. Those looking at used cars would point to the Honda S2000, but when it comes to new cars, the Miata stands alone.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2015 Mazda Miata Grand Touring a Lease It. Surprised? It’s a fantastic car, but with the 2016 due to come out any time now, you’d be better off waiting to see how the new one drives. Not much information is available, but we know it’s smaller and lighter than the outgoing model, and that can’t be a bad thing.

You can probably find a 2015 model at an excellent price, and you won’t be disappointed. The GT with the power retractable hard top starts at $29,450, and our test model tops out at $32,960. However, the 2016 Miata promises to be most excellent, and well worth the wait.

Check out the TFL Car review of the 2014 Miata!

emme hall tflcar


Emme is a driver, reviewer, rabble rouser, and Gazelle who can be found online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and either one of her blogs.