2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Good Power, Better Mojo – Road Trip Driving Impressions [Video]

Still proof you don't need to break the bank to have fun.

Will the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata do wonders for your mojo?

The first three things you need to know about the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata is that it’s faster, more comfortable (for the driver) and it handles better. All the other items, while important, are not really part of the driving impressions. And, at the end of the day, driving is really what this car is all about.

Mazda wanted to give us as much seat time as possible while exploring the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata’s newfound performance chops. They flew us to San Diego, California and we buckled in for a three-day adventure that would take us up to San Luis Obispo, CA. We chronicled that trip in a three part series you can read about starting here.

Photo: TFL – This is the soft top and RF hardtop convertible I drove at the event.

The changes

With revised, lightened internal components along with new piping for the intake and exhaust,  the previous 2.0-liter’s 155 horsepower and 148 lbs-feet of torque jump to 181 hp at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Best of all, it craves higher rpm – all the time. Spinning the engine up to, and past its 7,500 rpm redline became habit-forming on our coastal drive.

Weighing in at 2,453 lbs with the six-speed manual transmission (which has a new dual-mass flywheel) and 2,499 lbs with the automatic transmission, the only Miata that’s lighter is the three decades-old NA generation.

Other notable highlights include a fully-adjustable tilt and telescoping steering column, along with a standard backup camera, available Smart City Braking and traffic sign recognition. Mazda has new packages, including the GT-S package with a limited-slip rear differential, Bilstein dampers, shock tower brace and a black painted roof, if you opt for the six-speed manual transmission.

Getting what fun means

Fast cars are not always fun and fun cars are not necessarily fast. This is what the MX-5 Miata has proven year after year. Too much power ruins the balance and not enough power makes for a slowpoke on rails.

Giving it a more powerful, rev-happy engine without overdoing it on power was the optimum upgrade. This car dances, and now it does it with authority. Fly into a corner and you have plenty of pushing power to launch you you of it faster than most cars. The steering, despite being electrically assisted, gives a greater sense of feel over any vehicle save for one, the Alfa Romeo 4C which has no power assisting the steering.

Despite the more robust suspension setup, the highway ride was comfortable, for the driver. It was on the highway that we noticed that the damn thing actually gets better gas mileage. We averaged over 30 mpg despite (very) hard canyon driving added to a few-hundred mile coastal blast. Impressive.

Rowing your own

The shifting in crisp and precise with amazingly short throws. It’s so easy to dial in the right gear, the correct steering position and ideal velocity into each corner, many would struggle to keep up. Despite the steering wheel now having an extra sliding component for telescoping, it feels no different than the old setup. That adjustable steering helps with driver comfort too.

The biggest flaw may be its passenger seating. Thanks to the catalytic converter having nowhere else to live, it forces a bump in the foot well that makes for uncomfortable seating for tall folks. Any drive over an hour made me a bit uncomfortable as a passenger.

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata driving impressions
With a car like the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata, the rest of the world does feel bigger. It’s certainly no cruise liner. [Photo: TFLcar]

Hard top or soft top?

We adored and absolutely prefered the RF (hardtop convertible) over the ragtop. It’s quieter and easier to live with when the roof is up – and it looks spectacular. The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF starts at $32,345 MSRP and it is going on sale now.

Final thoughts: Would I buy one? No. I like bigger cars and, being as bald as a cucumber, convertibles are not my scene. However, I know that my spouse, or “She-who-must-be-obeyed,” would absolutely love it. I should add – once the kids move out. When that times comes, you bet I’ll be sneaking off with it from time-to-time.

In the video above, we cover the bases and give you driving impressions and a brief on what’s new.