2013 Mazda MX-5 Club first drive review: The right crowd, some crowding

2013 Mazda Miata

The 2013 Mazda Miata – in Club trim – takes its fun quite seriously.

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata, draped in True Red and distinguished by its new-for-2013 ‘Club’ trim, came to CarBuzzard’s satellite test facility (we also test satellites…) with a twenty degree drop in temperature and roughly two inches of local rain. In the rather narrow realm of testing new automotive product, delivery of a droptop is that rare chance to get to know both a vehicle and its environment, as opposed to the more conventional opp: getting to know the environment of a vehicle. Although the testing was top up/heater on for the first two days of our evaluation, not even an inclement climate can dampen (get it?) our enthusiasm for Mazda’s evergreen 2-seater.

With today’s enthusiast mags increasingly focused on cars both exotic and unobtainable, the MX-5 (let’s-just-call-it-a-Miata) remains a breath of fresh internal combustion. And it continues to constitute a faithful take on the first Miata, introduced to U.S. audiences in 1989. Its four cylinders have grown in capacity by some 25%, and the structure is far more rigid (and refined), but a fan of the first Miata would have little trouble embracing today’s.

Of course, embracing the 2013 Miata is even easier for an owner of a 2012. The front fascia has been revised, but to Mazda’s ever-lasting credit they didn’t screw it up. Arguably the most notable mod has been the addition of an edition, dubbed ‘Club’, positioned between the entry-level Sport and upscale (or more grand) Grand Touring. The 17-inch alloys are finished in a bad*ss dark gunmetal, while outside mirrors, head lamp bezels and roof are Johnny Cash black. The Club also receives a front air dam and rear diffuser, the benefits of which – at 70 miles per hour – could be argued, but we won’t. The final cosmetic flourishes are ‘Club’ badges mounted on the Miata fenders, what we’ll term a Miata ‘swoosh’ on its flanks and an all-new body-color decoration panel on the dash.

2013 Mazda Miata Club

The Miata Club’s ‘swoosh’ graphic is good – we think – for an additional five miles per hour.

More substantively, those Club models equipped with the 6-speed manual (which, in this writer’s view, should be all of them…) are fitted with the Suspension package.Supplying Bilstein shocks and a limited-slip differential, the ride/handling balance provides exactly what a sports car should offer. The Club’s ride can, admittedly, be slightly jarring on rough or uneven surfaces, and we wish the Miata’s cornering attitude was slightly flatter, but overall impressions suggest a near-perfect balance of commutability during the week and trackday-goodness at week’s end.

That impression is solidified by an engine/trans combo that simply wants to be flogged. With 167 horsepower (@ 7,000 rpm) and 140 lb-ft of torque (@ 5,000), the Miata almost insists you keep your foot in it. To be sure, the 2.0 liter is tractable from the git-go, but there’s so much aural/visceral/guttural pleasure in revving the bejesus out of it neither you nor those around you should be denied. We didn’t perform instrumented testing (the instruments were in the – uh – satellite), but Road & Track achieved a 0-60 in 6.6 seconds, easily fast enough to keep cold beer cold on the drive home.

Directing all of the above goodness to the road is the model for all manual shift mechanisms, sublime steering, a clutch more progressive than Obama, and braking to simply drive for. It all adds up to a linear quality that the Germans used to be known for, before getting fat and disconnected.

Inside, this room with a view is best enjoyed by two midsize adults. To be sure, taller/wider folks can apply, and given the number of Miatas sold each year (and the typical American profile) they probably do. At roughly 5’7” and 165 pounds the Miata fit this driver perfectly, helped by a height-adjustable seat with enough fore-and-aft travel to fully depress the clutch. Interior materials reflect the hard plastic era of the mid-‘00s; the significant upside of the Grand Touring spec is its leather (we love the ‘mocha’) seating. With all of that, both driver and passenger are extremely well located by seats that support, both in the corner and to the corner store.

Now in its 8th model year, this third Miata still doesn’t feel or look long-in-the-tooth; rather, it’s best described as ‘seasoned’, like the cast of Glee. With a few details of the next iteration beginning to come out, it appears the new Miata – due in the next two years – will retain the minimalist trappings that make the current car so attractive. In pursuit of greater efficiency, however, the next Miata will probably be more complex. Not – thankfully – Audi/BMW/Mercedes-Benz complex, but with more going on under the hood and in the systems than the current car enjoys and/or suffers. In short, we’re excited by tomorrow, but can’t wait to throw the top back today. Let’s go Clubbing!

Specs follow…

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