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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: Mazda MX-5 Miata is a rollicking little roadster

In its third generation, the Mazda MX-5 Miata has a solid footing in the roadster market. It's cute, peppy and affordable, with a sleek and convenient power hardtop option. But this car isn't for everyone — especially if its your only transportation.

Appearance: On this car, the Mazda grin fits perfectly. Its lines are more sculpted and muscular compared with previous generations, with bulging fenders and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Lyra liked the chrome trim around the grille, which, she thinks, makes the car resemble a cute Japanese anime character.

Performance: You definitely feel the road — this is a small car built for handling, after all. It's not a car you would want to take on a long road trip. But it corners like a go-cart and the six-speed shifter is smooth. Lyra found the acceleration disappointing. You do have to push the car high in its rev range — but the 167-horsepower 4-cylinder seems to like it. If you're looking for low-end torque, this isn't your car, but it's a fun ride.

Interior: Peter found it cramped; he felt like he was peering over the windshield with the top down and even his knees were crowded by the steering wheel. And it's very low (with a ground clearance of just 4.6 inches), especially for taller drivers. Wedging yourself into the cockpit can be a challenge. (Drivers with back trouble need not apply.) There's also not much room for your elbows — no armrest or anything else. The attractive, two-tone interior has faux aluminum trim, simple backlit gauges and clear controls. Sorry, there's no room for a navigation screen. The steering wheel is thick and leather-wrapped. There's a mesh net on the door for maps and other small items. There is a cup holder between the seats, as well as bottle holders in the doors that are on the other side of the door handle, which aren't very useful. The window controls are in the center console. The release button for the latch seat belt cut into Lyra's neck because there's no height adjustment. We both love the power retractable hard top (PRHT), which opens and closes in about 12 seconds. There's lots of trunk space for a little convertible. Even with the top down, there's room for a weekend bag. Be careful, the trunk lid is low; it's easy to bang your head on the lid when reaching into it. The fuel-door lever is in an awkward spot — the center rear compartment.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Affordability: The base Miata with soft top lists for less than $23,000.

Handling: You can really toss this little car around.

Styling: I like the lines of the hardtop version with the roof up.

Lyra Solochek

PRHT: The hard top retracts easily and tucks away cleanly.

Awwww: A cute chrome-trimmed smile with foglight dimples.

Shifting: Not too light or heavy. Just right.

The bottom line: The Miata has a well-deserved reputation for being a responsive, fun-to-drive little roadster, and that's certainly the case. What it's not, for most of us, is more than a weekend car.









2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT

Price: $28,400, $31,300 as tested

Other trims:

Sport, $22,960

Touring, $25,300

Grand Touring, $26,560

PRHT (Power Retractable Hard Top) Touring, $27,000

Powertrain: 2.0-liter 16-valve I-4 VVT with 6-speed manual transmission, RWD

Horsepower:

167 at 7,000 rpm

Torque: 140 pound-

feet at 5,000 rpm

Curb weight:

2,511 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 91.7

Length, 157.3

Width, 67.7

Fuel economy:

21 miles per gallon city, 28 mpg highway

Fuel type:

Premium unleaded

Safety features: Dual front, side impact air bags and door beams, ABS

Website: www.mazdausa.com/mx5

The Daily Drivers: Mazda MX-5 Miata is a rollicking little roadster 10/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 1, 2010 5:30am]
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