Proffit at the Wheel: the 2021 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring review

A quick trip to Texas Motorplex outside Dallas, for NHRA’s Texas Fall Nationals called for a quick car. Mazda delivered a 2021 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring dressed in deep crystal blue mica with a business black interior and gray top for our three-day rampage through back roads near the racetrack. 

Three days isn’t enough to get to know a car with which the writer is unfamiliar; that’s not the case here. I’ve loved and driven Mazda’s sports car enough times to be relieved, knowing this was the mode of transportation for our brief stay. What do we like about the MX-5 Miata? Just about everything. 

Start with its direct-injection Skyactiv-G 2-liter engine, which is fully visible when the hood is released. It has 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, together with 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000; redline occurs at 7,000 rpm. In this car, that wholly sufficient engine is mated to a superb six-speed manual transmission, one that has such quick and direct shifts. It is perfectly mated to the engine. Double exhausts have a perfect note as one accelerates through the gears. There is a shock tower brace under the aluminum hood; the trunk lid is also made of aluminum.

Sport-tuned double wishbone front and rear multi-link suspensions with Bilstein shock absorbers give this petite convertible a good ride; it has rear wheel drive; the wheelbase places all four wheels at the corners of the car with precious little overhang. Mazda’s MX-5 Miata is not a rough rider. Steering is quite direct through double-pinion electronic power assistance and front ventilated, rear solid disc brakes stop the MX-5 Miata on a dime. Mazda fits P205/45R all-season rubber on delicate eight-spoke alloy rims.

The 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of the most honest cars I’ve driven since, well, the last MX-5 I drove, which had the power retractable hardtop. This car’s manual top is easy to open, stow and close – even for a petite female – and the MX-5 Miata’s interior, while seemingly sparse, has everything one needs to get down the road, including a lockable small storage between the two seats, a pair of cup holders in the same general location, full gauges, including the necessary temp gauge (there’s also a blue light at start-up and, thankfully, we’ve never seen a red light).

The windows dip on entry and close when the doors are shut. They also fall about halfway when the Z-shape, lined top is stowed. Mazda’s advanced keyless entry uses a button on both doors to gain access to the cabin, while the trunk release is on the lower left of the driver’s side. Mazda fits a pair of USBs in the central stack with one dedicated to phone use. OTOH, Apple CarPlay are available wirelessly. 

Mazda’s MX-5 Miata Grand Touring model gives up a slew of standard items for the entry fee of $32,715 (including freight). Mazda charges $200 for the gray roof on this car, which brings the total to $32,915. The tilt-telescope steering wheel, which has audio, info and phone control on the left and cruise control on the right, both tilts and telescopes. The steering wheel and shifter are covered in leather. Side mirrors are heated; windshield wipers are rain-sensing and the rear window is made of glass and has defogging, handy for early-morning departures to Texas MotorPlex.

Mazda has agreements with Bose that give the MX-5 Miata Grand Touring a nine-speaker audio system that includes HD radio and SiriusXM to go with Mazda’s proprietary navigation system, operating through a seven-inch color touch-screen display. Both manually-operated leather seats are heated but not cooled. The navigation system kept taking me on a different trip until I finally figured out how to stop it from having me return to the racetrack when I was trying to get to my AirBnB. Small distraction.

Since NHRA qualifications usually run late, I was grateful for the full LED lighting, including daytime running lights, with auto-high beams. What I didn’t like – and quickly disabled – was the lane departure on this car. With its quick steering and its uncanny ability to point itself easily in the correct direction, the reminder just wasn’t necessary. I also appreciated the courtesy lights in the cabin and trunk area. And while the trunk space is only 4.6 cubic feet, it managed to contain both my 22-inch suitcase and large backpack. 

The 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring, which had about 3,400 miles on it at pick-up, is rated to return 26/34/29 mpg from its 11.9-gallon tank. The 2345-pound convertible was hitting around 33-34mpg for me on this trip and, the stay being so short, I never had to refill. In fact, it didn’t even reach the half-tank mark, even though I was in a mad rush to get to the track on Friday and a similar thrash to catch Sunday’s plane ride home.

There is nothing like an MX-5 Miata. Mazda has built an incomparable sports car that elicits smiles and waves from those that wish they were behind the wheel. Too bad for them, but so wonderful for me!

words and photos by Anne Proffit


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