Sun on your shoulders, hair in the wind, and summer seems to last forever.
I hate September. It’s the end of summer, that the party is over, and it’s time to get back to work, back to school, back to the seriousness of life.
So I had mixed feelings when I was invited to test drive the 2014 Mazda Miata MX-5 in early September. What fun would that be, right? The party of summer is over.
Catcalls? Bring ‘Em!
But the week was warm and sunny and perfect for running errands around town with the top down, so I decided to extend summer and put the top down every chance I got. My first trip in the Miata was to the local high school to pick up a friend’s daughter. As I sat at an intersection waiting to turn left, sunlight steaming down and my hair blowing a bit in the breeze, a Jeep passed me in the right lane; the fellow driving yelled out the window, ‘Nice car!” and I had to smile. While not exactly a catcall or a flattering pick up line, it felt nice to be called out in traffic.
The next afternoon I headed to the grocery store. I’d left the house with the top up, but when I stopped at a light that I knew would be a long one, decided to put the top down. The guy in the minivan next to me watched with part envy, part admiration. As he nodded his head in approval he gave me the thumbs up. It was cool to be the envy of cars around me, to be the momentary center of attention.
It’s nice being this popular
Then, there was my family. “There’s nothing like the ear-to-ear grin your younger daughter has riding in that car,” my husband said after taking her to a friend’s house in the Miata. And it was true, but for me, too: Watching each daughter relax with a satisfied smile on her face, a smile that shows how special she feels being in this car (and of course, for being alone with me right?), was satisfying to me, too.
Clever storage solutions for hiding your stuff
My daughters begged to do back to school errands in the Miata, so instead of our usual team approach to back to school prep, I made individual trips with them. We hit Staples for school supplies and the mall for new shoes. Normally on our shopping trips we just toss the shopping bags into the back seat; this time, though, we were dependent on the trunk for storing our stuff. And, when I wasn’t alone in the car, it was just easier to put my purse in the trunk. I could lock my wallet and phone in the small safe-like compartment in the wall between the front seats. It’s a brilliant space: It locks so you can leave your wallet in the car when you have the top down, and it’s where the gas tank release is, so again, if you leave the top down, no one can toy with your gas tank. And leaving your purse in the trunk just might be the smartest thing: if you’re driving around with the top down and your handbag on the front seat, it might be simple for someone to snatch it off the seat when you’re stopped at a light or parking your car.
The true sports car feel: Feeling the road and feeling exhilarated
This year, back to school shopping meant twice the mileage, but also, twice the time spent with my kids, and in a happy place. It was pretty nice. I remember being on the passenger side of that feeling, too. My dad had an MG Midget when I was growing up. An MG aficionado, he would never drive anything else (except a short dalliance with a Beretta) until the MG became nearly impossible to maintain. Needing to have another true sports car in the driveway, he bought a first generation Miata. He loved the feeling it had of authenticity: true sports cars don’t flatter you with luxuries or a pretty exterior; they thrill you by bringing you closer to the road, by challenging your skills and guiding you through every curve and powering you over every hill. When you’re done driving you feel a little tired and a little exhilarated, because you just drove that car.
If they come with a little luxury, all the better. The Miata MX-5 Grand Touring Edition I test drove was all that: a luxurious leather interior, a retractable hard top that stores between the passenger seats and the surprisingly roomy trunk, a zippy engine that never hesitates, and a sound system you can hear perfectly even with the top down on the highway. With the top down on warm days, you’re the center of attention, but don’t rule out top-down driving on cool fall days, either; it’s the California way, after all: put the top down, pump up the heat and turn on the Miata’s heated seats. The exhilaration of endless summer is all the better.
What We Loved
Easy, one touch retractable hard top
Fun, fun, fun drive
Sweet leather seats
Flexible interior space including elastic pouches on the door panels, center cup holders and the ‘lock box’ between the seats
Roomy trunk that will hold a couple of duffle bags or small suitcases
Available in manual or automatic transmission
Bluetooth hands free phone
Uses regular fuel
Gets 21 MPG city and 28MPG highway
What you Need to Know
Two passenger car
Does not come with a navigation/entertainment screen
Only one power outlet (not a USB port)
Passenger seat airbags has a weight sensor (disables the airbag when smaller passengers are in the seat)
Has up to 43 inches of leg room; I’m 5’8” and was quite comfortable; my dad is 6’3” and he is comfortable, too
3 year/36,000 mile warranty
3 year/36,000 mile roadside assistance package included in purchase price
Base price of the Miata MX-5: about $28,000 (soft top)
Base price of the Grand Touring Edition: $30,550; price of the model we drove: $32,735
Disclosure: Mazda provided the Miata MX-5 for my test drive; opinions here are all my own.