$9,621 - $12,389

2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata was new.


Performance: 8.9

The 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata proves that sports car performance isn’t just about straight-line acceleration. Although some competitors are quicker, test drivers rave about the Miata’s engaging driving dynamics, nimble handling and slick-shifting manual transmissions.

  • "Racers love the MX-5's balanced, endlessly forgiving chassis; little old ladies dig its spunky charm and Maytag reliability." -- Car and Driver
  • "MX-5's steering is quick and precise, though some testers find it unduly heavy at low-to-moderate speeds. With 17-inch tires, the steering is deflected by sharp bumps, detracting from control and stability." -- Consumer Guide
  • "If you enjoy an immediate connection between steering wheel and roadway, you'll revel in the performance of the MX-5 Miata." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The rear-wheel-drive Miata is one of those cars where you don't have to break any speed limits to have a lot of fun." -- Cars.com 

Acceleration and Power

Though the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata won’t overwhelm drivers with power, reviewers say that its powertrain is satisfyingly smooth. Every Miata is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 167 horsepower at 7,000 rpm with the manual transmission, and 140 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. Automatic models are less powerful, generating 158 horsepower at 6,700 rpm.

While the base Miata Sport features a five-speed manual transmission, the Touring and Grand Touring get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard equipment. A six-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted manual shift paddles is available for all trims. The EPA reports that the 2012 Miata gets 22/28 mpg city/highway with the five-speed manual and 21/28 mpg with either the six-speed manual or automatic transmission. 

  • "The 2.0-liter, 7200-rpm four offers 167 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque, or just enough thrust to get you into trouble." -- Car and Driver
  • "Acceleration is brisk at pretty much any speed. The manual transmission has short throws, but needs a firm hand. … The responsive automatic boasts user-friendly paddle shifters and blunts power only slightly." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "It's not a rocket, no. But it's quick, which is different than fast. It scoots from light to light with the best of 'em, and the gearbox is a pleasure--short and precise throws." -- AutoWeek 
  • "The seat-of-the-pants feel and feedback from the wheel give the Miata the goods to satisfy nearly any driving enthusiast, though some horsepower junkies may yearn for more under-hood punch." -- Edmunds 
  • "Both 5-speed and 6-speed manuals are short in their throws and precise in their actuation. And as noted, a 6-speed automatic is optional across the board, but only truly appropriate if you've lost your left leg in a racing accident." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "There's nothing tire-smoking about the setup, but the drivetrain is in complete harmony with the chassis, resulting in a car that's fun to drive." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Test drivers are impressed with the MX-5's superb handling, which is both sporty and comfortable. In fact, many assert that it handles just as well as competitors like the BMW Z4, which costs thousands more.

  • "Rear-wheel drive is standard, along with brake feel that won't quit and blissfully alive steering." -- Car and Driver
  • "MX-5 easily conquers corners and exhibits little lean, though some testers say the tail tends to swing wide too early in fast turns. The brakes provide fine stopping control. The added weight of the retractable hard top is not noticeable." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "The superb balance, the connection among driver, steering and road is among the best in the business with immediate reaction to inputs. It's easy to see why so many of these are raced. Could it be one of the world's best-handling cars? I believe that's the case." -- AutoWeek 
  • "One of the Miata's greatest attributes continues to be its ability to bound from corner to corner on a tight and winding road. This ability is due in no small part to a suspension and steering feel that are as communicative as a political pundit in an election year." -- Edmunds
  • "The tight, lithe platform continues to deliver an almost innate connection with the asphalt and (hopefully) fresh air. It's more than mere transport; it's transport to another place." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The car's steering feel is another one of those rare-but-desirable qualities, kind of like the six-speed manual's movements. With a perfect amount of power assistance, the Miata exhibits sharp steering response and an overall connectedness to the road that perfectly complements the car's mission. This car wants to be flung around corners, and it rewards the driver with balanced performance." -- Cars.com 

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