THE RIDE: Two-door, two-passenger 2008 Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring power hardtop convertible.
DOWN THE ROAD: Hard top-down motorists, this Mazda - popularly known as the Miata - is for you. The rear-wheel-drive MX-5 is a fun car to drive with the wind blowing in your face. Or, if you prefer, keep the top up and cruise the highway. New for 2008 are a six-disc in-dash CD changer, manually adjustable driver's seat lifter and standard tire pressure monitoring system.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder engine develops 166 horsepower at 6700 rpm and 140 pounds-feet of torque at 5000 rpm. It is coupled to a seamless 6-speed manual transmission. A front double-wishbone and a rear multilink suspension add to the vehicle's sharp balance and handling. Also coming into play are front and rear gas-shock absorbers and stabilizer bars. The quick and responsive steering can be attributed to a hydraulic rack-and-pinion system. Braking is handled by competent 11.4-inch ventilated front and 11-inch solid rear discs.
LOOK & FEEL: Introduced in 1989, this Miata is a graceful-looking small car with its front headlight bezels, fog lamps, chrome mesh grille, dual silver exhaust tips and road-gripping 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The tan leather interior on our highland green roadster suggests an elegant and classy aura. The three-spoke leather steering wheel and the shifter knob with silver ring both offer a solid grip. The optional brushed aluminum trim on the dashboard and doors is pleasing to the eye. Kudos to Mazda for the two cup holders in the center console and the doors, as well as storage area behind the seats. Want to go top down? Just take off the windshield header latch and press the button for opening the top in 12 seconds.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system and antitheft engine immobilizer are some of the standard features.
OUT THE DOOR: $26,760, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. If you cherish a brushed aluminum appearance, opt for the $515 interior trim package.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 205/45R17; wheelbase, 91.7 inches; length, 157.3 inches; weight, 2,445 pounds; fuel capacity, 12.7 gallons; highway, 28 mpg; city, 21 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: The peppy and fun to rev-up Miata is coming up on its two-decade anniversary, a drive in the MX-5 makes for an exhilarating experience. A rear-wheel-drive system, along with an awe-inspiring performance and the retractable hard top, should add many more years of success to this adventurous ride.