Engine in the front, manual transmission shift lever in my hand, and the drive wheels out back are a recipe to make me a happy man. Still, even when these automotive stars align it doesn’t necessarily signal a success story. Maybe the car won’t have enough power, or perhaps part of the car will feel a bit numb. There’s a chance I won’t fit comfortably in the cabin space, or that the vehicle will feature some fuel saving measures to quell the fun.
After a few hours on a twisty ribbon of asphalt outside of Austin, Texas, I can report to you that the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club Edition suffers from none of these issues. In fact, it might just be one of my favorites cars I’ve driven in some time.
While attending the launch of the Mazda6 in Texas, I asked the good folks at Mazda if I could borrow the Club Edition Miata that was serving as the camera car for the event. Travis Okulski from Jalopnik mentioned that he did the same thing on the wave prior to my own, and this tidbit proved might beneficial. The car was gassed up and waiting for me when I got back to the hotel. This particular hotel sits along a nice road that transforms into a great road just a few miles away. The sun was shining, the top was easily stowed, and I quickly slid behind the wheel and fired up the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
This two-door drop top has just 167 horsepower on tap, but it makes great use of it thanks to the 2,447-pound curb weight. Additionally, the engine is paired with one of, if not the, best six-speed manual gearbox on the planet. Each new slide of the shifter results in a clean and crisp entry into the next gear. Pedal placement is ideal for even novice heel-toe enthusiasts, such as myself, which means I can feel like Ayrton even when I’m more like Bruno.
The 2013 Club Edition isn’t simply a story about a lightweight car with a decent engine though, and no Miata ever has been. Descriptions like proper handling, clear steering feel, direct connection, and precision often get jumbled up and thrown into an MX-5 story. Those words fall from the writer’s hands onto the keyboard because they’re all correct.
When I grab the steering wheel, I’m connecting myself to a machine that is eager to work with me and the road. It’s an intermediary, and it’s astoundingly fluent in both of our languages. I can feel where the tires are and to what they’re reacting, and I can place them where I want them. This makes me more confident, and it makes me drive faster.
Up into third gear after a tight corner, the engine wails as if it were an old carbureted English classic and the smile on my face is larger than the one on the front of the car itself. Yes, it looks like a young lunatic that’s eager to cause reactions to your pleasure centers, but after a few miles in the MX-5 I wind up looking just the same.
Since this car has the Club Edition badge on the site, it features a few extra bits to let one know that it’s a few ticks more special than a standard MX-5. Slotted into the 2013 model lineup between the base Sport and kitted-out Grand Touring, the Club Edition receives some exterior and interior flourishes but the real magic happens underneath the body work. The Suspension Package comes standard, and includes a shock-tower brace, sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks, and a limited-slip differential. Bridgestone Potenza rubber sits at all four corners.
My one minor nitpick with the car? The audio system is fairly mediocre. There’s an easy remedy though… I turn it off, and I focus on driving.
Yes, you can recreate a similar feel for less money on the used market. The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club Edition starts at around $27,000. Regardless, this Miata represents some of the best driving excitement bang for your new-car buck. I know there are many Miata faithful in the automotive enthusiast world, and I’ve never been part of that club.
Then I went for a drive on a twisty road outside of Austin…