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2013 Mazda MX5 Club Review: More Fun Than You Can Imagine – Until You Drive It

I recently had a chance to spend a week behind the wheel of the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club with the Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT) and I was completely blown away by how much fun this compact roadster was to drive.

Let’s be honest – the 2013 Mazda MX-5 may not always get the respect that is due because it is – after all – a Miata. The 2013 MX-5 began its life as the even smaller Miata back in the late 1980s and that too-cute compact roadster quickly garnered a reputation as being a “chick car” or a mid-life crisis car for older men. Over the last 24 years, this car has evolved from the little, bubbly Miata into a roomier yet still compact roadster that really looks great, offers a surprising amount of room for two with an awesome power retractable hard top that offers the feel of a hardtop coupe with the freedom of a convertible. Of course, the 2013 MX-5 packs the incredible driving characteristics that have made this car so popular with road racers and autocrossers since it hit the market back in the day. Let there be no mistake – while the modern MX-5 embodies the basic design attributes, this is a car that any man or woman who truly loves to drive will look forward to climbing into day in and day out.

About ten years ago, I was talking to a guy at a car show about one of my V8 powered American muscle cars when he mentioned that he was driving a built Mazda Miata. Now, I am not one to bag on anyone’s vehicle at a show as beauty is in the eye of the beholder but when our discussion about American V8s turned into him having a Miata, I must have made a surprised face. He explained that he gets a lot of crap from his buddies with Mustangs and Camaros because he drives a four cylinder roadster but he told me that I should make sure to drive one and see if I still have the same questionable opinion. My father in law had an early 90s Miata and I had the pleasure of driving it a time or two and while it was a fun little car to drive, it was way too tight for my tastes inside and I wasn’t a huge fan of the bubbly exterior styling. Space and styling aside, I could definitely see why people who loved to drive were so attracted to the Miata.

The day that my 2013 Mazda Miata Club PRHT arrived, I was immediately blown away by the race ready look of the Club package. Finished in bright red with a black hard top and tons of black trim from front to back, the MX-5 Club looks cool and it turns heads. No joke…of all of the cars that I have tested in the past few years including much more expensive sports and luxury cars…none of them drew more comments. It seemed like everywhere I went, someone was asking questions about it and telling me how great it looked. I got more “cool car, man” than I have with any car Ive had and those comments came from both men and women, young and old. While the fun of the drive and the functionality of the power retractable hard top are the key upsides to this vehicle, the fact that it serves as a rolling ice breaker should be note just as much.

The Exterior

The Miata was once mocked for being too girlie and bubbly by those who looked to downplay the sports car credentials of this compact roadster but with the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club, the Japanese automaker has evolved the look of the Miata into a far “tougher” look. You can still look at it and tell that it came from the Miata of the 1990s but the slightly larger frame and the super aggressive design of this generation have pulled the MX-5 away from those negative connotations.

My favorite aspect of the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club PRHT look is the red and black contrasting design. With the big, black grille, the black front chin spoiler and the black fog light bezels, the car looks super sporty. It still has the rounded headlight lenses but they’ve been styled to give them an angry look while the big toothy grille looks like a big open smile but this car is smiling because it’s fun – not because it’s cute. The headlights do have some chrome lining but the dark bezels around the HID projection headlights bolster the sporty look with some high tech feel. Finally, the fact that the lower front fascia angles down and out away from the body where the previous Miata front ends tucked down under really drive home the sporty, aggressive design of this MX-5.

Along the side, the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club PRHT has a long, low silhouette even when the short hard top is in the upright position. Unlike many roadsters that look very awkward with the top up, the power retractable hard top allows this car to look like your average coupe when the roof is closed and the fact that the roof is gloss black on the bright red car really hammers home the black and red theme. The accentuated wheel flares over the black front and rear wheels help to add a bit of a muscular feel while the black mirrors and black-to-grey side stripe with the MX-5 logo finish off the side view of this car beautifully.

Out back, the 2013 MX-5 takes a more subtle approach but it still has that sporty flare with a matte black lower diffuser that wraps around the polished dual exhaust tips. The back end has mostly smooth, rounded lines but there are a few hard lines here and there to break up the bubbly feel. While painting the taillights black would be my first move if I was to buy a new MX-5, the standard red taillights fit the look well…although it would be awesome if they offered some smoked tails or something as part of this blacked out package.

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club PRHT has a ton of character for a small car and the contrasting black and red paint scheme is a big reason of why I like this car so much. It is available in other with the same black trim but I love the way that this MX-5 looks in bright red. You could easily put a couple decals on this car and some numbers on the door and this would look like a spec racer but Mazda achieves this look without going too extreme and running off those folks who don’t want to stand out too much. The exterior design is a big part of why the MX-5 is able to shed the bubbly reputation of the older Miata roadsters and I cannot help but point out once more that this little car got more complements than any test car Ive had in the past five years. I love the look of the 2013 MX5 and it seems that everyone else does as well.

The Interior

The interior is both an upside and a downside to the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club PRHT. On one hand, there is no back seat and no space behind the front seats to stow anything so even something like my camera case has to go in the trunk if I had a passenger. When my wife and I went out in the MX-5, she had to put her purse down in her foot well because there is just nowhere else to put anything but the lack of a rear seat or easily accessible rear storage area is the only problem with the interior…and maybe with the whole car.

The good news is that as 2 seat sports cars go, the 2013 MX-5 Club PHRT offers a ton of space for the driver and passenger. Even with the top up, there is a bunch of head room for the driver and passenger to go with tons of leg room, knee room elbow room and shoulder room.

Unlike previous Miatas, the 2013 MX-5 doesn’t give you the squished in feel and for a car that is so tiny – the interior feels very roomy even for very tall drivers. I know someone who is 6’5” who relies on an identical car to my test vehicle for a daily driver and he does so comfortably – it’s that roomy inside. One nice thing is that there are cup holders in the door panels so you don’t have to keep your drinks in the center console where they interfere with the shifting duties.

Another great thing about the compact interior of the 2013 MX-5 is that it has a very cockpit-like feel. While this isnt a car that is going to blow you away with interior gadgets, the shifter, the HVAC controls and the stereo are all easily within reach of the driver and to help keep his or her hands on the wheel during stints of spirited driving – there are even controls for the sound system and the cruise control on the steering wheel spokes. Everything, including the steering wheel and gauges, feel very close to the driver’s position and it has a feel that screams sports car. Finally, there is the power retractable hard top of the MX-5 that is one of the smoothest and simplest drop top designs that I have used. All that you do is pull down a large central latch then hold down the top control button mounted on the center console. The windows drop as needed and the hard tonneau in front of the trunk lifts up to accept the folding top, then it closes once the top is safely tucked away. The top operation is super quick and super easy.

The interior of the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club PRHT is small by nature but as 2 seat compact roadsters go, the MX-5 offers a ton of room for the driver and passenger. There really isn't much to say about the interior because it is fairly slim on features but at the same time – there is nothing to complain about with the interior layout. It looks and feels like a sporty roadster should feel and it was comfortable on both long trips and short drives to the store.

The Drive

The 2013 Mazda MX-5 looks great on the outside and has a surprisingly roomy, cockpit-like interior but where this car truly shines is out on the road. With a 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine that produces 167 horsepower and 140lb-ft of torque, the MX-5 doesn’t look like it would be a blast to drive on paper but any concerns of this car being starved for power go away as soon as you pull onto the road and put the pedal to the floor. Now, the spunky 4-banger isnt going to break your neck with brutal acceleration but it accelerates strong whether you are launching from a stop or swinging out around someone on the highway when already cruising at highway speeds. It can also very comfortably climb up over the century mark and it will hit those speeds with the same urgency whether the top is up or down where some sporty convertibles have a drastically more strict speed limited when the top is down.

The MX-5 will provide more than enough acceleration force for the average driver but where the modern Miata really shines is when you get to cutting the wheel back and forth. The tiny MX-5 handles like it is on a rail whether you are cutting through narrow back roads or ripping along a curvy stretch of highway. Go to any road racing or autocross event and you will see a ton of Miata’s entered to race and that high quality race ready handling of the MX-5 transfers nicely onto the road. This car will allow you to cut through turns like a go kart with no feelings of understeer although with a little pushing – the MX-5 will kick the back end out and provide some drifting fun. Best of all, the MX-5 offers these incredible handling capabilities without making the ride too rough to tolerate as a daily driver. You can definitely feel the road through the chassis and the steering more than you can with, say, the Mazda 6 but it is far from excessive and in the end – anyone buying a car like this should expect a stiff, sporty ride. There is quite a bit of cabin noise even when the top is up but no more than any other roadster or convertible and the majority of noise is only noticeable on the highway at higher speeds.

When cruising around town with the top up, the MX-5 is as quiet as any other sports coupe on the market. One final advantage of this small engine roadster is the fact that the 2013 MX-5 comes with advertised fuel economy figures of 21mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 24 combined. On a tank of fuel where I drove the car hard with a fairly even mix of city and highway driving, I got around 21mpg average but much of that was with the top down so aerodynamics are compromised on top of the fact that I kept the accelerator pinned to the floorboard. However, when I drove the car “like a normal person”, I was able to get just shy of 24mpg average but again, most of my driving was with the top down.

Even though I love the thrust of an American V8 rocketing me down the quarter mile. The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Club is unquestionably one of the most entertaining cars Ive driven. It is now very clear to me why so many Miata owners love their little roadsters and why so many of them frequent the race track as this car offers race worthy road handling while maintaining a level of ride quality that allows this to be your daily driver and your weekend racer.

The Final Word

If you are looking for a sporty roadster that gets solid fuel economy while also offering the drive qualities that should be expected from a compact sports car all for under $30k – there is no better car on the market than the 2013 Mazda MX-5 PRHT. The Club package makes this car look great on the outside with lots of racy black trim while the grown up interior offers real seating space for two adults without feeling like they are being crushed. While this isnt a car that will dominate the drag racing scene, this is a car that will crush the competition on a road course or autocross course and that is one of the reasons that the Miata and the MX-5 are so popular in the racing world. The MX-5 is a car that is civilized enough that it can serve as a comfortable daily driver but it offers enough performance that (in stock form) it can serve as a weekend road racer.

I was told years ago that if I took out a Mazda Miata and really drove it hard, I would fall in love with this compact Japanese roadster and that person was 100% correct. The Miata is a total blast to drive with the top up or down and when you aren’t blasting around curves, dropping the top makes for a great, relaxing ride that anyone can appreciate. If you are looking for a sporty roadster, don’t rule out the Mazda MX-5 without driving it first. I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed.

Patrick Rall is a professional writer and photographer with a passion for all things automotive. Having grown up in his father’s performance shop, he spent extensive time at the oval track and drag strip – both driving and wrenching on various types of vehicles. In addition to working as a writer, Patrick previously worked as an automotive technician before moving on to a business office position with a chain of dealerships, and this broad spectrum of experience in the industry allows him to offer a unique look on the automotive world. Follow Patrick on TwitterFacebook and on Youtube.