2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review Update

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jul 06, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Mazda deals!

The Mazda MX-5 Miata needs no introduction. In 1989 (for the 1990 model year), this 2-seat roadster single-handedly revived the type of pure, elemental sports cars that were popular in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. But instead of adding a side dish of sketchy electronics to the driving fun (like its British and Italian predecessors), the MX-5 Miata came with the quality construction and bulletproof reliability typical in Japanese cars. The mix proved undeniably intoxicating, and for 32 years, the Miata has played a starring role on the global sports car stage.

Mazda has redesigned the MX-5 Miata four times since the original 1990 model (known as the NA) went on sale. The second-generation version (NB) arrived for the 1999 model year, the third-gen car (NC) went on sale as a 2006 model, and the fourth-gen Miata (ND) rolled into showrooms for 2016. Each generation received regular improvements during its lifespan. Most recently, Mazda infused the current car with more power and an improved driving character in 2019.

Today, the 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes in convertible and retractable fastback (RF) body styles and Sport, Club, and Grand Touring trim levels. Changes for the 2022 model year include:

  • New standard Kinematic Posture Control (KPC) technology
  • Automatic transmission is now available only with Grand Touring trim
  • RF Club model includes a standard Brembo/BBS/Recaro package. This upgrade remains an option for the standard convertible
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay in Club and Grand Touring (Android Auto still requires a wired connection)
  • New Platinum Quartz paint color (all trims) and Terracotta leather color (Grand Touring only)

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring. This review focuses on the Miata's updates for 2022 and how they potentially impact its overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Compact Sporty Car Segment - Find the best Mazda deals!

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club BBS Soul Red Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The Mazda MX-5 Miata competes in the Compact Sporty Car market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 57 percent of Compact Sporty Car buyers are male (vs. 61 percent for the industry as a whole), and the median age of a new Compact Sporty Car buyer is 58 years (vs. 57).

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the Compact Sporty Car segment in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you'll find their preferences, from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel (in a tie with Powertrain)
  • Powertrain (in a tie with Driving feel)
  • Setting up and starting
  • Interior design
  • Feeling of safety
  • Infotainment system
  • Driving comfort
  • Fuel economy
  • Getting in and out

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Mazda MX-5 Miata - Find the best Mazda deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert analyzes an MX-5 Miata RF Club equipped with extra-cost Soul Red paint. The test vehicle's price came to $40,160, including the $1,015 destination charge.

What is Mazda Kinematic Posture Control?

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club BBS Soul Red Side View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Since the Mazda MX-5 Miata's debut, I've likened this car to a street-legal go-kart because it delivers open-air driving fun and razor-sharp handling in a modestly powered vehicle that you can license and use on public roads. Outright speed, interior comfort, and impressing other people is not the goal. Plastering a giant smile on your face is.

Though the third-gen Miata hadn't strayed far, the fourth-generation Miata nudged the roadster back to its gigglerific roots. Smaller, lighter, and more tightly focused than the NC, the ND's sharper, tauter, and purer exterior lines proved analogous to its unfiltered driving dynamics, right down to an occasionally unsettling tendency for the rear end to feel a little soft, allow unexpected lateral weight transfer, and snap a little sideways depending on the road surface and driver inputs.

Of course, some people think this is fun. And it is. On a go-kart or other type of track. On a twisty mountain road, not so much.

Enter Kinematic Posture Control (KPC), a new brake-based technology designed to improve the 2022 Miata's cornering ability when taking sharp curves at higher speeds that produce greater g-forces. To do this, KPC applies varying degrees of subtle braking to the inside rear wheel of the car. Mazda says the technology can reduce body roll when entering a corner, improve steering linearity in a corner, and create a limited-slip effect when exiting a corner.

Does it work? More on that below.

Saving the Manuals, for Now

Not long before I drove the RF Club you see in these photos, I took a trip to New England for my daughter's college graduation. Upon landing at Boston Logan and shuttling over to the rental car counter for my "Volkswagen Jetta or similar," I learned they had no intermediate sedans available. In fact, there were no sedans available, period. The agent tried to "upgrade" me into a compact crossover SUV. Instead, I pointed to where the "cool" cars were parked and said, "How about that Miata?"

It was a Polymetal Gray RF Grand Touring of undetermined age, but since it had over 32,000 miles on it, I'd guess it was a 2020 model. Previous renters had thrashed the car beyond belief. Scratched, scarred, the interior filled with grit and grime, the leather dry and glossy, it was a poster child for indifferent automotive care. Not long after getting on Route 1 north, severe shuddering through the brake pedal was evident. While filling up the tank before returning the car, I noticed the tire brand: MuchoMacho. I kid you not.

Naturally, this rental had a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Not fun. But because it was a Miata and the weather was gorgeous along the Maine coast, I spent as much time driving it as possible before handing it back to its "caretakers" at Logan.

In 2020, you could get an automatic in any Miata. The same was true in 2021. But now, in 2022, you can only get one in the Grand Touring trim level. Choose the MX-5 Miata Sport or MX-5 Miata Club, and you'd better know how to row your own gears and use a clutch pedal.

Considering that fewer people can drive a stick than ever before, this is a curious move by Mazda. But it also demonstrates the company's commitment to making Miatas that the car's most ardent fans want to buy, own, and drive.

More Clubs with Brembo/BBS/Recaro Package

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club BBS Recaro Front Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

I'm writing this review over the July 4th holiday weekend. If you go to Mazda's consumer website, it says the 2022 Miata Club models are sold out. You can still find them in dealership inventory, but if you want to order one for delivery, you'll apparently need to wait until the 2023 model goes on sale.

Most of the Club-trim roadsters in stock in my region have the Brembo/BBS/Recaro option package. The RF Clubs all have the upgrade. It was the only way you could order the car in 2022.

So, what does Mazda include in the package? Critical components that you need to sustain speed.

From the top, this collection of features adds performance-oriented Brembo front brakes and red brake calipers at each corner of the car. Mazda also bolts on a set of lightweight, forged aluminum, 17-inch BBS wheels painted a dark gunmetal gray. To ensure you remain anchored behind the steering wheel, Recaro performance seats with simulated suede inserts hold you in place as you race from corner to corner.

At $4,500, this upgrade is pricey. But if your intention in buying a Miata is to maximize the sheer pleasure you can derive from driving the car, consider it money well spent.

The 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata is the Best One Yet

By adding KPC to the 2022 Miata, Mazda has successfully battened down the rear-end's hatches, adding incremental balance, grace, and control to craft the best example of the car yet. However, there is a caveat to this observation. Until this test vehicle arrived, I had not driven a current-generation MX-5 Miata with the Brembo/BBS/Recaro package, so my seat-of-the-pants comparative yardstick is the fourth-gen Grand Touring.

Benefits of expensive forged aluminum wheels over affordable cast-aluminum wheels include greater strength and lighter weight. Forged wheels work better with high-performance tires and can withstand significant abuse on racetracks. They also reduce the amount of unsprung weight that the vehicle's suspension doesn't support. In turn, forged wheels translate to improved grip, a smoother ride, and less impact harshness.

During a day of driving the 2022 MX-5 Miata RF Club on all my favorite roads in the Santa Monica Mountains, both KPC and the BBS wheels proved their worth. The Miata seemed to glide over the lumps, bumps, and irregularities in the pavement, and the car's rear end remained planted in the sharpest of hairpin corners and most dramatic decreasing-radius curves.

Not only that, but on a treacherous, brake-busting mountain descent, the Brembos demonstrated impressive resolve. Nary a grumble, vibration, or hint of fade made itself known through the car's brake pedal or braking performance. And while Mazda designed the Club's Recaro seats to hold you in place, they aren't confining, even if you're a little wider than average, like me. Still, despite the manual thigh support adjustment, after half a day in the saddle, you'll definitely want to get out and stretch your legs.

The new KPC system and the test car's added performance components perfectly complement the additional power and higher engine redline Mazda introduced to the Miata for the 2019 model year. The changes allow a driver to run the car hard while shifting only between second and third gears and reveling in the sports car's smooth, refined 4-cylinder engine. Miatas are quick, too—a study in how a lightweight vehicle doesn't require massive amounts of horsepower and torque to fly down the road.

Better yet, just like a go-kart, a Miata always feels like it's going faster than it is, which is good for your insurance rates and ability to hang onto your driver's license. In other words, you can have plenty of fun in this car without getting in over your head.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Mazda deals!

2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club BBS Soul Red Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

With its 181-hp 4-cylinder engine, tiny size, and classic roadster character, many American driving enthusiasts dismiss this exceptionally rewarding automobile. They want something big, something loud, something that looks as intimidating as it sounds.

There is nothing intimidating about a 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Except when one rapidly catches up to your roaring V8-powered muscle car on a tight, winding back road and you just can't shake it loose (or, heaven forbid, do the courteous thing and pull to the right to allow the little Mazda to pass.)

No, the only goal of a Miata is to fill its driver with unbridled joy. You can find this in any example of the car built since the first one rolled off the Hiroshima, Japan, assembly line. But the 2022 version is the best one of the entire bunch. Especially in Club trim with the Brembo/BBS/Recaro option package.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with nearly 30 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. He has held editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, and others. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals, including Autotrader, Capital One Auto Navigator, CarGurus, Kelley Blue Book, WardsAuto, and more.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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