2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT new car reviews

Better than: we thought it would be.
But not as good as: a Mazdaspeed MX-5 PRHT.
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 87.87

When we got a chance to try the power-retractable hardtop version of Mazda's neo-classic MX-5, we were curious to see how it would feel compared to other variations of the new MX-5 platform.

The MS-R configuration of the car was awfully nice thanks to its more athletic suspension and exclusion of luxury options, Perhaps this is why we were concerned about the effect a motorized retractable hardtop would have on our beloved little roadster. The NC-chassis MX-5 was already much bigger and heavier than the Miatas we fell in love with; would this extra weight be the straw breaking our favorite camel's back?

Before our test drive, we gave the car a thorough inspection. It was easy to appreciate the simple and clean profile that the top created. We watched the top go up and down repeatedly, charmed by the clockwork of each 12-second cycle. No matter what it weighed, it was pretty slick engineering.

As you'd expect, the hardtop does wonders for quibbles like road noise and A/C efficiency, but the story here is in the driving.

Mazda engineers must be pretty sharp folks. After adding the 80 or so pounds of hardtop hardware, they revised the suspension mojo to accomodate the heft. Coupled with the rigidity of a roof structure, the result makes for a better feel than we were expecting. Dynamically, the car performed well enough to leave an impression; it wasn't a night-and-day improvement, but the PRHT felt at least as good as the last convertible MX-5 we'd driven.

If you've got your eyes on a national trophy, you're probably better off with the soft top. The hardtop version is a few ticks slower in measured acceleration, and ultimately it can't overcome its weight. With that said, we wouldn't criticize anyone for using a PHRT car in a sporting role.

Other staff views

Per Schroeder
Per Schroeder

I don't get this car. I love the MX-5 (MSR, please!) and I'd love a true MX-5 coupe--why do we need a heavy/flexible hardtop? Go one way or the other--never compromise!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

If I was buying a new Miata for the street, this is definitely the one that I'd get. Yes, it's a little more money and weight, but from behind the wheel it feels just like a normal Miata. On the highway, however, the hardtop is great. It's so quiet. Plus I think it looks good. It's like having the best of both worlds.

And as added bonus, the trunk space didn't disappear (GM, hope you're taking notes) so it's a fairly practical car, too. We took one up to Amelia Island this year, and it was the perfect car. We had the top up for the drive up I-95. We took the scenic way back and had the top down.

This is close to being a five-star car for me. I guess that says a lot.

Tom Heath
Tom Heath

Drag racer's math says it would take another 20 horspower to negate the nearly 200 pounds that the PRHT system adds, but that doesn't take handling into consideration. If I were to buy an NC-chassis Miata, I think the PRHT might be the one. Another 20 horsepower for would be a cinch with a turbocharger, so let's make it a Mazdaspeed model, OK?

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin

I've just returned from spending a solid week with the MX-5 retractable hardtop in L.A. This might be the most usable Miata—er, MX-5—ever. Not only does the hardtop make the MX-5 a "real" car in terms of highway comfort and A/C effectiveness, but it also prevents the easy vandalism and break-ins that an open car invite. The sample car I had was the full boat, luxo-laden, mac daddy MX-5 with every option short of the automatic transmission A Miata with heated seats and XM radio?! A Miata that has a list price over $30K!?

Like Mazda says, this isn't a Miata, it's an MX-5. Miatas are simple, pure and elemental machines; the MX-5, on the other hand, is a more refined, smooth, comfortable sportster, more of a Z4 competitor than an S2000 rival.

While the MX-5 was pleasant in all circumstances, it was way too softly sprung for serious driving. A quick run over the Ortega highway revealed this Mazda's sloppiness when pushed past seven-tenths. Revised dampers, a lower ride hight and a bit stiffer ride would make this a nearly perfect daily car. I'll be keeping my eyes on these in the next few years as they depreciate.

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