The Best Car I Drove in 2022: Mazda MX-5 Miata Club
I fell in love with the Mazda MX-5 Miata in 1994 when I rented one for what started as a four-day period that turned into three weeks. By the end of 1997, I owned one of the last examples made of the first-generation car, and I’ve continually had a Miata parked in my garage since then. Currently, a 2004 Mazdaspeed lives there, with less than 35,000 original miles on the clock.
When the fourth-generation MX-5 Miata arrived for the 2016 model year, I was smitten with the new design and engineering package. It eliminated the soft styling and bloat of the third-gen car, reacquainting the 2016 Miata with the “less is more” philosophy that made the original so popular with driving enthusiasts. Mazda further perfected the fourth-gen Miata in 2019 with an infusion of power, but my favorite sports car still had a slightly wild side. At the limit of adhesion, whether trail-braking hard into a corner or getting back on the gas after clipping an apex, the latest Miata could feel a little squirrelly — especially if the pavement was less than perfect.
Enter the 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata, now with standard Kinematic Posture Control (KPC), a brake-based software solution that aims to tame the Miata’s rear end when you’re hustling the car hard. According to Mazda, KPC applies a small amount of braking to the car’s inside rear wheel at high g-force entry into a corner or curve. The result, says the automaker, is less body roll and a more linear steering response feel at the steering wheel, especially on imperfect road surfaces. Accelerate hard past the apex of the turn, and KPC adds more inside rear-wheel braking to enhance the Miata’s limited-slip effect.
Naturally, I could not wait to sample KPC, so at the first opportunity, I booked a test drive in a 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. It arrived in Club specification with Soul Red Crystal paint with the outstanding Brembo/BBS/ Recaro option package (standard from 2022 on), which equips the car with lightweight forged aluminum wheels, performance brakes and performance-bolstered seats. It wasn’t cheap, wearing a window sticker of $40,160, including the destination charge.
Forty grand for a Miata? Yep, but if you know what this car is (street-legal go-kart) and what it can do (spank more powerful machines in all but a straight line), then that price still seems like a bargain.
Just as I did with that 1994 rental car nearly 30 years ago, I took the 2022 MX-5 Miata RF Club for a day-long drive on all of my favorite Southern California roads stretching from Calabasas to Santa Barbara.
The higher rev limit and added power from the 2019 model year update, combined with the lightweight BBS wheels and stout Brembo brake options, make any ND2 a sheer, unbridled joy to drive hard and fast. Add the precise, fluid shift action, the near-telepathic steering, and the car’s diminutive size that allows you to use as much of your lane on a narrow mountain road to maintain forward momentum as is possible, and the 2019, 2020 and 2021 examples of Mazda’s roadster promise enthusiast drivers a fantastically good time.
But the 2022 and 2023 models of the MX-5 Miata are the ones to get. That new KPC software works as advertised, adding stability at the limit and instilling more confidence in the driver. I can’t speak for KPC’s impact on the car’s on-track character, but out in the real world, on slinky mountain and canyon roads that are sometimes indifferently maintained or improperly repaired (looking at you, Mulholland Highway down near the beach), this system’s subtle braking inputs deliver obvious handling benefits.
Since purchasing my own Mazdaspeed MX-5 new, I haven’t desperately wanted a new Miata. But thanks to KPC, it’s difficult to resist even though Mazda discontinued my favorite color — Polymetal Gray — for 2023. Sure, I’m a little biased, but in looking back at the 88 new cars, trucks and SUVs I test-drove and reviewed in 2022, the latest Mazda MX-5 Miata was my favorite.