2024 Mazda Miata Club Review: ND3’s the Charm

Andrew Newton

It’s been nearly 10 years since Mazda unveiled the fourth, “ND” generation MX-5 Miata, continuing an exceptional sports car tradition. So enjoyable is Mazda’s two-seater, in fact, that I bought a 2020 Miata RF ND2. (In Zoom-Zoom nerd circles, 2019–23 cars are called “ND2”, referring to the second iteration of the ND generation.) It remains my daily driver. With a revised Miata now out for the 2024 model year, I was keen to sample the ND3’s host of tweaks and upgrades.

Part of the Miata’s appeal these days is that it has no direct competitor. Its closest rival—the Subaru BRZ/Toyota GR86—has rear seats and no available sunroof. Lotus does not even make a sub-3000-pound car anymore, yet 2300-pound Miatas are still out there roaming the roads.

Although a decade is an eternity in the car business, the Miata still looks and drives like nothing else in showrooms today. It’s agile, tossable, and friendly. For the ND3, Mazda thankfully didn’t mess with success. Small but significant improvements are focused on appreciable areas: the steering rack, differential, and interior. In sum, they make an already great car a little bit better. Rumors are swirling that the next-generation Miata will be either hybrid or electric, which, if true, would render this ND3 the final with Mazda’s 35-year-old formula: a lightweight open-top machine with a naturally aspirated four-cylinder, rear-wheel-drive, and a manual transmission.

2024 mazda miata nd3 club front
Andrew Newton

The Miata’s last major update came five years ago for the 2019 ND2, when Mazda massaged the 2.0-liter, twin-cam four-cylinder (largely shared with the Mazda 3) to make 181 horsepower (instead of 155 in the 2016-18 “ND1”) and wind the tach up to 7500 rpm (instead of 6800), while also revising the six-speed manual gearbox. In the new-for-2024 ND3, both the drivetrain and overall weight are carryover.

The 2024 Miata is still available in two basic body styles and three basic trim levels, but prices are up slightly. MSRP for the cheapest soft top “Sport” model is $30,170—nearly a grand more than the 2023 version. The retractable hardtop RF body style is not available in Sport trim. The mid-range “Club” soft top (the ND3 I drove) costs $33,670 to start. Our test car also had the optional Brembo brakes/BBS wheels/Recaro seat package, which adds $4800 to the soft-top Club but comes baked into the $41,395 Club RF. The slightly more luxurious “Grand Touring” trim costs $36,390 in soft-top form and $39,165 in RF form. The Brembo/BBS/Recaro trio is only available on the Club, which is a shame if you want a dead-simple Sport or a cushy Gran Touring with a performance punch.

Specs: 2024 Mazda Miata Club

  • Price: $33,670 (base); $38,470 (as tested)
  • Powertrain: 2.0-liter fuel-injected, naturally aspirated, dual-overhead-camshaft inline-four; 6-speed manual transmission
  • Output: 181 hp @ 7000 rpm; 151 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
  • Layout: Rear-wheel-drive, two-door, two-passenger convertible
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, 34 combined
  • Competitors: Subaru BRZ, Toyota GR86

One of the chief complaints ever since the ND first came out, compared with the fun and flamboyant NA lineup from the ’90s, is that Mazda’s color palette is as bland as a bowl of sawdust. Other than Soul Red, it’s been mostly some version of black, white, or gray for the ND. If you’ve been praying for a handsome British Racing Green or a nice bright blue, keep praying, because Mazda has ignored you yet again. There is a new shade for 2024 but it’s… another shade of gray. Aero Gray, to be specific. Our test car was at least painted Zircon Sand Metallic, a shade added to the roster last year (and featured in our Gas + Stick article); it’s a sharp-looking, sort of muddy sand color with some green in it. Nice, but still somewhat muted for a very happy sports car.

Other changes to the exterior of the 2024 ND3 include new LED headlights and taillights. The daytime running lights, which used to flank the grille, are now integrated into the headlights. There are also new wheel designs and they look good, but so did the old ones. They’re also of the same size and ride on the same Bridgestone tires.

The interior wears the same basic design, laid atop a clean, functional, tight-ish cabin. Mazda uses its share of mass-market plastics and knobs, as well as cheap-feeling removable cupholders, but in concert with the brand’s premium aspirations there are some nicer touches: body-color paint on the tops of the door panels, padding and stitching in the middle of the dash, and chromed gauge bezels. The trim running around the shifter and down the sides of the console used to be plastic, but now it’s stitched and padded. The gauge cluster (tach in middle, speedo on right, analog-style digital readout on left) stays essentially the same but now uses higher contrast graphics that are easier to read, and the rear-view camera benefits from higher resolution. USB-C ports also replace the old USB ones.

By far the most notable interior change, though, concerns the infotainment screen. In the ND1-ND2 the interface was good enough, but the square screen looked like an overgrown, circa-2008 Garmin GPS glued to the top of the dash. The ND3 remedies that with an all-new 8.8-inch rectangular display that’s lower, thinner, better integrated into the dash, and much nicer to read. It’s still operated via touch, with some controls available on the steering wheel or on two small metal knobs behind the shifter.

Mechanically, the two major changes for the ND3 affect steering feel and how the rear end navigates corners. The steering rack is a new unit and the software in the electronically assisted power steering has been revised for both smoother steering and sharper response. At the back, Mazda redesigned the Miata’s conical clutch limited-slip differential. It now more strongly locks the rear wheels together on deceleration to combat oversteer and reduces locking during acceleration to mitigate understeer. This makes for more controllable cornering compared to the earlier, more tail-happy cars. The ND3 Club’s stability control system also adds a new “DSC-Track” mode, activated by a fun little checkered flag button, that raises the threshold of when the system intervenes, without shutting it off entirely. Only the Club model gets DSC-Track.

2024 nd3 miata side
Andrew Newton

Entering, or rather fitting into, this car has never been comfortable for everybody. I’m 6’2” and fit alright, but if you’re within a haircut of 6 feet, haven’t had a salad in a while, and/or are more leg than torso, it’s a good idea to try before you buy. Getting in with a helmet (and remaining underneath the top of the windshield) is an additional challenge for the vertically blessed, although there are aftermarket seat options as well as kits to lower the factory chairs. As for the Recaros in our test car, they’re beautiful. With black leather, gray piping, and Alcantara inserts, they look like they’re out of a much more expensive automobile. They’re well-bolstered for track driving as well, but a little tight beneath the shoulders and around the hips of this driver.

There’s no glovebox in an MX-5—just a small cubby between the seats and another, secret cubby behind the passenger’s seat. The storage bin in the console is of limited use. The narrow but surprisingly deep trunk (no spare tire), meanwhile, has enough room for a two-person weekend getaway or a week’s worth of groceries.

On the nice days for which this roadster is intended, operating the soft top is a simple pull on a single central clip, pulling it back behind you, and clicking it in to stow behind the seats. It can all be done in a few seconds from the driver’s seat.

For the not-so-nice days, like the “derecho” storm that slammed Houston in May 2024 with 100-mph winds and three tornadoes, the soft top is reassuringly stout. I briefly got caught out on the road in the derecho, and despite wind and rain that can only be described as biblical, the soft top held tight as a drum. No flapping around, no leaks, and surprisingly little noise. Apart from an actual crash, it would hard to think up a much tougher test for a top, so this one passed.

2024 mazda nd3 miata side
Andrew Newton

Jumping straight from the driver’s seat of an ND2 into the ND3 is not a night and day difference, but it is a noticeable one. Steering feel is indeed sharper, smoother, and a little heavier. The change is noticeable at any speed, not to mention from the instant the steering wheel (which is the perfect size and looks great, by the way) moves from center. The new differential leaves the rear end feeling more planted and firmer through an apex, and although Mazda didn’t say it revised the suspension, we wouldn’t be shocked to hear if there were some small tweaks. The car does feel like it’s flatter through the corners. It’s still somewhat softly sprung and takes a bit to settle into the corner. The signature Miata lean/body roll is still there, but it’s less pronounced. All of these adjustments, including changes to the limited-slip, it should be noted, are really only discernible if you’re hitting a corner at about seven-tenths or above.

The slick-shifting, short-throw six-speed, meanwhile, is one of the best manuals around and there’s nothing to nitpick about it. Our test car also averaged a little over 30 mpg in mixed driving conditions, before a lengthy stretch in heavy traffic dropped it into the high 20s.

And while the car does corner more confidently, it’s still easy enough to get the back end to rotate and then use small inputs to keep things under control. This is still a great sports car in which to learn the basics of car control, as overcooking it doesn’t immediately send you into a spin. The dynamics are also entertaining at real-world, law-adjacent speeds on real-world roads. More fun to drive a slow car fast, and all that.

Indeed, 181 hp and 151 lb-ft isn’t a lot, but this is a tiny car and with the roof open, the 0-60 scoot in 5.7 seconds feels quick enough. For reference, that’s around the same output as a Honda S2000 (more about that car later), and the Mazda’s 2.0-liter four is almost as responsive. It likes to rev, really wakes up above 4000 rpm, and should be kept there for maximum smiles.

The Skyactive 2.0-liter isn’t a weak engine, then, but it sure sounds that way. If there’s any significant complaint one might have from behind the wheel of the ND3—and I only have one biggie—it’s the stock exhaust. It stinks. It’s too quiet. What sound does come out of the muffler is more rental-spec Altima than open-top toy. To be fair, not everybody likes their cars loud, but Mazda should absolutely offer an optional sports exhaust.

There are still small, specialist carmakers out there, but a driver-focused car like the 2024 Miata coming from a full-line automaker remains special. That it even exists in the electrified, increasingly automated new car market is a real treat. The closest thing in 15 years is, well, the last Honda S2000.

Thanks to its great reputation, great looks and jewel of an engine, a used 2000-09 S2K in excellent condition is worth about the same as a Miata in brand-new condition. The temptation to cross-shop is there. They have similar performance, similarly good looks, and similarly fine interiors. The Honda has a much sweeter engine, but the Mazda does most other things just as well or better. For the same price, it’s at least a 15-year newer car and thus comes with all the improvements in safety and convenience that have been made since the 2000s, plus a warranty. It’s the sensible choice.

Now, with the past out of the way, let’s end with the future. The next-gen Miata is slated for 2026. It will likely have a hybrid powertrain. What the whole package looks like and how it will be received by the MX-5’s legions of fans isn’t yet clear. What is clear, however, is that the ND3 is one of those “last of” cars. The Miata formula of basic, naturally aspirated four-banger, driving the rear wheels through a stubby manual ends with this car. Inevitably, snobs will call it the last “real” Miata. Good thing it’s the best one, too.

2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Highs: A shape that still looks special, even 10 years later. Lots of little improvements without losing any essential Miata-ness. Still exists in 2024.

Lows: Tight fit for bigger drivers. Quiet exhaust that makes a perfectly good engine sound like a weak one. Color choices remain frustratingly limited. Not much trunk space (duh).

Summary: A noticeable improvement on an already great car, and arguably the best Miata yet. If the next MX-5 is a hybrid, the ND3 also represents the end of a glorious era.

2024 nd3 miata side
Andrew Newton


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    In the article, “2024 Mazda Miata Club Review: ND3’s the Charm” Andrew Newton writes, “and although Mazda didn’t say it revised the suspension, we wouldn’t be shocked to hear if there were some small tweaks. The car does feel like it’s flatter through the corners.”

    Mazda didn’t make any tweaks to the suspension of the MX-5. What he is noticing is the Kinematic Posture Control breaking software that was added in 2022. This feature is not on his 2020 ND. So, he would have noticed the difference right away. I noticed the change when I went from my 2019 Club, soft top, with a manual to my 2023 Club, soft top, with a manual. The two cars are identical except for the KPC, and I noticed the flatter handling in my 2023 right away.

    My 2019 club is fantastic, it has a cubby behind each seat. You also didn’t mention Bilstein shocks that come with the Club pkg.

    Most of the video reviewers with some track time on them seemed to think the changes are minimally noticeable. In other words ND2 vs. ND3 is pretty much a wash. It’s not a ND1 vs. ND2 hp upgrade noticeable level. Any way you do the ND it will be fun.

    I am very very very seriously considering pulling some of my money out of this limp wrested stock market right now and buying me a new Miata. My 2007 is great, and I love the lack of electronic nags, but the only thing stopping me from going to the dealership today is the fact that I will have to get mine wrapped in a color, rather than settle for whatever bland pseudo-gray Mazda seems to have decided to limit themselves to

    Yeah, I don’t get why Mazda has so many boring colors for the Miata. My ND2 is Soul Red, which is amazing, but I really had zero other interesting color options to consider. I also find the engine quite unremarkable and feel like it’s one of the low points of the car. It would be equally at home in an economy car (and is in other models). I had two S2000’s back in the day, and those engines were special.

    I wish makers would stop eliminating USB ports in favour of all USB-C; install a couple of each! Oh well, with no spare tire, it is not on my shopping list anyway.

    I’ve owned three MX5s, all manuals, a ’91, ’09 and currently a Stormy Blue NC2 GT with the Suspension & Premium packages. I upgraded the suspension, and exhaust and added an Eaton supercharger to the ’91. I wish I still had it. I also wish Mazda would make an ND3 GT RF with all the performance upgrades. I think the NC2 is a great car. It’s all I need for a lightweight sports car. My heavy weight is a C7 Vette. The NC2 is more fun to drive.

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