Interior & Safety

Though the car is small, the two-seat configuration provides more driver space than you might expect. A 6-foot-tall ectomorph, I fit just fine, though it wouldn't be my first choice for a long drive ... or my 20th. If you're much taller or wider than me, the fit becomes more questionable. Redesigned for 2009, the seats have a bit more side bolstering, and I was happy with them. Since 2008, all trim levels have included a driver's seat height adjustment, which removes the arbitrary compromise that had served neither short nor tall drivers.

The Miata's visibility story is part comedy, part tragedy. The comedy is that you're darting around like a hyper kid at the roller rink, grinning like a fool because you see practically everything and can stop shorter and evade faster than everyone else. Even the view over your right shoulder with the top up isn't bad because the window is immediately behind your head. The tragedy is that the hyper kid isn't so easy for the other skaters to see, and you might find yourself checked into the boards — or over them ... possibly through them. Exacerbating this threat is the current Miata's horn pad, which consists of a disc recessed in the very center of the steering wheel. In an emergency scenario, it's good to be able to hit the horn with your thumbs or mash the steering wheel hub with your fist. The Miata's horn just isn't easy enough to trigger compared with the previous generation's broad pad. Really, I'm not confident the little "meep-meep" horn is going to help you much ("Honey, did we just run over the Road Runner?"), but it has a better chance of sparing you if you can hit it.

This is the reality of driving a small vehicle. All you can really do is keep your eyes and options open, don't go overboard with the hyper-skater routine and be especially mindful that you're hard to see. The MX-5 has the mandated front airbags, and because there's no backseat for carrying children or small adults, the passenger's airbag can be deactivated by means of a key switch in front of the driver's left knee. Side-impact airbags are standard, as are antilock brakes. (See all the safety features here.) Even so, let's not kid ourselves about a small car's ability to protect its occupants in a collision with a larger vehicle. Being a low-volume car, the 2009 Miata hasn't been crash-tested, but recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests that collided highly rated small cars with larger ones underscores the fact that there's no cheating physics. The Miata is small, lightweight and low-slung. If you're not comfortable with the risk, don't drive a small car.

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