Mazda MX-5 Drops Automatic in Most Trims


Yes, you read that headline correctly. For the upcoming 2022 model year, Mazda has binned the automatic transmission in all trims of the sporty MX-5 roadster save for its most spendy spec, the Grand Touring. Don’t say Hiroshima isn’t doing its part to #SaveTheManuals.

And we know – not every automatic is objectively worse than its manual counterpart. In fact, there are plenty of high-performance examples in which the auto is quicker in the run to 60 mph than when equipped with a row-yer-own gearbox. Nevertheless, it remains our opinion that stickshifts offer a far more engaging drive experience, even if it can add a couple of tenths to your time slip in some vehicles.

As for the MX-5, that’s one rig in which a manual transmission should be the default choice. And for the coming year, it very nearly is. Both the Sport and Club trims will only offer the sweet-shifting six-speed manual, meaning most of its lineup will not be available with an automatic gearbox. This will make good use of the little scamp’s excellent power-to-weight ratio, to say nothing of playing well with its nimble handling.

Reasons for the change are not immediately clear, though it’s not unreasonable to speculate it is related to the ongoing worldwide chip shortage. If so, it’s probably the only welcome consequence of this whole supply chain debacle. There are no changes to the engine output, a 2.0L mill continues to deliver 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Keeping this powerplant on the boil is easy with the six-speed stick, as customers of the ’22 Sport and Club are sure to discover next year.

Mazda has fettled with the onboard driving nannies, creating what they’re calling a Kinematic Posture Control which has nothing to do with the car’s seats and posture of the driver. Rather, the new system takes advantage of good rear suspension geometry and applies very slight braking to the inner rear wheel during high-g cornering. This pulls down on that part of the car, allegedly suppressing body roll and making steering response feel more linear through tight corners. Mazda says the system doles out slightly stronger braking forces when accelerating through a corner, apparently enhancing the limited-slip effect.

Americans can still strap into an MX-5 ragtop for well under 30 grand, with the 2022 MX-5 Sport checking in at $27,300. The next-rung Club starts at $30,800 but adds $4,500 if you wish to spec the optional Brembo/BBS/Recaro package. An automatic-equipped GT will run you $32,300 in 2022, with the manual transmission variant adding $500 to that sum.

[Image: Mazda]

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