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Review | 11.07.2013 - 20:30

Mazda Miata - The Roadster to Have

The evolution of the Mazda Miata roadster that captured the hearts of individuals when everyone thought they were being phased out.
Miata Lineup
Mazda Miata Lineup

During the early 90s you may have seen a small, nimble 2-seater car zipping along called the Miata or MX-5. This was Mazda’s first generation of their legendary roadster. Over the years this car has had a cult following for its easy and fun appeal to drive. I’d like to share the brief history and facts on why the Miata is the roadster to have.


First Generation - Miata NA (1990-1997)

The NA Miata came at a time when there was virtually no real good roadster car in the market. It filled that void quite well with a 5-speed manual, 1.6 L engine pumping around 115 horsepower on a 2,150 lb. chassis. It might not seem like a lot of power but it was more than enough for the small size of the vehicle with a 0-60 in 8.1 seconds and top speed of around 125 mph. This was the first incarnation of the “affordable sports car” and rightfully so, when it was introduced it was offered at a reasonable $13,995. The biggest feature most people associate with this generation Miata is the iconic flippy headlights.

People were able to have the experience of a fun weekend sports car with the price tag of a normal commuter car. When it first came out it was so popular that during 1990 Mazda sold just fewer than 36,000 NA Miata in the United States. While not extremely huge sales numbers compared to other car models. It was said that if Mazda was able to produce more cars during that time, that each one of them would have sold for MSRP, since demand was so well received.

Over the course of the NA’s life there have been minor changes but nothing too substantial, until the 1994 model came out. This was when Mazda decided to pump up a little more into their roadster with an upgrade engine. The new 1.8 L engine raised the horsepower to 131 and again was bumped up to 133 horsepower with the 1996 model. This was a 14% raise in engine power but with a 50 lb. base weight increase.


The NA Miata continued on until 1998 when it was retired for a new version of the Miata titled the Second Generation or NB. Note there was no 1998 Miata produced during the transition to the NB design.


Second Generation - NB Miata (1999-2005)

This version came with a lot of great changes and borrowed concepts from their other popular sports car, Mazda RX-7 FD.

You’ll notice they abandoned the flippy headlights for a sleeker look and cleaner body design to give it a better aerodynamic rating:


The NB also came with a stronger 1.8 L engine, 140-146 horsepower depending on the year and a 6 speed gearbox depending on the package you chose. Mazda also started to consider turbocharging their little roadster and officially did this with their 2004 and 2005 model NB appropriately classed as the Mazdaspeed Miata. With this special edition Miata, everything was given an upgrade; from the suspension and tires, the drivetrain and to the littlest detail to a lightweight oil dipstick to save weight.


The Mazdaspeed Miata is my all-time favorite Miata, I can forgive it not having flippy headlights for a turbocharged engine. For the stat junkies, this version Miata does 0-60 in around 6 seconds; however, it’s limited to a top speed of 126 mph because of the rev limiter, which is a shame.

Third Generation – NC Miata (2006 – Present)

Out of the three Miata’s this is my least favorite, however, it still has the core essence of a fun roadster. The NC’s most notable difference comes from the suspension which is a front wishbone, rear multilink setup vs. the NA & NB’s four wheel double wishbone setup. This new suspension gives the NC better handling overall compared to the older generations. Also, a new 2.0 L engine with a 5-speed or 6-speed manual gave this generation Miata 170 horsepower on a 2,441 lb. chassis. With a 0-60 in 7.5 seconds, giving it a great time considering the additional weight that have been tacked on to each generation Miata, however, it was still considerably slower than the Mazdaspeed Miata.


The NC was also started to give more attention to the interior by making it longer and wider, which made it roomier inside, but at the cost of the additional weight. More options and features were being offered for this generation and this is when many people started to say, “I’m buying a Miata for the driving fun and experience, I don’t need this extra stuff.” Miata’s are roadsters meant to have fun driving around in, those extra features were just “noise” that interfered with that.

I look forward to the future of Miata’s evolution; I hope they bring back the old NA feel with the up and coming generation. However, no matter what it is, it will always be the fun roadster you can take out during the weekend and still use as your everyday vehicle. I still have a pristine NA kept in a storage building, with all this Miata talk I think I’ll take it out on the country for a nice evening ride; you should do so as well! 

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