The Mazda Miata
The little MX-5 Miata has endured and is entering its fourth generation, which remains true to the original small-roadster concept. The Miata’s design and following have earned it a place in the automotive history books.
With the 2016 model, Mazda has brought Miata up to some modern safety, efficiency, and tech expectations, all while preserving that delicate sweet spot that makes it different from anything else on the market.
The new Miata has a layout that’s much like its predecessor, yet it’s been completely reengineered, with a Mazda’s 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine and a high 13:1 compression ratio. The electric-assist rack-and-pinion steering is very precise, and the front wishbone, rear multi-link suspension, with an even lower seating position this time, helps keep the driver feeling bonded with the car in every twist and turn.
The Miata remains a two-seater, with a limited amount of space—just enough for the driver and passenger. Ride quality is reasonably good (although the Club is noticeably stiffer), and wind buffeting with the top down is impressive. The all manual top can be raised or lowered with one arm (thanks to a helper spring) in less than ten seconds.
The First Mazda Miatas
The powertrain in the original Miata was a 1.6-liter four-cylinder available with a choice of five-speed manual or automatic transmissions, growing slightly with each new generation. In 1993 the engine was enlarged to 1.8 liters, and in 1998 the second-generation car was introduced. The same 1.8-liter engine powered the second MX-5 Miata, though it received a slight increase in power. The second-generation Miata offered a Mazdaspeed version in 2004 and 2005, which added a turbocharger to the 1.8-liter engine, increasing output significantly from 130 horsepower to 178 horsepower.
The 2006 Miatas
The third-generation car was introduced in 2005 for the 2006 model year. It again gained a larger engine, up to 2.0 liters and 160 horsepower standard with a five- or six-speed manual transmission, or a six-speed automatic, though the engine is detuned to 158 horsepower when paired with the automatic. Six-speed manual models were available with a limited-slip differential.
While the Miata maintains a go-kart-like handling feel, with a low-to-the-road driving position that tends to exaggerate the feeling of speed without breaking the speed limit, the tight cabin can lend a feeling of excitement.
The 2013 and newer Miatas
True to its essence, the base cloth top isn’t power-operated, but it remains easy to open and close with a single hand. For the 2013 model year, however, a clever power-retractable hard top (PRHT) version of the Miata was introduced. Thanks to smart design, the hard top opens and closes quickly, preserves headroom, takes up no more trunk space than the cloth top, and creates a tight, quiet cabin environment that is considerably more civilized.
An MX-5 Miata Club trim was new for 2013. With a six-speed manual transmission and a stiffer suspension tune, it has a somewhat sharper driving feel. For the 2015 model year, Mazda effectively signed off on the current Miata with a special 25th Anniversary Edition.