Mazda MX-5 Miata has always had a split personality. On one hand, it’s a great convertible car for all ages and stages, providing inexpensive fun in the sun along with excellent long-term reliability. On the other hand, it’s a legend on the amateur racing circuit, revered by weekend track warriors for its superb balance and classic rear-wheel-drive dynamics. Whichever side you’re on (or perhaps you can’t decide), the Miata (new or used) is a valuable choice for car shoppers.
Speaking of new Miatas, there’s an all-new model for 2016, but we don’t know much about that one just yet. We are, however, very familiar with the first three generations of Mazda’s iconic roadster. From the model featuring pop-up headlights that started it all to the outgoing third-generation model with its flared wheel arches and available power hardtop, we remember them all. Don’t forget about the second-generation car either, which boasted a turbocharged MAZDASPEED version with the best Miata engine to date.
How do you know which Miata’s right for you? Heres a deep analysis-done-for-you.
Third Generation: NC (2006-2015)
Figuring that the original Miata’s underpinnings had run their course after a decade and a half of service spanning two generations, Mazda started from scratch this time. Out went the previous double-wishbone suspension, replaced by a front-wishbone/rear-multilink setup, with standard anti-lock brakes thrown in for good measure. The stylists took a different tack too, adding flared fenders and a more assertive front end. Inside, the NC had more hard surfaces than its predecessors, but it was also more spacious, with a comparable options list augmented by new xenon headlights (and, later on, automatic climate control). For 2007, an optional power retractable hardtop (PRHT) debuted and provided unprecedented security and year-round drivability — plus 70 pounds.
In the engine room, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder took over, bringing a relatively robust 166 hp to the table. The sprint to 60 mph consumed about 7.5 seconds, a decently quick result but definitely not MAZDASPEED-quick. The base manual transmission continued to be a 5-speed, with a 6-speed available on certain trims. The old 4-speed automatic, meanwhile, was canned in favor of a modern 6-speed auto.
On the road, the third-gen Miata carried on the family tradition of sublime handling despite its moderately larger dimensions and heft. Fun fact: The famous Skip Barber Racing School has a fleet of NC Miatas, so you know this car has the goods. As usual, Mazda permits a bit more body roll than you might expect; this is so that the driver can feel the cornering forces rather than be isolated from them. Once you get used to that, the NC Miata is arguably the most fun that you can have anywhere near its modest price range.
If you’re considering a third-gen Miata, keep the year 2009 in mind: That’s when the engine received a handful of updates, expanding its redline to 7,200 rpm in the process. Output barely changed, moving up a tick to 167 hp, but acceleration feels much more lively, with a 0-to-60 time of 6.7 seconds. You still don’t get the midrange rush of the MAZDASPEED, but it’s never been this fun to drive a Miata.
In other respects, though, the NC Miata has remained pretty much the same for nearly a decade, so you can feel free to shop around until you find a nicely kept vehicle that fits your budget. Do try to drive a pre-2009 car and compare it to one from 2009 or later, though, just so you can see what we’re talking about.
We already know that the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata looks great and has a high-quality interior with an upscale vibe, but will it eclipse the MAZDASPEED Miata’s standard-setting acceleration? We can’t wait to find out. In the meantime, there are thousands of used Miatas onAutotrader.com, and one of them just might have your name on it. Go test-drive one, and see what the best-selling roadster of all time is all about.
TOKYO: The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will be lighter and smaller than its predecessors and launched with SkyActiv fuel-efficiency technologies.
That the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata marks only the fourth generation of the model in 25 years, shows just how precisely Mazda’s engineers and designers nailed the roadster’s original formula. It’s also a testament to the Miata’s broad, enduring appeal as a coastal highway cruiser, cute commuter or affordable track day special.
Mazda has thus far only disclosed basic details about the next-generation Miata, revealing an engine closer to the car’s centre, and the centre itself lower to the ground than any Miata before it. Along with a revised rear suspension design, aluminium front suspension components for reduced weight (Mazda has shed more than 220 pounds from the current model), a stiffer chassis and electric power steering, the new Miata promises a return to the sharp handling that has dulled as the car has grown and aged. Mazda has also trimmed 3 inches in overall length and added a half-inch of width.
Outside, the Miata loses some of its cuteness for a more curved, muscular tone similar to the Mazda 3 or CX-5, two recent models infused with Mazda’s new design philosophy. Inside, the cabin has moved slightly rearward and the seating positions are lower. The tachometer sits dead centre behind the steering wheel, emphasizing the Miata’s sporting roots.
The current Miata’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes way for the new-generation SkyActiv version. It’s the same size and should be more efficient. In the Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback, this engine makes 155 horsepower – less, actually, than the outgoing Miata’s – but more low-end torque. Combined with the new Miata’s weight loss, this new powertrain promises fun and snappy performance. A six-speed manual transmission will remain standard (an automatic is optional) because this is, after all, a Miata.
Look for the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata to debut next spring, with sales likely to begin by summer. With the new technology used in the next-gen Miata, expect the starting price to eclipse the current base model’s sub-$25,000 sticker. Mazda will need to stay competitive, however, to preserve one of the Miata’s fundamental charms: affordability. Check back for a full review of the next-generation Miata, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.