COAL: The Blue-Grey 3rd Gen Miata (2007)

Miata 3rd Gen – our first trip with the car


I liked this car enough to keep it for seven years, but I was not crazy about it. In retrospect, it ended up being a mild disappointment. I guess I kept comparing it to “Fend la Bise”, the  1st Gen Miata we had had in France for two short years.

After I sold it, I regretted not having a convertible anymore, but never felt the urge to buy another Miata. If I ever buy a convertible again, it will be a car with a real engine and a bit more interior space, like a Porsche Boxster S, or a Ford Mustang V8. And with a rag top that provides more sound insulation. A real engine, more space, less noise, that says it all.

Being an employee of a company that was a “friend of Ford”, I had access to the Ford X Plan pricing – and could enjoy a no hassle/no haggle experience with the local Mazda dealer (Mazda was in the orbit of Ford at that time). I leased the car for the first three years, but I hated the feeling of driving someone else’s car (also, you have to be able to predict how many miles you’re going to drive, which is close to impossible as life circumstances keep on changing).


Our Miata parked at Road Atlanta on a sunny day. I even drove it on the track, but behind a pace car.

At the end of the contract, I had driven fewer miles than contractually permitted (in other words, I had paid Mazda Finance for more depreciation than actually consumed) and I exercised the option to buy the car. Of course, I got hit by significant administrative fees, but even including those fees, buying my Miata back ended up being much cheaper than what I would have had to spend for a similar second hand car at a Mazda dealership. Lessons learned: leasing is definitely not for me, but if you like the car, buying it at the end of the lease is not necessarily an horrible deal.


Carrying a Pinata – no room for three in this Miata


The first gen Miata was nimble and direct, with a magic gear change, a very communicative chassis, and an engine that was happily singing from the top of its lungs. The third generation car (known as the NC by the fans) had lost some of the magic.  The updated 2009 model (NC.2 for the fans) addressed some of the shortcomings of the 2006-2008 NCs (a higher red line for a more lively engine, different front suspension knuckles and a revised roll center for “more steering feel and a more confident ride”) but our car was a 2007 and we had to live with its limitations.

In the Atlanta driving conditions (where everybody drives 14mph over an already pretty high speed limit and the road is never really flat) the 167 hp engine felt a bit under powered and it generally lacked character. With the driver sitting at the level of the exhaust and of the pneumatic brakes of 18 wheelers, it was also a bit intimidating on the urban freeways. Driving long distance was a pain – because of the noise.


Mazda Miata NC – the engine bay (from the Internet) – the engine was a bit dull acked the fun factor of the earlier generations.


There was little room inside the cabin (not enough for a reflex camera if I had a passenger – I had to put it the trunk which made impromptu shots impossible) and not much more storage room in the trunk – enough for a carry-on luggage – but not enough to bring back a pack of toilet paper from Costco. And the tires that came with the car (Yokohama Advan) were sticky but did not allow the car to slide gently – it was all or nothing – stick like glue or slide in terminal oversteer…I know it from personal experience, and a couple of my colleagues had similar oh s… moments with their own Miatas.

Why did I keep it? It did its job as a commuter car very well, for as long as I had to commute (I switched to Work From Home in 2014). Driving to the office through the back roads with the top down was a joy – the best part of the work day definitely – the car was also extremely reliable, and did not need much fuel. And with less sticky Continental tires that allowed it to slide a bit, it had become much more pleasant to drive.


Jeepers do it, I do it also – parking the car next to an identical one .


My wife had a big birthday coming, and she wanted to mark the occasion by buying a nice sports car, as a replacement for the Toyota RAV4 she had been driving for the past 6 years. Since we needed an SUV in the family and I did not drive that much anymore, I took one for the team: we sold the Miata, she bought the Cayman of her dreams and I became the designated driver of the RAV4.


Miata – self portrait