Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.
You can tell be my review that I really enjoyed my week with the Miata. Unfortunately, a miserable trip to Pennsylvania in the back of her stepfather’s 1976 Oldsmobile Starfire made my wife forever hate any car where you sit low to the ground. She also doesn’t care for convertibles. On the bright side, my co-worker Stacy loved getting a lift home in it one day after work, so I was at least able to share the open-air joy with at least one member of the opposite sex during the week. I also received this from my editor:
This looks real good. Really enjoyed the Miata review. This is one that could have appeared in any buff book. Keep up the good work Adam.
Hence, the review below is the same one that ran on June 16, 1998. There were some edits, but nothing that affected the tone of the piece.
Passion. Few vehicles sold in this country elicit that emotion from a driver. The Mazda MX-5 Miata, which pays homage to the British sports cars of the sixties and seventies, is one of those vehicles.
The tiny (only six inches longer than a Chevy Metro) two-seat roadster has been redesigned for the first time since its introduction nearly nine years ago, but it takes a trained eye to spot the changes. Flush headlamps replace the pop-up units, the doors now curve up towards the rear, the tail is wider and more muscular, a glass rear window with defroster replaces the old plastic piece, and the interior is all new. Our tester had the optional Touring package, which includes power steering, windows, and mirrors, 14″ aluminum alloy wheels, and a three-spoke NARDI leather wrapped steering wheel. The new Miata actually bears more than a passing resemblance to the Porsche Boxster.
On a sunny day, jump in the seat, whip the manual top back with one arm, and go. You can feel the Miata’s more powerful 140-horsepower engine. The five-speed manual is one of the most precise units I’ve ever experienced, with short throws and a stubby shifter that can be manipulated with just a flick of the wrist. A four-speed automatic is also available, but it defiles the spirit of the Miata. As in any proper sports car, you sit low to the ground, finding yourself looking up into such unlikely cars as the Toyota Corolla. Let’s face it: a Lincoln Navigator will not just crash into you, it will drive over you.
Handling is excellent, but the ride is stiff. There’s a sports package that includes larger wheels and a tighter suspension, but it’s largely unnecessary and further worsens the ride. DO get the popular equipment package, which includes cruise control and a windblocker. Without them, the buffeting inside the cabin with the top down and the too-close-to-you accelerator make even moderately long trips tiring. Our car, unfortunately, lacked this package.
At approximately $10,000 less than the BMW Z3, its closest competitor, you don’t have to be rich to experience the passion.
For more information contact 1-800-639-1000
Type: 2-Door Roadster
Engine: 140- horsepower, 1.8 liter inline 4
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual
EPA Mileage: 25 city/29 highway
Tested Price: $22,450
The situation with the pedal placement is the same problem I had with my sister’s 1985 CRX – the accelerator was too close, but if I moved back, the clutch was too far away to push in all the way. Considering the number of people who have bought and enjoyed both cars, I’m wondering if it’s a physical-build issue. I’m average height with a long torso and short legs. Is that the problem? Anyone else ever have this problem?
Thank you for sharing your perspective on this fun looking automobile that I hope to drive someday. I assume the reliability is pretty good to boot! Thank goodness for cruise control being an option.
I had one of these, in red. It was a terrific car and, although some derided its appearance as too feminine, I thought it was just right, certainly better than the next generation which, to me, was bland.
The one thing about the styling that I didn’t think was too great was that dumb trunk hump. I guess it was there to accomodate the CHMSL but it seems like they could have come up with a better solution to keep the trunk lid flat.
“… I’m average height with a long torso and short legs. Is that the problem? Anyone else ever have this problem? … ”
Hi Adam, As a friend once said, “Average is an odd concept; put one foot in boiling water and the other in ice water, and on average, you’re comfortable”.
I wear 34 inch inseam jeans and stand (or used to stand) about 6′ 1″.
In my 1999 silver Miata I fit just about as well as one could hope in such a small car and I need to stretch my left foot in order to floor the clutch. My driver’s seat is always all the way back and reclined as far as possible up against the rear bulkhead.
In prefer to use the Tacoma on high speed interstate trips because the noise and harshness of the MX-5 gets old fast – and this is with the 14″ wheels that permit the use of tires with a good amount of cushioning sidewall.
As noted in chapter 13 of my COAL series, I bought the Miata in November 1998 (there was no 1998 Miata, the 1999 Miata NB-1 came out in March of 1998) and is probably one of many such lightly used vehicles that old guys keep in garages for use on twisty back roads when the mood and weather is just right, like Walt Kowalski’s dark green 1972 Gran Torino Sport.
I don’t think Walt took his Torino on any twisty back roads, but I get the idea :-).
I was probably still 5’8″ when I drove this Miata, with a 30″ inseam, but it sounds like you have the same problem. Maybe it just bugs me more than most. I did sit in a new Miata recently, and the pedals were in a more comfortable position than in the NB.
I’m 5’9″ with a 33″ inseam and have the same problem in my NB Miata. The most uncomfortable car I’ve ever driven with this problem was an ’88 Plymouth Horizon with the power brake pedal far too far forward, and an accelerator pedal that was difficult to reach from most any position.
I too owned this gen Miata. My parents used it for a number of years and 150,000 some miles before “upgrading” to the third gen. My dad really misses the NB2. It did beat you up though. Ours had the sport package and wow, after a long ride you’d be stiff!
His third-gen is more like a Crown Vic comparatively – it’s the touring edition with soft suspension, leather, heated seats, this one is also an automatic. So it’s pretty night and day from our 2003.
I kept the old NB2 for about a year but my wife was too scared to ride in it anywhere except around town. We live in an intermediate-sized town in Iowa – not feasible to just drive around town. I sold it privately and bought a 1993 Supra.
“ I’m average height with a long torso and short legs. Is that the problem?”
I am the opposite here, and it certainly can be a problem. A somewhat famous quote applies to me in that “I’ve got more legs than a bucket of chicken”, and I’m 6’2 with a 30 inch waist, 145 lbs. soaking wet (Apparently I survive on water and cigarettes). 30/36 is a practically nonexistent size unless you order your clothes. There are some cars where I just don’t fit. This generation Miata is one of them, and I wanted one something fierce. Not happening. The third generation was much better, but still uncomfortable to the point of no sale. Whatever. A convertible in Minnesota is a bad idea anyway. Mazda should be happy in that I got my parents hooked on their CX-5.
I also had a ’99 Miata in this silver color with black cloth interior and black top.
While I usually loved driving the car it was really not a good choice for me as during winter on snow it does not go, stop or turn and I did have to sometimes use it in the winter.
There was a very un-Japanese quality issue with the car too. The backlite glass detached from the top – became “unglued”. This was after 3 years of very limited driving/miles and of course Mazda wouldn’t fix it. So I fixed it as best I could (“gorilla glue”) and traded it on a used Mercedes CLK that I liked better.
I was soured on Mazda but did buy other (larger) roadsters in subsequent years.
I once owned a first generation Miata and loved it but now find that I prefer the looks of this, the second generation (NB) one more. i.e. if I was to get another Miata it would most likely be of this generation, as I think the styling has aged better.
Other than that there really isn’t a bad Miata except perhaps an automatic one and then in large part only because you are denying yourself one of the best shifters out there.
Succinct and to the point review, nice work!
”but it takes a trained eye to spot the changes.“ … nope. The only sheet metal the NA and NB shared was the window frame. Here’s my 2000 LS, I’m the original owner, this photo is from last year. 107,000 miles. Still a pleasure to drive on A1A and road trips to the Keys!
While it’s true that no body panels are shared, only car people, like anyone who visits this site, will be able to distinguish the two cars immediately. You would have to have the two cars side-by-side for non-car people to be able to tell an NA from an NB. They are a lot more similar visually than, say, an R107 and an R129 SL Mercedes.
By the way, beautiful car, and I envy you having a roadster in my old South Florida stomping grounds. I never even had a car with a sunroof when I lived there.