Classic CARmentary: 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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?