Miata magic for 27 years
Since it bowed, Mazda has always said all of its products have “the soul of a sportscar”. And that soul can nowhere better be found than in the MX-5 GS Sport.
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: You can still have loads of fun and not get in trouble.
- What’s Worst: Needs a little more grunt. Perhaps the 148 hp, 2.5-litre four-cylinder Skyactiv engine might fit nicely.
- What’s Interesting: After some 27 years no other manufacturer has seriously tried to field a competitor – never imitated and never duplicated.
This has got to be some kind of record.
Every year since the Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster debuted in 1989 as a 1990 model, I’ve driven a new model each and every year for 27 straight years.
I find this one little car is what “motoring” is all about.
With just enough power to have fun but not enough to get you in trouble, the MX-5 as Mazda likes to call it (but the Miata as it always will be to me), satisfies the senses while being attainable by the masses.
But I have to tell you, owning a two-seater in the middle of the last century was more than just owning a car.
It was freedom.
In a world of frumpy domestic sedans and wagons, and later lurid muscle cars that always seemed just plain stupid to me, heading out around midnight in my Sunbeam Alpine with the stars all aglow above me and driving Essex County – that was something I cherish to this day.
And I don’t know how many times over the last 26 years I’ve done the same thing in a Miata.
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I have a colleague who recently bought a used Miata as a treat to himself. Often at night, he too slips out to the garage and just takes off for an hour or two.
The first one I ever drove was the original 1990 model in French Mariner Blue paint and mock Minilight 13-inch wheels.
To this day, no vehicle I’ve ever driven has gotten the reaction of that first Miata.
Kids screaming “great car” or other motorists given the hi-sign or people just walking up to admire off the street, the Miata hit a sweet spot.
And it also hit a sweet spot with consumers — being officially the largest selling sportscar in history.
That first Miata was powered by a meager 1.6-litre inline twin-cam four-cylinder with just 115 hp and 100 lb/ft of torque.
That was replaced early one by a twincam 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder, which today benefits from Mazda’s fuel saving Skyactiv technology for 155 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque driving the real wheels through a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission.
Tested here is perhaps the most desirable model, the mid-trim GS trim with the Sport Package.
The GS already comes standard with Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Hill Launch Assist (HLA), push button start, air conditioning with manual climate control, steering wheel mounted cruise control, tilt steering, LED daytime running lights and headlights with LED signature lighting, automatic headlight leveling, LED rear combination lights, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary audio inputs, cloth seats, 6-way manual driver’s seat, sport suspension with Bilstein shocks, Limited Slip Differential (LSD), rain-sensing wipers, seven-inch colour touchscreen display with Mazda Connect and HMI Commander, navigation system and body colour interior side door trim.
The $4,400 Sport Package adds 17-inch BBS forged alloy wheels (dark finish), Brembo front brakes (opposed piston design/unique rotor), red painted front and rear brake calipers and heated Recaro sport seats that are leather and Alcantara trimmed.
In short, the Sport comes fully loaded and ready to go, which is just what I did for a week.
I think I travelled more than 1,000 km with the top down all the way over a variety of roads from super highways to cottage lanes.
Closing the manual top is just a matter of reaching behind you and pulling forward until the centre clasp engages and then all you need is to clamp it shut.
The six-speed manual is a treat, with spring loading making the next shift up or down a snap. You can tell the clutch loading has been tuned and honed by Mazda engineers who I personally know love working on this car.
And then there are the lines.
Tom Matano, who penned the design of the first and second generation Miata has become a friend of mine and he was there with me when the new, fourth generation MX-5 was unveiled two years ago.
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I’ll always remember him exclaiming, “They nailed it.”
And he was right. From the side and especially the rear, you can mistake the MX-5 for a Jaguar F-Type roadster.
At a list price of $39,700 (not including $1,795 shipping) it may not have the power of the similarly sized Porsche 718 2.0-litre 300 hp Boxster at $63,900, but it sure has the same instant response to steering, throttle and ride inputs.
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Another plus of the MX-5 is its relative simplicity. When it comes to DIY things such as changing the brake pads, the parts are readily available.
Since it bowed, Mazda has always said all of its products have “the soul of a sportscar”.
And that soul can nowhere better be found than in the MX-5 GS Sport.
Mazda MX-5 GS Sport 2016
BODY STYLE: Compact roadster
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 2.0-litre, 16-valve, DOHC four-cylinder (155 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque); six-speed manual, six-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium recommended) Manual as tested, 8.8/6.9L/100 km city/highway.
CARGO: 130 litres
TOW RATING: Not recommended
PRICE: Base, $35,300; as tested, $41,495 including $1,795 shipping fee