Blip the throttle – a muted growl responds – snick the short throw shifter into first, release the clutch and she surges eagerly forward – smoothly into second and she leaps ahead – a smile creeps to your lips – on to third and round a bend, she is glued to the road – fourth and a breeze envelopes you – fifth and you sense the road surely through the leather-wrapped wheel – exhilaration flows as you ease this little sports car through her paces and round the next bend. The open sky and the sun dancing off the bonnet – this is what driving a sports car is really about.
These sensations confirm why this sports car has been lauded by automotive writers the world over. They often say its the most fun to drive per dollar of any car on the road. Quite a claim for an upstart from Japan but almost a million drivers can’t be wrong. Yes,its the Mazda MX5 Miata.
But what is it exactly that engenders such broad admiration by sports car enthusiasts?
Is it the engine? A four cylinder with inline overhead cam and electronic fuel injection designed specifically for sports driving which loves to rev. The car is amazingly light with a low drag coefficient and mated with a wonderfully smooth manual gear box with five (or optionally – six) forward gears making it easy to find the ratio that’s just right for any road condition or speed.
The suspension? Four-wheel independent with anti-roll bars front and rear ensure a firm grip.
The seats? Two unassuming cloth buckets – but they are cooler and softer than leather and the seat and back bolsters fit and hold so well round the bends evidence ergonomic care in design.
Or is it the top? Any convertible has a certain fun factor but the second generation of this roadster’s top has a heated glass rear window so no plastic to fade and crack. It provides good all round visibility and is light enough to be easily dropped or raised in 30 seconds from the drivers seat.
Or the options? These included the rich sound of a Bose stereo CD player, power windows, mirrors and door locks, a Nardi leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob which fit the hand brilliantly.
But now, which one to buy? They are all great fun if in good shape. While purists insist on the first series car produced from 1989 to 1997 distinguished by its pop up head lamps, many prefer the second series built from 1999 to 2004 due to its improved aerodynamics, enhanced 1.8 L engine with domed pistons, optional 15 inch alloy wheels and performance tires.
The cost for a second generation MX5 currently starts at about US$4000 but a good one with options can easily fetch twice that. Still with virtually no depreciation for the earlier production cars (and clean examples are beginning to gradually appreciate in value) the biggest cost of ownership is happily avoided and these sports cars are both simple and robust, so maintenance costs are low.
All this and the car’s unmistakable purity of line add up to an iconic sports car which is affordable and great fun to get out in and enjoy.