The Mazda MX-5 Miata is a rare breed as it is a roadster and an affordable one at that. While other manufacturers have tried to succeed in this niche segment, only Mazda has shown staying power. First introduced for the 1990 model year, the diminutive two-seat Miata is now in its fourth generation.
2016 to Present: Mazda MX-5 Miata
The fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata was introduced for the 2016 model year. Although having nearly the same dimensions as the previous model, Mazda employed various methods to shave about 200 pounds from the Miata’s curb weight.
Three trim levels are available: Sport, Club and Grand Touring. All models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission or an available six-speed automatic.
Mazda’s Kodo (Soul of Motion) design language has been applied to the MX-5 Miata, giving this model its most aggressive look so far. The roadster’s sporty front fascia is marked by a near-oval grille, sleek headlamps and stylish embrasures housing the fog lamps.
A muscular hood, strong shoulders, large wheel wells and profile character lines are present. From bumper to bumper, the profile rises and falls repeatedly, giving it a distinct wavelike appearance. At the rear, the sleek taillight assemblies are amplified by circular brake lamps. A trunk lip spoiler and embrasures with distinct cut lines magnify the backup lights.
Inside, the MX-5 Miata is as snug as any car comes. Improved canting for the windshield makes getting in and out easier for taller drivers than it was in earlier models. The latest Miata also lowered the seat by 1 inch and pushed it slightly back, increasing legroom and hip support with it.
Instrumentation hearkens to a classic sports car era with three oval analog displays present and the tachometer placed in the center. Gauges for fuel and temperature are given reduced prominence. All models are supplied with air conditioning, power windows and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The base six-speaker audio system in the Sport gives way to a nine-speaker Bose audio system elsewhere. Black cloth seats in the Sport and Club edition are replaced by heated leather seats in the Ground Touring model. The Grand Touring model also brings in a navigation system, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
Even as the interior is snug, the trunk offers just 4.59 cubic feet of cargo room, or just enough space to hold two backpacks.
Only one other model on the market approaches the MX-5 Miata’s low price point: the Mini Roadster. However, production for this Mazda competitor ended in 2015. The Scion FR-S could also be considered, though that model is not offered as a convertible. Moving up market brings in the Nissan 370Z, as well as models from Europe, including the Audi TT and BMW X4.
Earlier Mazda MX-5 Miata Models
Four generations of MX-5 Miatas have been built, although some models are known simply as the Miata, while others wear the MX-5 badge only.
The first-generation Mazda Miata was built from 1990 to 1997. The second-generation Mazda MX-5 was built from 1999 to 2005. The third-generation MX-5 Miata was built from 2006 to 2015.
Upon its debut, the Mazda Miata offered a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and came paired with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Beginning in 1994, a new 1.8-liter engine was introduced with the same transmission choices as before.
The second-generation MX-5 is equipped with the same engine as the first-generation model, but engine output increased from 128 horsepower to 140 horsepower, then to 142 horsepower for 2001. For the 2004 and 2005 model years only, a special Mazdaspeed MX-5 edition was released, which is powered by a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making 178 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission.
The third-generation MX-5 Miata is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 170 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. These models are equipped with either a five- or six-speed manual transmission, depending on the trim. A six-speed automatic transmission is available.