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Mazda MX-5 Miata Hits 900,000 Sold To Continue as Best Selling Roadster

The world may have always called it the Mazda MX-5 Miata, but the number-one selling roadster that just surpassed 900,000 in sales will always be the Mazda Miata here in the United States.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata has sold 900,000 units across the world since first being introduced at the Chicago Auto Show, which starts Feb. 11, back in 1989. Since its inception, it has sold 389,000 units in the United States.

The 500,000th MX-5 Miata was produced in 1999 and sold in the United States. In 2000, Guinness World Records recognized the MX-5 as the world’s top-selling sports car, a distinction that has been further solidified with every 100,000 additional units built in 2002, 2005 and 2007. The 900,000th unit is a soft-top, six-speed manual-equipped Copper Red MX-5, and destined for Germany, which makes sense when you consider the United States is the largest market for the MX-5 Miata.

The first-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata (1990-1997 model years) was equipped with a 1.6-liter, inline four-cylinder engine that produced 116 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque. Remember the days when 116 horsepower was considered a lot in a small car like this?

A removable hardtop was optional and initial color choices were red, white and blue. The starting price was $14,000, and early production of the affordable roadster could not meet demand.

A redesigned second-generation model was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1997 (model years 1999-2005 – there was no 1998 model-year car) and the third generation model was introduced at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2005 (model years 2006-present). If Mazda continues the trend, we’re probably not going to see a Mazda MX-5 Miata redesign until a 2012 auto show.

Currently equipped with an MZR-series 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder engine, today’s Mazda MX-5 Miata produces 167 horsepower (158 for automatic transmission) and delivers 140 lb-ft of torque. The soft-topped Sport model starts at $23,110 with top-level, Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT) Grand Touring models starting at $28,550.

A lot of the Miata’s appeal comes from its engine that is mounted front mid-ship for improved handling. Mazda engineers have also worked hard to keep the car’s weight down by using an aluminum hood and trunk lid, aluminum front control arms, aluminum rear uprights and rear calipers. The 2.0-liter engine has an aluminum block and head, the exhaust manifold is lightweight tubular steel instead of cast iron, and the intake manifold and cam cover are made from lightweight composite plastic.

What’s significant about the current-generation Miata is it is the most Americanized of the three generations. It is the first MX-5 Miata that somebody over 6’1” tall can comfortably drive. Those with inseams above 32 inches would find it an uncomfortable driving experience.

It’s the current generation Miata that adopted the worldwide name with its 2005 introduction. Before 2005, it was simply known as the Miata in the United States but Mazda made the move to go with the universal name, which practically nobody in the U.S. uses still.

The Miata was even the subject of a bad sitcom on CBS called “Yes Dear.” The nerdy Greg went out and bought one because he wanted a convertible over his wife’s wishes. Well, when he came home with it, everybody proclaimed, “That’s a chick car.”

Of course, true racing fans know the Miata is anything but a chick car. It would be pretty impossible to sell 900,000 if it was favored entirely by one gender. As Mazda has pointed out previously, the largest road-racing class in the U.S. is the SCCA’s Spec Miata class, with nearly 1,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America’s racetracks, “making it the most-raced production car in the world.” We can’t indendepently verify that claim, so we’ll just have to take Mazda’s word for it.

U.S. News & World Report’s Cars section did recently honor the Miata as a best car for the money in its sports car class. Nary a peep of complaint was heard from the motoring classes on that selection because it is a good value for decent performance and great handling.

Mazda Motorsports is best known for its RX-8 racing. It recently saw its first podium finish for the Mazda RX-8 Team led by actor Patrick Dempsey at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Dempsey and fellow drivers Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub and Tom Long raced to a third-place finish at the event. The team led six times for a total of 197 laps, Dempsey himself being the first of the four team drivers to lead. The team was leading when Tom Long spun on lap 512, at which time the car developed an electrical issue and failed to restart. The team dropped to fifth before recovering for a third-place finish – the first ever for the No 40 team and the best-placed Mazda in the race.

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