In its last year of production in this form, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, America’s favorite roadster of all time, has earned one more well-deserved accolade. Car and Driver has again awarded the car a Top Ten spot, as it has done for eight straight years in a row. The Miata stands proudly next to the other Top Ten cars like the Porsche Boxster and Mustang Boss 302.
The current generation Mazda MX-5 Miata began as a mid-2006 model. That means this generation has been around now for a good seven years. That is crazy in car design, where 3 to 4 years is a typical full refresh period. The reason this car did so well for so long is partly design, and partly the competitive landscape.
Yes, the 2450 pound Miata is an unreal value at less than $10 per pound, yes it embarrasses much more costly, much more powerful cars at racetracks weekend in and weekend out, but part of its success was also thanks to the competition. Honda killed the S2000. The BMW Z4, which when it was originally invented as the Z3 was quite close to the Miata in specification, has morphed into a boulevard cruiser costing double what a Miata costs. Chrysler always hoped to have a small Miata-fighter, but had a little trouble making a profit for about a quarter century so couldn’t get it done. VW and Porsche have been sitting on a wonderful Miata-like roadster, but they are afraid if they produce it people will forget why they pay $90,000.00 for Boxster S’s with $7,400 ceramic brakes and clocks that cost $2300. Suffice it to say that the competition looked at the Miata and said, let’s compete elsewhere.
Jim O'Sullivan, president and CEO, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO put it well saying, "The MX-5 Miata sets the bar high on sports car performance and driving pleasure, which is not lost among its increasing fan base as the vehicle continues to be a world record holder as both the most popular two-seat roadster ever built and the most raced nameplate in motorsports."
Credit Mazda too with keeping the costs under control while still producing the car in Hiroshima, where the exchange rate hurts this import. It would have been easy to add a small turbo to the 2.0 liter engine and make the Miata a road rocket. But that isn’t its raison d'être. The Mazdaspeed 3 carries that torch and does it well. Mazda could have lathered on more expensive interior bits too like a Nav system and super stereo. Why bother though since drivers of Miatas want to be lost and they are driving with the radio off, top down. Mazda could have killed off this rear-drive platform like Honda did the S2000 for being too expensive to bother with and created another hybrid nobody wanted, but it didn’t. Instead it kept the Zoom-Zoom alive.
Times they are ‘a changin’ however, and to keep the Miata going Mazda is looking for a partner. The partner it is now courting makes Ferraris and Maseratis. It also makes the Fiat 500. Neither of those points is meant to make the reader hopeful about how this will turn out.
If you can’t understand why people are so passionate about this car watch the video below. If that doesn’t help, drive a Miata. Let us warn you though that that first corner is going to change the way you feel whenever you drive anything else forever.
Video courtesy of Youtube.com and CARandDriver
Photo by John Goreham