The NC is the Forgotten Miata, but They're Worth Looking Into
When the 2006 MX-5 Miata dropped, it met with mixed headlines. Some drivers thought it was a grown up version of the original, others saw the heavier, softer car as a compromise of the original Miata's dedication to lightness and minimalism. Now, of course, the ND has further tarnished the NC's reputation, making it all but obsolete. But there are a few reasons why buying an NC may be more timely than ever.
The NC Miata, while it doesn't outrun the newest model, does benefit from a 2.0L engine with a 170bhp output, more than any model before, apart from the legendary MazdaSpeed. As a result, the NC takes the least time to get to 60mph, at 7.5 seconds.
The NC Miata may be the heaviest of the cars, but the weight is an issue on paper more than in practice. Most of the drivers who criticized its weight admitted that the car still had brisk, chuckable handling. This makes sense. Being heavier than an NA or NB does not exactly make a car overweight by default, and the NC still weighs in under 2500lbs.
What really separates the NC from the preceding generations is refinement. The NC Miata is a more friendly car to drive every day. The not-uncommon retractable hardtop cuts down on noise in a car which is already noticeably less noisy than the NA or NB. The ride is smoother, the seats are more comfortable, the amenities are more plentiful.
Sure, this is not what the Miata was designed to be, and it does seem to be a compromise. But for a compromise, its a damn good car. Especially if its a driver's only car. I made a couple of 12-hour long trips in my '99 NB, and the harsh ride and lack of room for a 6'2" driver made them pretty exhausting. The NC would have made them much more relaxing.
Mazda MX-5 Value
Now at this point, you might be saying "Sure, the NC could be a good option compared to the NA or NB, but what about the ND--one of the most critically acclaimed cars of the decade?" The ND is a better car. I'll say that now. But part of what that means is that the values of NCs when down precipitously after the ND came out.
If you were shopping for Miatas before 2016, the gap between an NB and an NC was pretty sizeable, largely due to the "latest model" effect. Now, NCs have dropped in price by a huge amount. I was amazed to find a 2015 (albeit with an insurance rebuilt title) MX-5 Miata Grand Touring with low miles for just $12k. Early NCs have dropped well into the four digit range for a good one. I argue that this makes them the best value among the Miatas available.
Start looking at Craigslist
It's a fair argument to make that the market has made the NC a better buy than it has ever been. It may be time for Mazda enthusiasts to open up their minds and start test driving some 2010s or 2006s. Craigslist is not short on NC options, so take a look what is in your area.