The Mazda MX5, or the MX-5 Miata in North America, is a two-seat, rear-wheel drive, front-engine roadster that was introduced in 1989. The MX5 may look similar to small Italian and British roadsters of the sixties, but it is a class on its own. Achieving a feat no other roadster has accomplished, this vehicle is hailed as the “best-selling, two-seat convertible in history.” As proof, more than 900,000 units have been sold around the globe as of 2011.
MX5’s design credo
The design behind the MX5 is based on a Japanese phrase “Jinba ittai.” This loosely translates to “rider, horse as one body,” which was what Mazda wanted to achieve: a perfect fusion between the rider or driver and the vehicle. This goal was successfully met by following core requirements throughout the three generations of the MX5.
1989-1999: Mazda NA
For the first-generation model, the MX5 was equipped with a1.6 L, four-cylinder, dual overhead cam inline engine that produced 100 lb/ft of torque. This was supported by an all-steel body shell and an aluminum hood. In the following years of the first generation, several engine, feature, and style upgrades were added. Several editions were also released to cater to different consumer needs. During its debut year, it was hailed as the Car of the Year by Wheels Magazine. And by 1994, 300,000 units were produced.
1998-2005: Mazda NB
The second-gen MX5 included a more powerful engine and a new exterior based on the third-gen Mazda RX-7. The retractable headlamps were replaced with fixed units, and the car became a bit wider and more aerodynamic. In 1999, a special edition was released to celebrate MX5’s 10th anniversary. The 10th Anniversary Model featured Blistein shocks, a six-speed transmission, and a sapphire blue mica exterior color.
In 2001, the MX5 received a facelift for a sportier look. The suspension and tires were also upgraded, helping the MX5 achieve a lateral grip of 0.91 g according to tests held by Car and Driver. Three years later, a turbocharged version was introduced in 2004. Equipped with an IHI RHF5 VJ35, the MX5 SE can reach 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. As such, this model has been used for rallying events in Australia.
2005-present: Mazda NC
The introduction of the fifth-gen MX5 received a positive response; it was the 2005 Car of the Year Japan Award recipient. The exterior is similar to its earliest predecessor, but most of its components were upgraded. The four-wheel double wishbone layout became a rear multilink/ front wishbone suspension. To improve drivability, stability and traction control were added. For the US market, the engine was swapped with a 2.0 L, 16-valve MZR I4.
Today, the MX5 continues to set the standards and earn praise. Among its many achievements is its inclusion in the yearly Ten Best List by Car and Driver magazine for a total of 14 times. With the plans for a fourth-gen (ND) version in the works, expect nothing but the best from this Japanese roadster.