The Mazda MX-5 has always been referred to as the “spirit” of Mazda.
Though the nomenclature had been “dropped” by the company, most hardcore fans still refer to this little beast as the ‘Miata’.
What most folks don’t know is that the word ‘Miata’ actually means ‘reward’, which is fitting considering the fact that you feel rewarded after taking a speedy drive through the canyon.
Even after three decades of design changes and innovations, the idea of the Mazda MX-5 has remained the same. This tiny, rear-wheel drive roadster is still as lightweight and compact as ever.
The beauty of the Mazda MX-5 is that it gave normal, middle-class people a way to enjoy the fast lane. You could throw the top down, rev the engine, and head out for a day of pure, unadulterated fun. The value alone is probably what makes it the world’s best selling roadster of all time.
So just what is it that makes this car such a magical machine? Let’s dig in a little bit and find out!
The History Of the Mazda MX-5
The Mazda MX-5 debuted at the Chicago Auto Show back in February of 1989. It wasn’t until 1990 that the car went on the market in the United States. At a little bit over 2,000 pounds, it was one of the lightest sports cars around at the time, which was one of the biggest reasons that it became such a major influence for other major car manufacturers who were looking to get into the open-top car game.
As time went on and popularity grew, the company decided to put out the MX-5 (NB) in 1997, which would go out onto the market in 1999. Many special editions came to follow, including a Japanese coupe model and a top-tier, turbocharged model. After collecting the data in May of 2000, the Guinness Book of World Records named the Mazda MX-5 the “best-selling two-seater sports car of all time”.
In 2016, they broke another Guinness World Record when they produced their one millionth MX-5.
Technology and Innovations of the Mazda MX-5 – The Record-Breaking Two-Seater Sports Car
The new Mazda MX-5 has gone back to its roots in terms of design. The car looks a lot like it did when it was first released in the late ‘80s, though with a small dose of modern aesthetic. To help optimize the performance and handling, Mazda added 50/50 balance, providing drivers with the best possible weight distribution.
The car utilizes a SKYACTIV-G 2.0L engine that is lighter than ever, yet extremely powerful. Since its last iteration, it has lost about 141 pounds, making it one of the lightest MX-5s that the world has ever seen. The engine provides 181 hp, topping out at 7500 rpm.
This is all thanks to the lighter piston and connecting rod materials, as well as the increased spring valve rate. It is available in both automatic and manual transmission, its’ 6 speed manual transmission retaining the short-throw precision that MX-5 fans love.
In terms of aesthetic, drivers have a variety of colors to choose from, as well as two soft-top color options: black and brown. The sleek lines and soft-top are reminiscent of roadsters from the ‘60s, making this car a bit of a time machine. Still, Mazda utilizes the same round taillights that they used 30 years ago, though have added front-end LEDs to bring the car into the future.
A Timeline of the Mazda MX-5
- Mazda MX-5 (NA) – First Generation (1990-1998)
The Mazda MX-5 officially came out in 1990. The very first iteration sported a 1.6L I4 engine with 116 hp and 100 lb-ft torque, not very fast in today’s standards. It utilized rear-wheel drive and five-speed manual transmission, forcing drivers to really push the car into gear to help optimize the overall performance.
The first generation had a 0-60 time of 8.6 seconds with a top speed of 116 mph, which may not sound crazy now, but considering it was 1990 and the car weighed over 2,000lbs, it was pretty stupendous. In terms of aesthetic and optional design, Mazda did not offer much with the first generation. Drivers had the option to upgrade their limited-slip differential to optimize performance, as well as upgrade their soft-top to a hard-top cover that was removable.
Mazda released a couple special editions in 1993 and added a few features, including anti-lock brakes and a removable hardtop. They also added optional four-speed automatic transmission. In 1994, Mazda added in a 1.8L engine, bumping the horsepower of the car up to 128, which was very impressive. An added 1996 control unit added even more horsepower, taking it up to 133. They were finally forced to add airbags in the late first generation cars, which added about 300 pounds to the overall design.
- Mazda MX-5 (NB) – Second Generation (1999-2005)
As more and more crash safety standards came out in the industry, Mazda decided to get rid of the pop-up headlights, which were quite iconic at the time. In terms of the build, it was a bit wider than its predecessor, though added ample cargo space. About 50 pounds were added to the car overall.
The engine was the exact same 1.8L engine as the first generation, though thanks to the new high-compression ratio, the car was bumped up to 140 hp with 116lb-ft of torque. In 1999, Mazda equipped the new MX-5s with 5-speed manual transmission, effectively pumping up the original 0-60 specs, as the car was now able to hit 0-60 in eight seconds. Six-speed manual was also optional.
Mazda replaced their strange rear-zip windows with regular glass windows, as well as a modern defogger system. The 14-inch wheels were replaced with larger 15-inch wheels that helped to provide much better traction. They added in a retractable wind deflector to help get rid of the wind tunnel-like sensation when the car was in convertible mode.
In 2001, Mazda ripped out the front-end fascia headlights and replaced them with modern fog lights. The engine was also upgraded with a new exhaust system, effectively adding about 3 horsepower to the vehicle. Upgrades including 16-inch wheels were now available, and each MX-5 came with higher-quality seating and an improved instrument panel.
Finally, in 2004, Mazda came out with a turbocharged MX-5, increasing the horsepower from 143 to 178, which was a major jump. The car now had 166 lb-ft or torque, and came complete with new springs, high-quality Bilstein shocks, and 6-speed manual transmission. The wheels were upgraded even further to 17 inches.
- Mazda MX-5 (NC) – Third Generation (2006-2015)
The 2006 third generation MX-5 saw a solid increase in standard model horsepower, with 170 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque. It utilized a 2.0L engine, making the car about 100 pounds heavier than the previous model. Drivers now had 5-speed manual transmission, though could upgrade to six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, which utilized paddle shifters.
Some high-quality features were added, such as a hardtop that was power-retractable, as well as a new tilt-steering column to boost the overall performance. They redesigned the grille, taillights, and headlights. The engine was given a hefty upgrade, bringing it up to 7,200rpm, about a 500rpm increase. Unfortunately, as SAE power standards changed, the horsepower was diminished to 167.
The 2012 model utilized new traction and stability controls and the 2013 model got an exterior upgrade with a spoiler on the lip.
- Mazda MX-5 (ND) – Fourth Generation (2016-Present)
The Mazda MX-5 fourth generation was a surprising release, as the design was very similar to the old version. The 2.0L cut back on specs and reduced the power to 155 hp and 148lb-ft of torque. The weight was reduced to 2,300 pounds and the standard became six-speed manual transmission, though buyers could still choose to six-speed automatic if they liked.
One of the most prominent upgrades was the power-assisted steering, which up until then had been hydraulic-based. The interior saw some pretty big upgrades too with leather-wrapped components and more comfortable bucket seats.
In 2017, Mazda released a special RF version, which included a roof panel that was power-retractable. It could be neatly stowed away under the pillars on the rear. It did at about 113 pounds to the overall weight of the car, though helped to provide it with a sleek and modern aesthetic. In 2019, the max rpm was updated to top out at 7,500. They added a bunch of modern features, such as the backup camera and telescoping steering column. The 0-60 time was also upgraded to 5.7 seconds.
3,000 30th Anniversary Edition Cars came out in 2019 with a blistering orange color, gorgeous, dark Rays wheel, and excellent handling. They now plan on making convertible models available too.
Mazda MX-5 In the News
The current Mazda MX-5 cup is taking the racing world by storm! At the mere halfway point of the 2019 racing season, we are seeing one of the best races of this year so far. The Mazda cup racers are using the new and incredibly powerful ND2 Mazda Miata with 181 hp and 7,500 rpm.
There has been a recent recall of 2015 Mazda ND models, as the company has made concerns about a loose metal bracket under the hood of the car. So far, there have been 256 affected units that were. The loose metal bracket increases the overall risk of accident and injury. Affected vehicle owners may visit their Mazda dealers for free replacement.
Celebrities Endorsements of the Mazda MX-5
As one of the world’s most popular roadsters, you can expect that there are tons of celebrity owners. Jay Leno, one of the world’s biggest car collectors, can be seen in his Mazda MX-5 driving around LA. Some other famous Mazda MX-5 owners include Drew Carey, singer Michelle Shocked, and basketball coach Bob Hill.
Best Mazda MX-5 Groups
The Mazda MX-5 has some of the most-populated clubs and groups on Earth, thanks to the sheer fact that so many people own them and that they have been around for so long. One of the best places to search for an MX-5 club in your area is the Moss Miata. Here you can find information about clubs across the United States, complete with emails and site names so that they can be contacted!
If you’re looking for clubs across the world, we recommend visiting Miata Clubs Worldwide. Here you can find a community of dedicated Miata enthusiasts of which you can share information, insights, and passion with.
The Mazda MX-5 – The World’s Best Sports Car
There’s no question that the Mazda MX-5 is an automotive icon. Some might find that it is given too much credit for what it is capable of, though we believe that the versatility alone is what makes it so much fun to drive. Whether you want to take it on the race track or drive along the coast with the top down and the wind blowing in your hair, the Mazda MX-5 provides an experience like no other.
It may not be the fastest of the supercars out in the world, though there is something about it that seems far more engaging. Regardless of what you think, there seem to be more happy MX-5 owners than any car owners out there. And with all of that, we say cheers to the next 30 years of the Mazda MX-5. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.