I may have written the First Drive review for Motor Authority, but I wasn’t the only member of the Internet Brands Automotive team at the 2016 Mazda MX-5 press drive in Westlake Village, California. We were lucky enough to have five journalists at the event, including one former first-gen Miata owner, Marty Padgett. Here we present each writer’s take on the fourth-generation of Mazda’s delightful little roadster.
I'll take the driver's seat here as the voice of the Miata purist. From 1995 to 1999, I owned one of the originals, a red 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata, with a few options (power windows, headrest speakers), bought secondhand from a fanatic who only clocked 27,000 miles before me.
I drove the hell out of that little red car in the brief interlude I called a freelance career. Up and down the east coast, from Atlanta to Washington, stuffed to its gills with luggage and pets. It was a terrible long-distance car, so loud the radio was an afterthought, so cramped I stopped every hundred miles to reset my hips.
But for the "final mile" of driving at either end of an interstate slog, it was a diamond, pure, brilliant. Nothing steers like the original Miata. Nothing comes close to extracting as much pure driving joy out of an undulating country road.
After driving the new ND Miata, I can already pinpoint where OG NA fans will pick nits. Some of the differences with the ur-Miata make it a better car to drive, but stray further from that elusive first-gen mechanical harmony. The snicky, stubby little shifter from 1990? It's supplanted by a sweet-shifting gearbox with a lever motion that's technically, vastly superior in its shift action--but it's been shorn of the tactile pleasure of having to wait out the original's half-second of reluctance.
This new Miata rides like a car two sizes larger, it's so well-isolated. The doors are higher at my shoulder. You can carry out a conversation at 70 mph on a crowded freeway. It's an adult version of the toy car I used to grow into my twenties.
By the time I sent my MX-5 to a new home--I found a really nice farm for him to live on, I swear--every body panel had been repaired and repainted. Other drivers, including a dump truck and a duallie, casually elbowed it aside at highway speeds a couple of times. I'd replaced the top with a new one sporting a glass window, so no more dumb-ass friends could poke a hole in the plastic window crack, turning it from a nuisance into a $500 shop bill.
I gave it a next life with only 54,000 miles on the clock, and have regretted its drive-off regularly ever since.
New-car press drives always are tougher when you've owned the car in question. The new roadster's definitely rekindled my MX-5 love, but the Miata I want lives on a Craigslist classified ad yet to be found.
The search goes on.