1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Available in 1 styles:  MX-5 Miata 2dr Convertible shown
Asking Price Range
$3,099–$9,555
Estimated MPG

25 city / 29 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 8

By 

Orlando Sentinel
It seems hard to believe that the Mazda Miata has been making us smile for 10 years.

Time flies.

And now, thanks to a spunkier engine, so does the 1999 Miata.

The folks at Mazda aren't letting the anniversary of the most popular sports car since the famous British MG go unnoticed. They've created a special version of the Miata that turns heads for several reasons.

You can't miss its luxurious sapphire blue paint job, blue suede seats, blue convertible top and special chrome wheels.

You also can't miss the eyebrow-raising price tag. There's never been a Miata so expensive.

Generally, I don't care for "limited edition" cars with a bunch of tacked on cosmetic goodies. But the 10th Anniversary Miata is much more than that. The beauty of this car goes deeper than its curvaceous body.

Performance, handling

For the 1999 model year, all Miatas benefit from an extensive overhaul of the raspy inline, 1.8-liter, double overhead cam engine. The cylinder head has been redesigned, and the fuel intake system has been improved. The result: Horsepower is up from 133 last year to 140 this year.

This punchy little engine doesn't act its size. Motor Trend magazine recently clocked a Miata doing 0-to-60 mph in 7.9 seconds. But drive the car, and you'd swear it's faster.

As always for a Miata, the engine doesn't run as smoothly and quietly as the motor in a regular car. It's a bit loud, and the exhaust pipe makes an ambitious cackle when the car is revved. You'd expect nothing less in a true sports car.

Mechanically, the 10th Anniversary Miata differs from the standard issue version in a couple of ways. First, it's the only Miata ever offered in the United States with a six-speed manual gearbox. All other Miatas come standard with a five-speed manual or the optional four-speed automatic transmission.

The sixth gear lets the engine run a little slower at highway cruising speeds, but it doesn't really add much to the car's overall performance. In fact, the sixth gear makes shifting into reverse a bit of a chore. You have to grab the shifter hard and push it all the way left and then pull it down hard to get it into reverse.

Still, after a decade, there still is no car with a stick shift that is more fun to drive in the first five gears. The stubby little shifter -- wrapped in a special two-tone cover -- clicks swiftly into each gear. The clutch pedal is smooth and light. The car is just a blast to drive. And this year, the engine makes enough power so that if you rev the engine high enough, you can make the rear tires chirp wh en shifting into second gear.

I did that a few times during my week with the Miata and startled a few young turks in hopped-up Honda Civics.

The suspension system is another area where the 10th Anniversary Miata is different. It has a very firm four-wheel independent suspension system with high-performance Bilstein shock absorbers. This helps keep the car under control when cornering, but you'll be punished rather severely when you drive over bumps. The car shakes and shudders, and road noise is fairly loud.

With the Miata's aggressive new looks and pumped up performance, it reminded me in some ways of the mighty Dodge Viper. So I nicknamed the car "baby Viper." A bit of a stretch, I know.

Fit and finish

Everything about the 10th Anniversary Miata is special -- even the key, which has a blue p lastic grip to m atch the paint and upholstery. Though it's hard to justify such an outrageous price, you have to be impressed with the attention to detail. Mazda obviously tried hard to make this car unique.

For instance:

The bucket seats have blue suede inserts.

The Nardi steering wheel and shifter knob are two-toned -- blue and black.

The convertible top is blue.

There's a wind-blocker to reduce buffeting in the cockpit.

A special badge on the left front fender tells what number the car is (ours was 1,462 out of 7,500).

The car has built-in fog lights and a body molding kit that gives it a more sinister look.

And that hardly scratches the surface. There's a full array of luxury features, including a CD player and cruise control. Curiously, though, air conditioning and anti-lock brakes are still optional.

All Miatas were redesigned for 1999. The trunk is not bad for a tiny car. I was able to put two good-sized boxes in it. But space is at a premium. Long-legged types may find the Miata tough to squeeze into and hard to get comfortable in. However, interior room is slightly better on the 1999 models.

Such things as power windows, mirrors and door locks make driving the Miata a breeze.

Those without such a large budget will be pleased to know that a base model Miata still starts at about $20,000 -- placing it well below BMW and Mercedes sports cars.

I've tested the Miata almost every year since it has been out. I didn't like it much at first, because I thought it was such a blatant rip-off of MG and Triumph sports cars of the past.

But over time I've discovered it's impossible not to like the Miata. Regardless of its heritage -- let's face it, Japan isn't known for its roadsters -- the Miata is what is: the best sports car on the planet for under $30,000.

And sometime this year when sales pass 550,000, the Miata should surpass the 1963-81 MGB as the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car of all-time.

1999 Mazda Miata 10th Anniversary Edition

Base price: $26,875. Safety: Dual air bags and side-impact protection. Price as tested: $28,225. EPA rating: 24 mpg city/29 mpg highway. Incentives: None.


    Expert Reviews 2 of 8

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