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Expert Reviews 1 of 10
By Jim Flammang
May 10, 2005
Vehicle Overview Ever since Mazda introduced the Miata as an early 1990 model, it's officially been known as the MX-5 Miata. Most sports-car fans, however, simply called it the Miata. The roadster has finally been redesigned after its debut for the 1990 model year, and the Miata designation is gone. The two-seater is now dubbed MX-5. Mazda will, however, still use the MX-5 Miata name when advertising the car.
Introduced in Switzerland at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2005, the MX-5 made its first North American appearance at the New York Auto Show a few weeks later. The 2006 MX-5 is larger than its predecessor but is similar to the original Miata in overall design and shape. The car's weight has increased by a mere 22 pounds.
The new MX-5 is intended to be natural and lively in its reactions. For the first time, seat-mounted side-impact airbags are installed as standard equipment.
A small run of 3rd Generation Limited models also was announced at the New York show. Only 3,500 will be available worldwide, and each will be identified by a numbered plate on the transmission tunnel and finished in Velocity Red Mica paint. Red leather seats are standard, and black leather is optional.
Exterior Like the original Miata, the MX-5's nose and tail are tapered. Mazda says the car's surfaces wrap smoothly between the wheels without narrowing. As a result, the cockpit is wider and promises greater hip room, shoulder room and elbowroom. Low, flowing belt lines are complemented by body panels that wrap around the nose and tail. Torsional rigidity has increased by 47 percent.
The redesigned MX-5's wheelbase has grown by 2.6 inches, its front track is 3.0 inches wider, and the rear track has increased by 2.6 inches. Moving the engine rearward by 5.3 inches is supposed to improve handling and balance. The roadster's weight distribution is an even 50/50, which should help deliver predictable responses. Rack-and-pinion steering takes only 2.6 turns lock-to-lock. The brake calipers are 25 percent stiffer, and the front discs are ventilated.
The folding fabric top incorporates a Z-fold design that uses a single, centrally positioned latch handle. The top fits flush in its lowered position, so a detachable boot cover isn't necessary. A removable hardtop is available.
Interior Two occupants fit inside the MX-5. The interior is highlighted with chrome and silver accents, and the driver faces a three-spoke tilt steering wheel. Coated glass covers the instrument cluster for easy visibility, even in direct sunlight. Steering-wheel audio and cruise controls are used.
Three compartments are built into the back wall of the cockpit, and one storage area locks. Pockets and bottle holders are positioned around the cockpit.
Under the Hood The MX-5's 2.0-liter four-cylinder develops 170 horsepower at 6,700 rpm. The engine operates with four valves per cylinder and has dual overhead camshafts and variable valve timing. Torque output is 140 pounds-feet at 5,000 rpm. Three transmissions are available: a five-speed manual, six-speed manual and six-speed automatic. The six-speed manual has especially short throws and triple-cone synchronizers for the first four gears. The engine's output dips by 4 hp when it's teamed with the six-speed automatic.