Versus the competiton:
It’s totally impractical for families. It makes little sense in snowy climes. For the same money, you could put a down payment on a vacation home in the Ozarks. But there will always be a special place in our garage for the Mazda Miata. We’re just not sure the new M Edition is the right Miata for us.
She: That’s M for “mega-bucks,” right? The Miata used to be a great car when the base price was only $13,000. It’s still not a bad deal at $18,000. But I find it hard to justify spending $25,000 on a two-seat roadster, even one as pretty as the M Edition.
He: This is a dangerous precedent, sweetheart. I think we may actually agree on something for a change. When you put the M Edition in context, that is, alongside the $29,000 BMW Z3, it’s just not worth the money.
She: Don’t put words in my mouth. The basic design of the Miata may be a few years old, but it’s held up well against the competition. And the Z3 is really its first direct rival. I think the Miata has a breezier feel than the BMW, which looks intimidating. The Miata just seems more in keeping with the heritage of those classic British roadsters of the Fifties and Sixties. You know me. I’m the one who’s always careful to use sunscreen, even in April. But I had the top down nearly every day on the Miata. It’s absolutely carefree, where the BMW is so, I don’t know, Germanic.
He: Gee, don’t you think I’m Germanic and carefree?
She: And intimidating. Especially on your exercise bike.
He: Low blow. The Miata is still a terrific car to drive – not overpowering, but not terribly demanding either. It’s still fairly simple to operate, and even the fancy M Edition, with all its extra equipment, doesn’t come with all that many bells and whistles.
She: The Miata felt more nimble and easier to maneuver than the Z3. I just had a riot driving it. And I loved the dark blue paint – they call it Starlight Mica – with the tan interior. Whoever put that combination together had the eye of a Laura Ashley.
He: And apparently the same budget. It’s great to have stuff like leather upholstery, air conditioning, a CD player and full power accessories, but it seems kind of like that’s going against the minimalist spirit of the original Miata. And I’m not sure I want to spend another $6,000 to get all those extras on the M Edition.
She: Not when you consider how good the regular Miata is. It’s not very practical; you’re not going to squeeze much more than a few bags of groceries into that tiny trunk. And I wouldn’t want to drive down to my sister’s place in West Virginia in a Miata. It’s lots of fun, though, for bopping around town and weekend cruising.
He: Mazda clearly has put some thought into the mechanics. On the M Edition, you get such performance goodies as four-wheel power disc brakes, gas-pressurized shocks, power rack-and-pinion steering and 195/50R-15 performance radial tires on 15-inch alloy wheels. There’s also a Torsen limited-slip differential, which helps the rear-wheel drive negotiate slick pavement, and neat driver-oriented gear like full analog gauges, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Nardi wood shift knob.
She: One small complaint. It was a nice touch on Mazda’s part to add the wooden shift knob and hand brake lever on the M Edition. It would have been even nicer if they’d matched the wood on both.
He: That does seem funny on a special edition that’s essentially a tarted-up version of the real thing. Nor does the M Edition do much to address the Miata’s shortcomings, including its limited cargo capacity and unsuitability for winter driving.
She: It reminds me of those cute high-heeled tennis shoes I’ve been seeing all summer. I can’t see anybody slogging through the slush this winter in those shoes. The Miata is kind of the same principle – strictly a novelty, a second or third vehicle that will spend a lot of time in the garage. I’d be terrified to be stuck in that car in a blir .
He: I’m guessing that if you have young kids, or even kids in college, the M Edition will be hard to justify to your spouse or partner.
She: It’s a total indulgence. If you can afford to spend $4,000 on a week at a fancy spa, I suppose it would be no problem. But unless you have that kind of money to burn, $25,000 is just too much to pay for the M Edition.
1996 Mazda Miata M Edition
Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-passenger roadster.
Price: Base, $24,760; as tested, $25,210 (inc. $450 destination charge).
What’s new for ’96: New limited-edition model for ’96.
Standard equipment: Leather bucket seats, center console with lockable storage compartment, tinted glass, 195/50R-15 performance radial tires, four-wheel power disc brakes, gas-pressurized shocks, air conditioning, Torsen limited-slip differential, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Nardi wood shift knob, Starlight Mica paint, premium sound system with CD player, keyless entry/alarm, sport gauges, power windows, power steering, power mirrors, power antenna, cruise control, alloy wheels, headrest speakers, M Edition logos and badges.
Safety features: Dual front air bags, antilock brakes.
Options on test vehicle: None.
EPA fuel economy: 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway.
Engine: 1.8-liter I-4; 133-hp at 6500 rpm; 114 lb-ft torque at 5500 rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
Competitors: BMW Z3.
Specifications: Wheelbase, 89.2 inches; overall length, 155.4 inches; curb weight, 2293 pounds; legroom, 42.7 inches; headroom, 37.1 inches; shoulder room, 50.4 inches.
12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $978
* Rates based on an average family of four from the Livonia area whose primary driver is aged 40 with no tickets who drives 3-10 miles each way to work. Rates reflect multicar discount and, where appropriate, discounts for air bags and seat belts.
Where built: Hiroshima, Japan.