2003 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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Key Specs

of the 2003 Mazda MX‑5 Miata. Base trim shown.

2003 Mazda MX-5 Miata Overview

By Cars.com Editors
Vehicle Overview
Mazda is the automaker most responsible for the sports-car revolution of the 1990s, and the Miata continues to provide driving entertainment at a moderate price. For 2003, Mazda’s rear-wheel-drive two-seat sports car gains newly standard P205/45WR16 tires on aluminum wheels. A new performance package is available for serious racing, but the automaker plans to produce only 50 of these models.

Base and LS editions remain available, and a six-speed-manual transmission may be installed. Miatas could be facing a significant reworking in 2004.

At the Chicago Auto Show in February 2002, Mazda introduced two limited-production Miatas, the Shinsen and Special Edition. The Shinsen edition (which translates to “new and fresh”) features Titanium Gray Metallic paint, a dark blue cloth top and matching cloth bucket seats. A Convenience Package that offers tweeter speakers, power door locks, cruise control and remote keyless entry is included. Based on the Miata LS, Mazda's Special Edition is painted Strato Blue Mica with a gray top and is equipped with gray leather-trimmed seats, a six-speed gearbox, a chrome fuel door and unique 16-inch alloy wheels. Both the Shinsen and Special Edition went on sale in February 2003.

Exterior
Loosely patterned after an older British Lotus Elan two-seater, the Miata body still exhibits an amalgamation of curves that are offset by few straight lines. The manual-folding fabric top has a glass back window with a defogger. ...
Vehicle Overview
Mazda is the automaker most responsible for the sports-car revolution of the 1990s, and the Miata continues to provide driving entertainment at a moderate price. For 2003, Mazda’s rear-wheel-drive two-seat sports car gains newly standard P205/45WR16 tires on aluminum wheels. A new performance package is available for serious racing, but the automaker plans to produce only 50 of these models.

Base and LS editions remain available, and a six-speed-manual transmission may be installed. Miatas could be facing a significant reworking in 2004.

At the Chicago Auto Show in February 2002, Mazda introduced two limited-production Miatas, the Shinsen and Special Edition. The Shinsen edition (which translates to “new and fresh”) features Titanium Gray Metallic paint, a dark blue cloth top and matching cloth bucket seats. A Convenience Package that offers tweeter speakers, power door locks, cruise control and remote keyless entry is included. Based on the Miata LS, Mazda's Special Edition is painted Strato Blue Mica with a gray top and is equipped with gray leather-trimmed seats, a six-speed gearbox, a chrome fuel door and unique 16-inch alloy wheels. Both the Shinsen and Special Edition went on sale in February 2003.

Exterior
Loosely patterned after an older British Lotus Elan two-seater, the Miata body still exhibits an amalgamation of curves that are offset by few straight lines. The manual-folding fabric top has a glass back window with a defogger. The back window can be raised or lowered from the driver’s seat without undue twisting. A wind-blocker panel is included. A $1,500 detachable hardtop and a $295 rear spoiler are optional.

The fully independent suspension includes double wishbones, coil springs and stabilizer bars. Separate suspension packages with Bilstein shock absorbers are available for each model.

Interior
Cloth-upholstered bucket seats hold both occupants. Because it’s only 4 feet tall to the top of the roof, occupants have to drop down into their snug-fitting seats. The driver faces a simple dashboard, with all of the controls and gauges within easy reach.

Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, intermittent wipers, a CD player, power antenna, tachometer, digital clock and theft-deterrent system. The LS version adds leather seating surfaces, cruise control, power door locks, a Torsen limited-slip differential, remote keyless entry and a 200-watt Bose CD stereo system with four speakers.

Under the Hood
All models carry Mazda’s 1.8-liter dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. It develops 142 horsepower and teams with a standard five-speed-manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. A six-speed manual is optional on the Miata LS.

Safety
Side-impact airbags are not available, but antilock brakes are optional on the Miata LS. Dual second-generation front airbags include a key-operated deactivation switch for the passenger side. Miatas have seat belt pretensioners and force limiters.

Driving Impressions
Created for fun, the Miata is just as enjoyable to drive today as it was more than a decade ago. The ride can be a bit stiff, which causes the roadster to bounce a bit when traversing rougher pavement, but nothing seems to detract from the enriching sports-car experience. Engine noise is noticeable and performance lags behind some rivals, but the traditional-looking Miata still ranks as the one to beat.

Although the snappy-shifting manual gearbox and positive clutch behavior add to the driving pleasure, even a good thing can become tedious in heavy traffic. This roadster is snug inside, and getting into the seat may be a bit of an ordeal if the top is up.

 
Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com
Posted on 3/26/03

Latest 2003 MX-5 Miata Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.8)
Performance
(4.4)
Interior Design
(4.5)
Comfort
(4.0)
Reliability
(4.8)
Value For The Money
(4.8)

What Drivers Are Saying

(4.0)

2012 Miata

by squidwar from west milford , nj on August 23, 2018

I went from a Mazda2 to a Miata - so much more power - let's just say I don't have to turn off the AC to go uphills anymore. Everything is so much tighter, shifts smooth and effortlessly. Read full review

(5.0)

Such a fun car to drive

by Suzie q from Cape coral, fl on August 13, 2018

Love my Miata. Have had no problems with it and it is such a joy to drive. Would highly recommend this car fpr someone who commutex over back roads. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2003 Mazda MX-5 Miata currently has 1 recall

NHTSA Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2003 Mazda MX-5 Miata Cloth

NHTSA rates vehicles using a star rating system from 1-5 stars, with 5 being the highest.

Overall Rollover Rating
5 Star
Driver's
4 Star
Passenger's
5 Star
Side Barrier Rating Driver
3 Star
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. NHTSA provides vehicle safety information such as front- and side-crash ratings and rollover ratings. Vehicles are rated using a star rating system from 1-5 stars, with 5 being the highest.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The MX-5 Miata received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker