1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Makes My Day

April 26, 2010

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You've seen the dyno and track numbers for our 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata, so you know it's slow and, um, slow. But even in its current tired, wornout state, this car makes me happy whenever I drive it. (And basically, I've been driving the car whenever JayKav isn't busy with it.)

This is the first time I've driven a first-generation MX-5. And though I'd hoped that first drive would come in a newer car, the fundamental goodness of the original Miata is evident in our project car. The engine doesn't do much in the acceleration department, but it sounds good, grunting obediently as you full-throttle it down the road.

Changing gears takes a deliberate, unhurried hand and smooth footwork (yes, especially going into 2nd), just as it did in our Ferrari 308 GTSi, but done right, it's still very satisfying. Even heel-and-toe downshifts are fun, though with the unadjustable steering wheel restricting movement of my leg, I really do have to get the throttle with my heel (rather than a lazy blip with the side of my foot). I guess I'd like it if I could tilt the steering wheel up a bit, but aside from that, at 5-foot-10, I fit perfectly in the car.

Steering response isn't exactly crisp, but there's a directness here that our 2006 MX-5 never had. Worn suspension bits keep the car from changing directions with much immediacy, but there's still a trustworthiness to the way the car behaves. Right now, a lot of it has to do with the nice new Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 tires, I'm sure. But every time I drive this car, I get the feeling that with some new stuff to hold it up, it would really be great. And I'm now giving serious thought to buying my own Miata project car.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 175,090 miles

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