1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long Term Road Test

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1997 Mazda Miata: Affordable Excellence!

January 19, 2012


I can't claim credit for the title. I was driving the Miata today and saw it on a highway billboard advertising ham ($23.99, if I recall correctly). Seems like an odd title and location to sell ham. "Affordable Excellence!" -- a better fit might be the name of a canned soda drink in Japan.

More pertinent to this post, it describes the handling capabilities of our Miata. It don't know the total dollar amount of parts we've put into the car to date, but there's no doubt that the Miata's handling capabilities come about cheaper than any other long-term car we've had in the fleet.

Thanks to the current jet stream pattern, California is getting spring-like weather this winter(California 1, Alaska 0). Therefore it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of climate change and head out to one of my favored driving roads to see what the Miata could do.

Answer: Quite a lot.

Seriously, this thing is gonzo. I've driven many of our high performance long-term cars on this road (R8, M3, Evo and NSX come to mind), and the Miata is more than a match. I went around corners at speeds equal (or maybe even a little greater at times) than I did in those cars, and the Miata was thoroughly unruffled. I might as well been asking Usain Bolt to run the 100 meters in 20 seconds.

The steering is tight and direct; dial in just a bit and the Miata responds eagerly. There's massive grip, too, from the Hankook 225/45R15 tires. In all honestly, the limits here are really well beyond what I'd want to try and match on public roads. One could now argue about how it's more fun to drive a slow car fast rather than the other way around. I dunno, this was still a pretty fun automotive outing. I really do envy Jay since he got to do the track day back in July. This car on a tight racetrack would be a blast.


I would say that the brakes didn't instill the greatest confidence. They were fine, but I'd imagine with the further engine upgrades Jay is planning, some stronger brakes might not be a bad idea. Oh, and the driver seat still sucks.

Otherwise, the Miata's great.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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