1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long Term Road Test

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Seriously Fun City Car

March 30, 2011

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Seriously Fun City Car

It was a few upgrades ago that I last drove our long-term 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata -- last time it didn't have the wheels/tires, the new clutch, the Momo steering wheel or the "lowered" seat. All this stuff had an immediate effect on my driving yesterday, as I adopted a more run-and-gun style without even thinking about it, making even my routine errands on LA's west side exciting.

The new clutch makes it so much easier to enjoy the Kraftwerks supercharger kit for the simple and obvious reason that you can run through the gears more quickly and with less left-foot deliberation. Now, Project Miata's neat combination of torque and grip is undeniable.

All Miatas, well, at least all first-generation Miatas, feel direct in their reactions to throttle and steering input. But the green '97 project car feels sharp and precise in its responses, too. You turn the wheel, it responds, and goes through the corner with no body roll. Its reflexes, combined with its lowness to the ground, combined with the atmospheric Momo wheel, make me feel a bit like I'm driving to the dentist in a racecar. How can my life be this good?

Somehow, too, the ride quality is better than I remember it being on the '94 white Miata when it had the wheels and the Hankook Ventus. Maybe I'm just less of a whiner now, but really, our '97 is very compliant, except over gnarly seams in the road. I may have to see what JayKav has planned for this car once it cycles out of the fleet.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 130,232 miles

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