Full 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review
What's New for 2006
For 2006, the MX-5 gets its first top-to-bottom redesign since its launch in 1989. The roadster gains a roomier cockpit but still tips the scales at under 2,500 pounds. Beneath the hood, the MX-5 benefits from an all-new 170-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine. Side-impact airbags and ABS are now standard across all trims.
When Mazda introduced the Miata roadster for the 1990 model year, this fetching drop top was the recipient of widespread critical acclaim and overwhelming consumer interest. Despite its Japanese origins, in many ways the roadster represented the revival of the traditional British sports car. It had styling derivative of the Lotus Elan and excellent reliability in the tradition of Japan's automakers. Buyers lined up at Mazda dealerships and paid more than sticker price for the svelte new Miata.
Over the years, the Mazda Miata gained power. It also gained weight, which served to make it safer than its progenitors without detracting from performance. A major redesign came in 1999. Although it shared its basic underpinnings with the original, the second-generation Miata offered more power, a larger interior, exposed headlamps and more aggressive styling. It also received a glass rear window with defogger, a stiffened chassis and sharpened reflexes. A turbocharged Mazdaspeed Miata joined the lineup for 2004.
For 2006, the MX-5 Miata receives its first top-to-bottom overhaul. True, the '06 is longer, wider, heavier and roomier inside than before, and it's packing more motor and more amenities. All of this could have deadened that characteristic Miata feel, but it hasn't. The Mazda roadster still changes direction like a roller skate, speaks to you clearly through the steering wheel and driver seat, accelerates adequately with a classic inline-four growl and writes the book on manual-shifter precision, effort and feel.
The original Mazda MX-5 offered one engine, one transmission and three colors: red, white and blue. There are, on the other hand, five degrees of the new MX-5 from the stripped-to-the-essentials Club Spec model to the loaded Limited edition. If you pay more, you get more: a six-speed manual gearbox (versus the standard five-speed), black or tan leather seats (versus black cloth), a cloth top (versus vinyl), a seven-speaker Bose audio system (that sounds wonderful, top up or down), and numerous options, including a six-speed automatic transmission. However, if you're adding a ton of extras to the Miata, you're missing the point: This Mazda roadster is about simplicity in design and operation. It's about having fun behind the wheel. It's about feeling free and young on warm summer nights. Not a serious car, the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata, but that's part of its charm.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
vThe two-door Mazda Miata roadster is available in six trims: Club Spec, Base, Touring, Sport, Grand Touring and Limited. A low-cost model aimed at racing enthusiasts, the Club Spec offers a five-speed manual transmission, a black vinyl convertible top, 16-inch alloy wheels, ABS, side airbags, a tilt steering wheel, a CD player, and power windows and mirrors. The base model adds air conditioning and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Touring model additions include foglamps, cruise control, keyless entry, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and power door locks. Step up to the Sport trim and you get a six-speed manual transmission, 17-inch wheels and a leather shift knob. The Grand Touring trim boasts a black or parchment cloth convertible top, leather-trimmed seats, a seven-speaker Bose audio system and silver interior trim. This year's special-edition Miata is called the 3rd Generation Limited, and offers an alarm system and distinctive chrome trim inside and out. Sport and Grand Touring models are eligible for run-flat tires and a sport suspension package with Bilstein shocks and a limited-slip differential.
Powertrains and Performance
The MX-5 Miata's 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder engine makes 170 horsepower at 6,700 rpm and 140 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission drives the rear wheels on Club Spec, base and Touring trims, while the Sport, Grand Touring and Limited trims upgrade to a six-speed manual. Should you dislike shifting the car yourself, Touring, Sport and Grand Touring trims may be equipped with a six-speed automatic, though doing so drops horsepower to 166. Zero to 60 mph takes 7.5 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, as is ABS and side airbags. Stability control and HID headlights are also available but only as options on the Grand Touring model.
Interior Design and Special Features
Though bigger than before, the cockpit of the Mazda Miata remains a snug fit. Still, it is comfortable enough for two on a weekend getaway. If you pack sparingly, the 5-cubic-foot trunk can accommodate a few days' worth of luggage. Although simple in design, the cockpit offers richer furnishings than before along with more storage. The manual top can be raised or lowered from the driver seat in a matter of seconds, making the roadster an ideal companion for spontaneous adventures.
With 170 horsepower from 2.0 liters, the 2006 Mazda Miata nearly matches the peak output of the previous turbocharged Mazdaspeed engine, and does so with newfound low-to-mid-rpm flexibility. Though hardly a torque monster, the new engine pulls willingly and revs freely. It's a delightful instrument to play, especially in combination with the optional six-speed manual gearbox. Although tuned for a smoother ride than before, the MX-5 Miata still changes direction like a roller skate and speaks to you clearly through the steering wheel and driver seat. With a lowered top and an open road, Mazda's roadster has few equals when it comes to sheer entertainment.
Read our Mazda Miata Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test