1994 Mazda Miata: Certainly No Lack of Character
July 01, 2010
The Miata and I spent some quality time together yesterday -- an hour of pokey movement on clogged Los Angeles streets and then another 250 miles of highway travel. How was it? Oh, allow me to fill you in, dear reader.
If you haven't ever been in a well-used Miata like this, the best I can equate it to would be flying in a commuter prop plane. You've got a cramped interior, a bumpy ride, a flexible chassis, a lot of noise and near non-existent crash protection. Did I mention noise yet? First, there's the Miata's engine, which at highway speed sounds like this: Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Actually, the interior noise has more to do with the two holes in the Miata's top that are big enough to see daylight through. Talk about a wind leak.
Furthermore, I suspect one of the wheels is out of balance. Starting at 65 mph and up to about 75 mph, the steering wheel vibrates. Every time I was accelerating, I thought of Chuck Yeager approaching the sound barrier -- do I press on through or back out? Or, translated, do you want to drive at 63 mph on the freeway (where the Miata is actually in its comfort zone but the speed limit is 70 mph) or punch it up past 75 where the car feels like a can of soda shaken a few too many times? Don't bother with the radio -- you can't hear it.
Now, don't get me wrong here. There are certainly far worse methods of transportation to spend five hours in. The A/C still works. So does cruise control. And heck, it was actually kind of fun to drive something that's not brand new and $40,000. Character: our Miata has that in spades. I'm looking forward to spending some time with the project Miata during the next two weeks.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor