A Good Starting Point - 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: A Good Starting Point

March 29, 2010

1994 mazda miata project trans fluid.jpg

You know those images you saw of Project Miata in its intro article? Well, that photo shoot was literally the first time any of us had driven our new old 1994 Mazda Miata with any kind of spirit.

And in those few hours we learned a lot about what's good about it and what needs work.

Hit the jump for those early impressions and the reason for the above image.

The Good:

First, the car has an immersive quality. Even this many years on, the first-gen Miata's inherent appeal shines through. And despite this particular car's neglected state, it's just plain fun to drive.

Its quick and linear steering responds to your inputs faithfully and without delay.

The spryness that results from its low curb weight cannot be synthesized any other way. It simply exudes fun.

It's quite easy to work on, too.

What Needs Attention:

It lacks suspension travel. Especially the rear suspension. Any kind of bump has the suspension working against the bump stops. Boing, boing. Not good for grip or ride comfort.

The lack of chassis stiffness is really noticeable too. The thing shudders over bumps as if its structure was made largely of crepe paper.

Wide open throttle throttle results in hilariously gradual progress. All noise and very little actual movement. The canyon road we were on creeps uphill ever so gently, and this was enough to keep the car's ass end chained to the pavement. It was impossible to induce any detectable oversteer at corner exits, even when getting all rowdy with it. A sports car that cannot powerslide is no bueno in my book. We'll definitely have to address that too.

What's Leaking:

Oh, and during said photo shoot, the shift action got stickier and stickier. As the lead photo suggests, afterwards we swapped in some fresh synthetic trans (and diff) juice. Yes, its underside is a murky mess.

The gearchanges still get a bit stiff with heat (esp 2nd gear), though, so chances are good that the clutch hydraulics are tired.

So, with that out of the way, what do you want to see from Project Miata?

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
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  • Comparison
  • Long-Term

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