Used 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

Mazda adds a Touring Package to the options list, consisting of alloy wheels, power steering, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power mirrors, power windows and door map pockets. Midyear a new M-Edition debuts, sporting Marina Green paint and chromed alloy wheels. Summertime brings the limited-production STO-Edition, of which 1,500 were produced.

Vehicle overview

After eight years, Mazda's MX-5 Miata is still the best roadster on the market today. Sure, Germany has unleashed the BMW Z3, the Mercedes SLK, and the Porsche Boxster, but none of them can match the Mazda for sheer bang for the buck. The MX-5 Miata 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 Miata, but that is this Mazda's charm.

Knuckleheads driven by large quantities of testosterone will dismiss the Miata as a woman's car. They don't know what they are talking about. Purists will dismiss the Miata in favor of the German convertibles, citing bloodline and heritage as worthy attributes that the Mazda does not possess. These are people who haven't driven either car, in most cases. We've driven all but the Boxster, and while some members of our staff refuse to openly admit that the Miata is the better car, it is an unspoken understanding that Mazda builds the superior roadster.

For 1997, Mazda introduces an enticing package that eschews several unnecessary items included in the Popular Equipment Package, though we think the cost-cutters should have gone even further toward making the new Touring Package more affordable. The Touring Package contains necessities like power steering, alloy wheels, and power mirrors. It also contains unnecessary items like power windows, door map pockets and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Continuing are the Popular Equipment Package, Leather Package, and R Package. Antilock brakes and air conditioning are stand-alone options.

Colors are limited to red, white, black and blue. Interiors can be covered with black cloth or tan leather. A premium sound system pumps bass through the seat and is perfectly audible at speeds above 80 mph. True enough, it doesn't take long for the price of a new Miata to reach the mid-20s, but the base model with the Power Steering Package remains mighty affordable and is just as much fun to drive.

M-Edition fans weren't disappointed this year. In March, a Marina Green M appeared, sporting wood interior trim, unique gauges, and chromed alloy wheels. A full compliment of standard equipment came with the M-Edition, including leather interior, premium sound system with CD player, and air conditioning.

Summertime brought a limited-production version of the Miata called the STO-Edition. Advertised only in Miata Magazine, the STO represented 1,500 units of the final run of first-generation Miatas. Painted Twilight Blue and featuring a tan leather interior and tan top, the STO had mesh-type alloy wheels, Nardi leather shift knob, the lip spoiler from the R Package, headrest speakers, and the Touring Package. Of all the production Miatas, this is the one for collectors.

Bad news for Miata fans; 1997 is shaping up to be the last year for the current design. Industry rumors indicate Mazda is readying a new Miata for 1998, though we cannot believe that product planners would stray too far from the immensely popular and successful original formula. A warning to Mazda: remember the New Coke debacle.

The MX-5 Miata is a car that every auto enthusiast should drive at least once in their lifetime. Drop by your local Mazda dealer on a warm sunny day, and see why Edmund's enthusiastically recommends the Miata without reservation.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.