1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

Used MX-5 Miata for sale
List Price Estimate:$912 - $2,122
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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Sheer joy to drive, perfect weight distribution, zingy engine, excellent HVAC system, perfect communication from suspension and steering, forgiving at-the-limit handling
  • Space inside is tight, rear window is plastic rather than glass, no passenger airbag cutoff switch, teensy trunk

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.

1997 Highlights

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.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

5 out of 5 stars
Holy Cow!
2dr Convertible
This car ain't a car - it's a way of life. How many cars have owners clubs, millions of accessories, newsgroups, shows, hats & T-shirts? There is a reason. Most other Miata owners on a sunny day will pop their lights to say hi on a crowded freeway. No problems, zippy engine, european pizazz with Japanese reliability & performance. Cheap to buy, operate & maintain. Not much pretention, but you can certainly feel the jealous eyes coming from SUV's on a warm Spring day.
4.75 out of 5 stars
Update from Doug
2dr Convertible
I have now owned the car for four-plus years and have 140k on it. I had to replace the clutch this summer. I switched to premium fuel (instead of alcohol blend) and mileage went from 25 mpg in town to 28 and runs better. Still great fun and highly recommended.
4.5 out of 5 stars
A Fun Car
2dr Convertible
Car was 4 years old when I bought it. It had 5248 miles showing on the odomenter...I believe to be correct. Being 68 years old it is my boyhood dream come true. I have put 4500 miles on it in 1 year. Have had absolutely no problems with it. with my bad knees, I have a little trouble getting in and out of it. But if I didn't have that trouble it wouldn't be a sports car, would it? Hope you can have one also!
4.63 out of 5 stars
Fine Balance
M-Edition 2dr Convertible
Owned for a bit over two years and love the car. Outstanding reliability. Finely balanced ride/handling trade off. You feel the road, but it's not punishing. A bit on the noisy side even with the hardtop. Without the hardtop, visibility is so-so to the right and left rear. The hardtop also significantly stiffens the structure. As a result, I leave mine on all of the time. The engine is adequate from a power standpoint, and is responsive to throttle inputs, revving quickly. The stock exhaust strikes a perfect balance of tone and sound level- it's an audio delight. Shift action is excellent although if not careful, a rushed 2-3 shift may bypass 3rd and snick into 5th. Excellent car.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Used 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Overview

The Used 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata is offered in the following submodels: MX-5 Miata Convertible. Available styles include 2dr Convertible, STO 2dr Convertible, and M-Edition 2dr Convertible. Pre-owned Mazda MX-5 Miata models are available with a 1.8 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 133 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes with rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata?

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Which used 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miatas are available in my area?

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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