Used 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1999

Mazda cautiously redesigns the MX-5 Miata, improving the car in every way without bumping up the price or diluting the car's personality.

Vehicle overview

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 MX-5 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 any of the four, in most cases. We've driven the current crop of two-seat roadsters, 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 the dollar.

Redesigned from the ground up, the 1999 MX-5 Miata has been improved upon in every way. The car is faster and more rigid, and sports updated styling that strays just far enough from the original to be fresh but not so far as to dilute the traditional Miata profile. In some ways, the new car is better-looking than the first-generation model, thanks to its wider tail and more sculpted bodywork. In other ways, well, let's just say those new exposed headlights remind us a bit too much of a Mercury Sable.

Trunk room is up substantially, and a windblocker is available to cut down on the number of bad hair days Miata drivers may suffer. The familiar 1.8-liter twin-cam engine makes more power and torque than last year, thanks to a new cylinder head that benefits from improved flow as well as a higher compression ratio. (California residents: your Miatas make slightly less power and torque than in the other 49 states.) Manual transmissions shift more smoothly and automatics are recalibrated to improve performance.

A stiffer, stronger body and chassis coupled with revised steering and suspension settings make the new Miata more responsive, while a wider track provides better stability in corners. The cowl shake of the old Miata is quelled substantially thanks to structural improvements. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, and the fronts are ventilated. The passenger-side airbag can be switched off, so pre-teen kids can enjoy top-down thrills in the new car.

The 1999 version has a glass rear window with a standard defogger. A CD player comes installed in every Miata, and audiophiles who opt for the right package can crank tunes on a 200-watt Bose audio system. The revised interior is very nicely done, with well-integrated stereo and climate systems, the latter of which employs rotary dials to control settings. A sharp three-spoke steering wheel can be replaced by a leather-wrapped Nardi version. There is one Miata model available, but it can be dressed up with any of four different packages: a Touring package, a Popular Equipment package, a Leather package or the race-ready Sports package.

There's also a limited-edition 10th Anniversary MX-5 Miata that features a six-speed transmission, Sapphire Blue Mica exterior color, blue softtop with blue boot and blue interior trim. Chrome rings surround the speedometer and tachometer and a carbon fiber-like material covers the center console. A gift set (including his-and-hers Seiko watches, as well as a 1/43 scale 10Th Anniversary model) is also part of the package. Only 3,000 of these special Miatas will be produced, so get your order in now.

The MX-5 Miata is a car that auto enthusiasts 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.

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.