Used 2001 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

Edmunds expert review

As much fun as you can have while driving with your pants on.

What's new for 2001

For 2001, the Miata receives a host of minor changes. Horsepower has been increased, and a six-speed manual transmission is now optional on the Miata LS. Both the exterior and interior have been updated and there are four new exterior colors. Regular Miatas now have 15-inch wheels as standard equipment, while both the Miata LS and cars equipped with the optional suspension package get 16-inch wheels. Safety and security are improved via seatbelt pre-tensioners, improved ABS, an engine immobilizer, an internal trunk release and optional keyless remote (standard on Miata LS).

Vehicle overview

Financially, it certainly pays to buy in bulk. To own a big-and-bad Ford Excursion, you'll have to pay only about $5 per pound (based on MSRP for a base model). To own a lithe 2001 Mazda Miata, you'll have to pay close to $9 per pound. But hey, sometimes you just have to pay more to get the good stuff. While it seems strange to pay over $20,000 for a Miata, the price is still considerably less than those asked for roadsters like the BMW Z3, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Porsche Boxster, and Honda S2000. And while the Miata might not be able to match these cars' absolute performance numbers, it certainly equals or exceeds them with regard to the intangibles.

The 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's part of its charm.

For 2001, the Miata receives its most thorough updating since its redesign in 1999. The exterior gains new headlights, a restyled front bumper and fascia, a new five-point air inlet, and an improved boot cover. Mazda has added variable valve timing to the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, bumping horsepower to 155 at 7,000 rpm and torque to 125 foot-pounds at 5,000 rpm. The six-speed manual transmission, previously available only on a couple of special limited edition models, is now an option on the Miata LS. Equipped with the six-speed transmission, a 2001 Miata LS should be the fastest Miata ever.

Though the Miata's trunk is miniscule when compared to what can be crammed into the latest SUVs, it can handle daily commuting or weekend getaways. The shifter moves with quick and short precision and all of the switchgear is easy to reach and use. For 2001, the interior features new white-faced gauges with chrome rings, new seats, new interior materials, revised positions for the cupholder and power door-lock switch, and a new modular audio system.

Droning trips on American interstates are not the Miata's forte. But with a lowered top and an open road, the Miata has few equals. The engine is perfectly matched to the suspension and steering, making the car a joy to pilot on curving roads. When equipped with the suspension package (which includes items like a Torsen limited-slip differential and upgraded shock absorbers), the Miata's performance envelope is wider, but some fun is lost in not being able to adjust the tail easily via the throttle.

In our opinion, you can utilize 90 percent of the Miata's abilities under normal driving conditions, while a Porsche Boxster driver is lucky to experience 60 percent of that car's potential most of the time. Toyota will give the '01 Miata some tough competition with its new MR2 Spyder, but that won't change the fact that the Miata continues to be one of the best roadsters available today.

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.