Used 2002 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

Edmunds expert review

As much automotive fun as you can have for less than $25,000.

What's new for 2002

The addition of an optional in-dash six-CD changer, a perimeter theft alarm (on models with remote keyless entry) and a standard trunk light. LS versions get a revised stereo and speed-sensitive volume control. Later in the year, a new Special Edition trim debuts.

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 Mazda Miata, you'll have to pay about $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 2002, the Miata receives an available in-dash six-CD changer and a perimeter theft alarm when equipped with remote keyless entry. Also new is a standard trunk light, and LS models get a new stereo with speed-sensitive volume control.

Last year, Mazda added variable valve timing to the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, bumping horsepower to 142 at 7,000 rpm and torque to 125 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission drives the rear wheels, but a six-speed is optional on LS models. Any Miata can be equipped with an automatic, but if that's what you're considering, perhaps we can direct you to the cute little VW Cabrio. This is a sports car, and an automatic transmission has no business here.

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. White-faced gauges with chrome rings front snug but comfortable seats, which are trimmed in black cloth on base models or a caramel-colored leather on the LS. Base Miatas have black tops, while LS versions get caramel to match their interiors. This year's Special Edition trim comes in two color schemes - Titanium Gray paint with a deep saddle brown leather interior and Blazing Yellow Mica with a black leather interior, the first ever for a Miata. Standard features on the SE include a six-speed manual transmission, 16-inch Enkei alloy wheels, a 200-watt Bose sound system with an in-dash six-disc changer, and a chrome fuel filler door. Inside, the SE has a two-tone, three-spoke Nardi steering wheel; a Nardi leather shift knob and handbrake lever; white-faced gauges ringed in aluminum; and aluminum pedals, door handles and scuff plates. Mazda will produce just 1,500 Special Edition Miatas in Titanium Gray and 1,000 in Blazing Yellow Mica.

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 gives the Miata some competition with its MR2 Spyder, but that doesn'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.