Four generations and well more than one million units assembled later, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is as popular as ever. And as MX-5s begin to come out of hibernation the world round, it’s the perfect time to revisit this iconic convertible.
Built as an answer to small and nimble European sports cars of the day — think Lotus Elan, MG MGB and Alfa Romeo Spider — the result was an affordable front-engine, rear-wheel drive roadster as reliable as any other example coming off the company’s assembly line in Hiroshima, Japan.
While getting my driver’s license wouldn’t be a reality for many years to come when the so-called “NA” Miata debuted in 1989, the diminutive convertible never left my radar. Although the two-seater constantly battled the stigma of being too “cute” (admittedly the pop-up headlights and wide-mouthed front bumper grin didn’t help), driving one instantly turned any cynic into a believer.
Originally powered by a 116-horsepower 1.6-litre engine through 1993, and then replaced by a slightly more robust 1.8-litre until the last production year in 1997, both were mated to a wonderfully tactile five-speed transmission or (gasp) a four-speed automatic.
No, on paper the performance figures were never outstanding, even back then. But considering that the car weighed just over 2,000 pounds, sat on all-around independent double-wishbone, and offered an optional limited-slip differential, the MX-5 was created for anywhere a straight road became bendy.
As a proud owner of a 1990 Classic Red model I like to say the vehicle doesn’t so much corner as it does pivot around turns, the steering responding predictably each and every time. There’s a reason the NA can still be seen dominating local autocrosses around the world, often besting competitors with twice the firepower.
Just remember: Miata Is Always The Answer.