Reader Question: Which Miata?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

David asks: I’ve been thinking of getting a Mazda Miata. It is to have something fun to drive, that is not new, and does not cost an arm and a leg? What years/models would you suggest?

My reply: Almost any Miata! The car remains minimalist to this day, with very mild/incremental changes over the years accounting for the differences, year-to-year. But the fundamentals have aways stayed the same. An ’89 Miata and a new Miata deliver remarkably similar experiences. Your main consideration, then, is to find a good Miata – with the year being almost irrelevant.

And the really good new here is that it is very hard to hurt a Miata. These cars are Corolla-reliable/durable, even when used as weekend track-day  cars. Even ones with 100k-plus miles are safe bets on account of the excellence of their underlying engineering.

The usual due diligence is important, but other than that it really comes down to your preferences as regards year-to-year styling changes, whether you prefer the six-speed manual that became standard about a year ago (vs. the five speed), incremental increases in the output of the engine and so on.

It is very hard to go wrong with a Miata – and I’m the regulars here will amen and agree with all of the above and offer some additional thoughts that maybe helpful here.

You are in for a lot of fun once you have one!

. . .

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Never thought I’d say this, but I’m suddenly interested in NA with my intent down the line to get the NB’s 1.8 and 6spd so I can build it up further

    Easier to retrofit and add stuff to the original than remove and add pop ups to the newer ones, plus its essentially the lightest of the bunch

  2. I agree with Anon about the NB(2nd gen) seats, leather in particular, when hard cornering.

    I also have an NA daily driver with cloth seats that are far superior and better lumbar support if you plan on taking long trips. The NA footwell is also more generous so if you have large feet the NB might be a bit tight.

    If you spin your own wrenches the 1.6L (89-93) are easier to work on. You will hear tales of The Small Nose Crank in the early models. It is a great engine. the problem comes when someone does a timing belt replacement and over tightens the crank nose bolt. It’s only to be 87lb.ft. If you overtorque, let’s say with an impact gun, it stress cracks the crank and it will fail in a few thousand miles. The 1.8L started in 94 through 97 in the NA body style. 94 & 95 are obd1 which is a plus.

    Depending on where you live there is probably a Miata engine builder not too far from you. Yes, they do race engines but, most will work with a customer to get them a phenomenal build for a few grand.

    You can also get a ton of info from miata.net . they list production figures and break out special editions and such. There are a great number of places to get aftermarket items galore. Moss Miata, Flyin Miata, etc. And, there are Miata clubs all over the country.

    Don’t be shy about asking questions, there are plenty of folks out there willing to help.

  3. I have an nb2 with the 6spd. and a flyin miata spring, konis and sway bar kit. The car handles corners much better than the seats do.
    I’d stay away from the 99-00 as there were some main bearing issues with those years that are supposedly not repairable.

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