2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review
By Bob Gordon
Zippy yet refined, flashy yet restrained, bigger yet still smallish feeling, sports car look yet big car comfort, the 2006 Mazda MX-5 is a bundle of contradictions and another winner of the coveted The Auto Channel’s “Practally-Practacal” * Luggage Carrying Award...what more could anyone want in a two seat moderately-priced personal vehicle?
With my road trip to Detroit and Toronto already scheduled...and the price of gas climbing...the late summer sun shining...and a song in my heart...and a long test drive on my mind...I was fortunate to have the reliable folks from Specialty Transport bring me a shiny new “true red” (and they really mean RED) 2006 Mazda MX-5 (nee Miata) for a couple of weeks.
As many of my (ir) regular readers know, I am a MAZDA MAN. In fact just two weeks ago I brought home a cherry 1990 RX-7 Convertible. I needed this second RX-7 convertible, when my first love decided that enough was enough and after 196,000 enjoyable miles under her skirt she decided to self immolate, and broke my heart in the process. But thanks to E-Bay Motors and my quick (over?) bidding technique I am once again the proud and happy (so far) 3rd owner of a lovely arctic white wankel- powered sports car.
The good news and bad news for car makers concerning my testing and reviewing two- passenger topless sports cars...is that I always compared them to my 1988 and now my 1990 RX-7...how they ride, sound, feel, look, get noticed, and can they carry enough luggage for a weekend away or for a trip home from the airport.
Enough of the background of my prejudices.
The 2006 MX-5 had lost the Miata name, but sure still looked like one. Why I wonder did Mazda invest so much to make the many thoughtful and appreciated changes but did not alter the sheet metal (aluminum and steel) and plastic enough to SCREAM that this IS NOT YOUR SISTER’S MIATA.
Oh well I guess the boys and girls in Hiroshima collaborated with their counterparts in Dearborn to come up with that design decision.
The MX-5(Miata) is a nice car...its peppy, cool looking, smooth, tame and very finely finished.
I look for and really appreciate these attributes in a sedan or even a sports sedan, BUT in my opinion the new MX-5 may just be too smooth and too tame and too finely finished for a low to the ground sports car...I wished it was a little less “prissy” and a little more edgy.
As an example, step on the accelerator and the ample engine quietly does its thing, the MX-5’s exhaust sounds do not include the kind of throaty raspy growl that I like to hear in my sports cars.
The ride and handling were exemplary, the additional torsion rigidity, virtual mid-ship engine placement and 4-wheel independent suspension allowed the MX-5 to handle all conditions and situations on the trip, safely and comfortably, while delivering the promised 30 mpg driving at or above the speed limit on both interstate and back-country roads.
The MX-5’s interior is “big car” complete and finished, the leather seats on my Grand Tourer were smooth and comfortable and offered the support needed for long not so lazy drives. I wish that there was an adjustment that would allow shorter folks to raise their seating position so they didn’t have to fight the steering wheel to see the road.
The new Miata’s audio system is top notch and the many thoughtful storage areas and multiple cup holders welcome and helpful. This new convertible model offers not one but two compartments in which to lock small valuables (remember with the top down its possible for long armed bad guys to reach down inside the passenger compartment while you and your co-pilot are in Nepenthe chowing down on an ambrosia burger with a good local merlot.
The MX-5’s convertible top comes in either vinyl (in the entry models) or the rich looking well tailored luxurious cloth in the grand tourer I was driving. The convertible top is manually operated and is easy to put up and take down with a single release point at the front center of the top...in fact its so quick and easy that the drive can become topless in just a few seconds...push in the release button...lift twist and drop it into its resting place behind the built in personal seat back roll-bars.
And to keep the frizzes to a minimum the car has a built-in flip up wind screen that allows for manageable interior wind speeds and civilized conversations and radio listening while driving the 2006 MX-5 at speed.
Ok you say in spite of a new bold front end, interesting aluminum hood , wheel flares, additional width where it counts and other design features, it sure does look like a Miata on steroids (well not really steroids, but it is physically bigger, yet not stronger, than its antecedents)...here are some of the measurable differences between last model years Miata and this year’s MX-5:
2006 MX-5 Grand Touring 2005 MAZDASPEED Miata MSRP $24,435 $25,780 Engine: All Aluminum 2.0L 1.8L Horsepower: 170@6700RPM 178@6000RPM Torque: 140@5000RPM 166@4500RPM Wheelbase: 91.7" 89.2" Length 157.3" 155.7" Width 67.7" 66.1"
In order to help you really understand the esoteric differences between the old Miata and this new Miata I asked a lady friend who has owned and driven her 1990 Miata everyday for more than 16 years to take a test drive and let me know what she thought; so in random order here are her reactions:
-WOW -I love it - It looks like my Miata on Viagra - This new model seems to have lots more power - This new model has a smaller turning radius - I don’t feel the road as well - It’s nice to have power windows - I like the controls on the steering wheel...I still have a hard time finding my horn button. - This new model is more difficult to get in and out of. - This new model has a smaller trunk space - This new model looks smooth and sleek - Is there a Hardtop available? - And the statement that all Mazda execs will like, “I could see myself buying one of these if and when my old one wears out.”
So if you are in the market for a personal drive-everyday car and your desires include a convertible and your budget a mid range price tag, make sure you get to know the latest Miata offerings from the fine folks at Mazda.
Pretty good review I think...don’t you?
* To win this award, a two-seater must offer enough trunk cargo space to comfortably carry a standard 22 x 14 x 8 rolling carry on a laptop in case and a small briefcase, the minimum cargo capacity that a long weekend away or a return trip from the airport would require