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Mazda Miata Special Edition (2001)

SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 25,715
     Price As Tested                                    $ 26,745
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 1.8 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 109 cid/1839 cc
     Horsepower                                   155 @ 7000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               125 @ 5500 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   89.2"/66.0"/155.7"
     Transmission                               Six-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2622 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  12.7 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                               205/45R16 radial
     Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/disc
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                two percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            23/28/25
     0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                  16.0 @ 87.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           130 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - When Mazda introduced its Miata rear-wheel drive ragtop on the car buying public in 1989, it created a whirlwind of enthusiasm for the little sportster and a plethora of Miata clubs sprung up. It owes more to the classic British roadster of the '60s than a Japanese compact and it's become a common sight on American streets. After we tested the 2001 Special Edition recently, I came to the conclusion that the Mazda really does live up to its new ad campaign of "Zoom, Zoom!" Its zippy little 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine pumps out a healthy amount of juice, adding 15 more horsepower than the previous year's model. It now produces 155 ponies and to tell the truth, I'd forgotten how much fun it is to drive this little two-seater. I'm looking forward to the next media track day so that I can really wring it out.

MIKELE - I did a bit of "wringing-out" myself, and since the Special Edition Miata only comes with a six-speed manual transmission, I had a great time squirting around town. Its slick-shifting, short-throw gearbox operates as smooth as silk and it's really a pleasure to run it up and down through the gears. Its stubby Nardi wooden shift knob was totally cool looking and it doesn't burn your hands when the top is down and the sun is out. The standard version of the Miata can be had with an automatic but that goes against its grain. The Miata sticks like glue around corners, thanks to its four-wheel, double-wishbone independent suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars. It has low-profile R245/45R Bridgestone radial tires on 16-inch wheels to assist with its handling prowess, and the power-assist four-wheel disc brakes make the Miata stop as good as it goes.

BRENDAN - The Miata is a great performer, but I was equally impressed with its interior. The wood-trimmed Nardi steering wheel sure has a natural feel ti it, and I sank right into the comfortable tan leather seats. The car also features power door locks, power windows and cruise control, as well as a glass rear window with a built-in defogger, something a lot of similarly-priced roadsters don't offer. Wood-tone trim on the center console and an AM/FM/CD stereo with a Bose four-speaker system topped off its classy cabin. The exterior of the Special Edition is really sharp, with a classic tan vinyl convertible top that has a cloth-like appearance. In keeping with its English inspirations, our Special Edition Mazda looked awesome with its British Racing Green paint, which is exclusive to the SE model. Its 16-inch polished alloy wheels come with wheel locks, and the polished aluminum fuel-filler door is mounted on the top of the rear quarter panel for all to see and admire, another tribute to its British theme. And with the top down, this car is quite a looker and very few motorists can resist giving it an admiring glance. They're taken by its "cute factor."

MIKELE - I fell in love with the Miata when you brought it home - it's really an eye-catcher. Although no convertible is as safe as a hardtop if you roll it over, the Miata does have a number of encouraging safety items that made me more trusting of it small stature. Dual front airbags are standard, as are side-impact beams that make the cabin much safer than an your dad's old British sports cars. It also has remote keyless entry, a great thing to have when you need quick access. It's covered by a 36-month, 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and includes a roadside assistance program, just in case you have so much fun driving that you forget to check the fuel tank and run out of gas. It almost happened to me.

BRENDAN - You obviously liked driving the little Miata, Mikele. Maybe you'd like to get in on track day yourself and try it out on a real race course. Lets put together a little side bet as to who can lap the Miata the fastest.

MIKELE - You'd be sleeping on the couch if I lost, Brendan.