For the 1990 model year, Mazda had finally had enough of the fuel economy regulations put on the auto industry by the US Government and unleashed the Miata on the public. This little roadster was an instant hit, gaining a following and love that is only rivaled by teenage girls at a boy band concert. The Miata was not overly powerful and featured some of the best driving in the industry with a dynamic capability on the road. Fast forward 26 years and the Miata of 2016 looks more like a grown up version of the original and still boasts some of the most engaging driving on any road.
The new Miata actually shows more similarities to the original than the outgoing third generation. This new roadster is actually shorter by 1.3 inches than the outgoing model and drops an amazing 150 pounds. With this weight considered, the 2016 Miata has several items that the original did not which include three more airbags, larger base wheels, power mirrors, power locks, power windows, an added crash structure and several other convenience features. Even with all this added the new model weighs in at just 2332 pounds while the original was only a bit lighter at 2210.
The original Miata benefitted from a reduction in the fuel economy standards that had been left alone for three years. During the mid-1980s the Big Three had trouble keeping up with these standards and were so woefully behind the Federal Government gave a reprieve to allow them to catch up which also left the door open for Mazda and other foreign makers to take full advantage of as well. This gave Mazda the chance to quench the thirst we had for performance in an era that limited the horsepower dramatically.
Even though the 1990s were the heyday of the Japanese sports cars along with some great offerings from Europe and even a few from the Big Three; the Miata shined on as one of the absolute best cars of the decade. It was certainly hard to argue with a car that was just outright fun to drive. The acceleration was quick and aggressive and the handling was sharp and planted making you feel as if you could drive this car to the edge and back and it would turn around and ask to go again like a three-year old that has just enjoyed their new favorite ride at the amusement park.
The original Miata came with a 116 horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that did not have a turbocharger installed. This was considered for the time an interesting proposition and possibly a failure by Mazda. Instead the Miata took off and has become the poster child for “zoom zoom” which is the mantra adopted by Mazda once they started filling all their models with a similar acceleration and suspension system to give Mazda lovers the most fun in a mainstream car they could possibly have without taking a second mortgage on their homes.
For the latest model has certainly increased to a point of giving this car 155 horsepower from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine. This engine gets fitted to a quick and decisive transmission which allows the car to quickly reach up from a standstill to the speed you want to go. With a continued emphasis on having the best suspension and chassis possible, the Miata of today is simply amazing and fits in well against the Porsche 911, Audis or any other high performing to handling sports car on the road. The only real question is how do the two compare with each other?
Driving the original Miata gives a responsive drive that is highly engaging and perfect for the road. At the time it was built this model was amazing, but some of the older parts and lack of refinement show themselves during a drive. Even with that said, the original Miata was a dream car to drive at the time and even though it appeared to have plastic panels and parts on the interior the car that were on the cheap side, Mazda worked to make this one of the best rides anyone could get inside and enjoy and 26 years later it’s still a great drive with an active suspension and amazing handling.
Unfortunately for the original model the similarities do end there. The new SkyActiv technology that is aboard the current Miata makes for one of the most expedient accelerations on the road. The 2016 version can be pushed to limits the original would have never been allowed to go and it keeps on asking for more. In fact this new model is aggressive enough to give a Porsche a run for its money if it was filled with more power. As for the handling the new Miata does give every other car on the market a run for their money and comes out on top in a lot of cases. Overall the Miata continues to be an affordable roadster we have loved for over a quarter of a century.
Since I have thrown some numbers at you, here are quite a few more for you to chew on and think about the evolution of the Miata. The original had a base price of $14,069 with the modern one carrying a $25,735 base price, but with inflation and added equipment both are really on par with each other for their respective times in service. The run to sixty mph took the original 9.2 seconds with the 2016 making the same run in only 5.9 seconds. In order to reach 100 mph in the original the car feels like it going to fall apart at any second, but it makes it there in 28.4 seconds while the newer version makes the mark in 16.2 seconds with power to spare. Finally, the top speed of the 1990 version was 116 mph with the 2016 offering up 129 mph at the top level.
The Miata has had a long run of success, which strangely enough has been one of leveled off sales over most of the time in production with only the original year being the height of sales. Possibly with the new fourth generation model heading to dealerships soon this will be the year the sales head back up the charts to give us more Miatas on the road than ever before. I will certainly not complain if that becomes the case as the Miata is an amazing car that should be admired and enjoyed for what it is, a fun and dynamic roadster that is fun to drive.