The NC Mazda MX-5 Miata, introduced for the 2006 model year and produced until 2015, is the largest, heaviest and most powerful of all the four generations of MX-5. Nevertheless, Mazda crafted an exhilarating roadster that stays true to the principles that draw people to small and simple sports cars. Lightness, ingenuity, and style all contribute towards the driving experience, culminating in a car that punches above its weight in terms of enjoyment and performance.
The original MX-5 paid homage to revered British roadsters but to the Lotus Europa in particular. Like those roadsters, and the Europa with which it bared a strong resemblance, the Miata adhered to the default front engined, rear-wheel drive format. Power came from a 1.6 liter DOHC inline four-cylinder with 116 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque and moved only 2210 pounds, creating a respectable performance without the use of excessive power. The Miata gained power and safety in 1996 with the utilization of a 1.8 liter four-cylinder and airbags, before a 1998 redesign. Sixteen years after the its introduction, the 2006 MX-5 showed a weight gain of more than 200 pounds, 1.9 inches in length, and 1.8 inches in width. The extra size came with also significantly increased power in the form of the 2.0 liter four-cylinder generating 167 horsepower (158 horsepower when mated to the automatic transmission) and 140 lb-ft of torque. Five or six speed manuals, and a six-speed automatic were available. An aluminum double-wishbone front suspension, and an aluminum multilink rear suspension kept wheels planted. Unfortunately, the NC was unable to retain its predecessors lithe and chiseled looks, and instead appeared considerably more bulbous with the help of prominent fender flares and a blunt nose. Outside of the Miata lineage, its easy to appreciate to the exquisite proportions and uncluttered styling of the NC. The featured 2012 model wears the more expressive grill and headlights, as well as the reworked tail lights first applied for the 2009 model year. As a result of these enhancements, the car looks pleasantly less rounded and takes on a more defined shape.
The purposeful interior of the Miata is a breath of fresh air in the era of LCD screens and soft-touch materials. Though small, the cabin allows for a comfortable amount of room and is surprisingly ergonomic. The trunk is usefully rectangular, but measures only 5.3 cubic feet. Similarly revitalizing is the rather quaint sound emitted by the inline four and its dual exhausts. It’s a far cry from the loud and obnoxious crackling roars and screams voiced by many of todays sports cars and sedans. The thick-rimmed steering wheel is excellently sized and very nice to grab hold of, but once on the move it communicates the cars motions with an admirable competence and a perfectly weighted feel. The car resides close to the road below and is in its element careening through corners with incredible precision due in part to its 51/49 weight distribution. It corners flatly until pushed hard, after which, body roll sets in and reigns in the driver from doing anything regrettable. The brakes are easily modulated and free from the numb hypersensitivity of others. The brake pedal itself is positioned too near the gas, and the gas too close to the right side of the foot well, a very minor issue. A clutch was not to be found in the tested car for the fact it was an automatic. Some of the shifting can be preformed manually with paddles on the back of the steering wheel and with the gear selector. The Miata’s light weight allows the car to make the most of the power it has so that 60 mph is reached in only 6.8 seconds. It eagerly revs high while accelerating with considerable alacrity and authority.
The cars rather conventional powertrain combined with its lightness produce decent, if not excellent, fuel economy. The EPA rates models equipped with the six speed manual transmission and six speed automatic at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Five speed equipped Miatas gain 1 mpg in city driving. A 2012 Miata Sport with the average of 43,215 miles and an automatic transmission is valued at $14,088 by Kelly Blue Book.
The NC Miata has already been replaced with the next generation, the ND, for the 2016 model year. This new Miata is both faster, and significantly lighter, however the NC is still an incredible car for less money. The car is a precision tool for negotiating corners and in doing so is immense fun. The strangles of incessant demand for more comfort and refinement have been unable to grasp the Miata, and have left driving a high-fidelity experience.