or Connect
Styleforum › Forums › Culture › Fine Living, Home, Design & Auto › Thoughts on the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Thoughts on the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
Today I took my Mini Cooper in for servicing, and while fighting narcolepsy in the stupefyingly boring (and garishly cheap-feeling) BMW 3-series loaner they gave me I happened to pass a Mazda dealer with a gleaming row of 8 or 9 Miatas. With spring here, I started to realize how much I missed my first car, a 1993 Miata Limited Edition. ("Limited" or "Special" Edition in Miata-speak is usually just a unique colorway offered for only one year - in 1993, black with a red top and red leather with some bespoke aluminum - though sometimes they add something else nice like in the case of the 1993 LE ultralightweight forged alloy BBS wheels.) So I stopped in to have a look. Here are my impressions. First, price. I was pretty impressed, to be honest. The one I drove had everything - sport package, which is Bilsteins and torsen LSD; Blose stereo, leather, 6 speed manual, HID's - and stickered for about $27,000. A comparably equipped Mini Cooper Convertible is about $5000 more. And much harder to see out of in back, though you do get a much better stereo. First, look/feel. Overall, I do not think the lines are an improvement on the original Miata's, or of the more Jaguar-like Mk2 Miata's. Instead of the earlier Miatas' pleasingly faux-European - a little Lotus here, a bit of Alfa there, a sprinking of MG and Triumph all around, a touch of Fiat - lines, the shape is now overtly Japanese, with those horrible mirrored taillights that Japanese designers seem to love. (Indeed, I've always felt that the only thing Japanese about the Miata was its reliability. Beyond that, it's a better European roadster than the Europeans ever made.) The fun seems to have gone out of it, too. It went from a friendly little puppy to a mini-shark. The grille is the worst aspect of the design, a cheap plastic part that looks as bad as the Solstice's mug. The wheels are not ugly, but they are two or three sizes too large. A 14" or 15" wheel would have allowed them to delete the ugly fender brows and have a better-handling car. (More later.) The top neatly fixes the three ergonomic flaws of the original Miata's top. First, the window is glass, rather than plastic. That looks much better and allows you to not worry about unzipping it and protecting it before lowering the top. (I think 2nd gen Miata tops had glass, too.) Second, there are rain rails built in, so you won't get dumped on when you open the door. Third, it does not require a separate top. However, if you lower the top you surrender the package shelf behind you, so the convenience does have some cost. Inside, there is some good and some not so much. The door sill is low enough that you can rest your elbow on it without looking the fool. The e-brake is now on the passenger side, away from the driver's right knee. There seems to be more space all around. The steering wheel tilts and has controls on it, but like many Japanese cars' steering wheels it is annoyingly squishy in feel, like there is padding under the leather. The stereo looks promising, with a center channel in the dash and speakers in each door, but sounds typically Bosey. An Apple iPod HiFi on top of the dash would be a better sound system. The color of the leather and lower plastics is pretty off-putting. It looks like someone took white material and treated it with spray-on tan. Hopefully Mazda will go to a more natural color in the future. The plastics also feel cheap to me, but not as bad as the BMW 3-series'. The lid on the center cupholders, for example, does not slide as gracefully as it should. Ride/Drive Enough about the cosmetics. A sports car is about driving not any of that stuff! (Right?) Firing it up, the exhaust sounds pretty pedestrian, and there was no noise from up front. In fairness, my Mini sounded pretty pedestrian too save for some SC whine, but then I added a ProMini intake with Miltec cat-back and now I'm happy. The Miata aftermarket is huge - R-Speed is a great Miata shop that also carries great Mini stuff - so I'm sure there's an easy fix. The clutch was perfect, and the shifter feels just like an S2000's; I bet with another 20k thousand miles under it perfection will be seen. The engine revs unrestrainedly, and has lots of torque from 2000rpm up, though again its note is kind of flat. The gearing does not take advantage of the engine, with shift points at odd places and sixth being too short. I would have liked to see a close-ratio five speed with an interstate cruising gear, but as it stands 6th is kind of worthless. By far the best part about the car is the brakes. The car I drove, a demonstrator with 2k miles on it, had the best brakes of any car I have ever driven. Great feel and I would not be surprised if objectively the car's stopping distances are not in the 99th percentile of all cars sold in the US. The worst part about the car is the handling. Unfortunately, the Miata has succumbed to granturismoitis. Turn-in is on the laggard side, no doubt due to those oversized leaden wheels and tires, and the steering is less connected than on older Miatas, or on the Mini. Also, the car's gained a few hundred pounds since they first came out. It is no longer a car that is fun to drive at 25mph, though I do not doubt that at 105mph it is better than the old one. With the top up, the car is uncannily quiet. Too quiet. While memories are shaky at this point I think with the ragtop up it is quieter than my 1993 Miata was with the hardtop on! With the top down, it is also fairly quiet considering. The suspension tuning (sport suspension with Bilsteins, remember) was pretty good, not too hard like most American/Japanese/German "sport suspensions". Overall, my impression of the new Miata is that it is one of the neatest little GT's that you can buy. A sportscar, unfortunately, it is no more. When I returned the BMW Gähnenwagen and picked up my Mini hatchback, I was not the least bit disappointed that it will be with me for a while yet. I was, however, disappointed that with the fall of the Miata the Mini and Elise are the only pure fun cars for sale in the US today.
post #2 of 43
Thanks for the review. I'm quite fond of the new body for the MX-5, although I agree the grill does feel a bit cheap, and some of the materials inside do look like they came from a Chevrolet (ugh). I'll concede without hesitation that you're a much more experienced sports car driver than I am, but I'm curious on your thoughts to the Honda S2000 and the Subaru STi. Do you not consider them pure fun, or sports cars?
post #3 of 43
I'd really like to see it compared against the Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Sky.
post #4 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by visionology
I'd really like to see it compared against the Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Sky.

Are you being serious? I can't really tell, but I went with my roommate who's looking at new cars. He test drove the Pontiac, and it was not only the ugliest interior I've ever seen, it drove worse than his c1991 Ford Aspire.
post #5 of 43
There is a comparison test done by C&D, and the Miata comes out on top.

My advice: Get the previous gen. Miata Mazdaspeed instead.
post #6 of 43
I think one of the car magazines did a comparison of the Miata and the Solstice a few months ago. IIRC, it was ruled something of a toss-up but only because the Miata won lots of fun/handling points and the Solstice won a similar number of "good looks"/"nice effort" points. The Solstice is certainly unique though, in a good way --I saw one in person recently, and it's a "head-turner."

I like the Miata, but more for the concept and execution -- I don't think I'd buy one. Too small and somewhat chickish (although the 2006, with its flared wheel wells, is more substantial-looking than the prior version). I'd rather buy a used S2000 or Boxster.
post #7 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by visionology
I'd really like to see it compared against the Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Sky.

Why waste the ink? The MX-5 is a real car and the Solstice/Sky barely have enough trunk space to fit a sportcoat. The Solstice/Sky are actually inferior to the old MR-2 Spyder in that regard, and the Spyder was qua car superior to the new Miata as well.
post #8 of 43
For "˜funability' I rather have a base Lotus Elise, and for overall I would rather have a BMW Z4 (and yes, I know it costs more than the Mazda).

Jon.
post #9 of 43
Of course, an Alfa Romeo is another option, with the cultish legacy, and history to boot.
post #10 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian SD
I'm curious on your thoughts to the Honda S2000 and the Subaru STi. Do you not consider them pure fun, or sports cars?
Ah, the S2000. Like the BMW Z3 (Z4 wasn't out yet, but I wouldn't have considered it even if it had been) it was car I dearly wanted to love (and buy) but just couldn't fall in love with it. (Before I bought my Mini, I thought that I would either be driving a WRX, Z3, or S2000. Until I drove one, I thought the Mini was going to be a cute but disappointing car like the New Beetle.) However, it was for a different reason than the Z3, which was a just plain bad car all around. The S2000, like the new Miata, was except for the engine, too good. Sitting in a bathtub like that, the only way you know how fast you're going is by the shrieking of the engine. Speaking of which, its gutless nature required far more clutch slipping in real-world situations such as moving on from a stop sign at the top of a hill than I was comfortable with. I will say that the S2000 has the best shifter action I've ever encountered, though. Also, the dash-mounted remote radio controls are superb, and better than steering wheel based controls IMO. Then again, a friend of mine who tests fighter jets for a living drives an S2000 and (except for the Elise, which he doesn't trust to be reliable enough as a daily driver) the only other thing he had considered was a Mazdaspeed Miata. As for the STi or Evo, it is fair to say that I missed two cars in my post above! (I do have an ingrained bias against Japanese cars because most of them including these two are IMO very ugly.) It is hard to say anything bad about the driving experience because they are just so competent, but not too competent. Somehow the extra bulk balances the extra hp and makes them enjoyable without endangering the lives of others unduly. Though both are certainly capable of that! The STi in particular has an engine that's just about perfect feeling, with torque everywhere yet an uncanny willingness to rev. The steering's a little rubbery (actually reminds me a bit of the old worm and roller on the W124-platform Mercedes) and the shifter doesn't have the relentless grace of the Miata's or S2000's. My favorite WRX by far is the regular model Sportwagon, because it is the best looking (IMO) and even though its turbo arrangement (in 2002; I haven't driven a newer model one that may be improved) is much peakier than the STi's flawless engine it is probably the best blend of practicality and performance in the line. I like it so much I almost bought one. In the end, my final decision was between the Mini, the WRX, and the also departed Ford SVT Focus, which is probably the best big hatch this side of a Peugeot 206GTi and probably a cheap car to buy used.
post #11 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by imageWIS
For "˜funability' I rather have a base Lotus Elise, and for overall I would rather have a BMW Z4 (and yes, I know it costs more than the Mazda).

Have you driven a Z4? It's a cheap, ugly, boring POS with Buick-quality steering feel. As a sportscar, it is even worse than the severely mediocre Z3, which in M Roadster/Coupe guise was at least kind of a snob's Mustang. (Crude, but lots of power and lots of tire and electronics that get out of the way if you make them.) As for the Elise, you must be a small guy. Getting in and out of them with either top affixed is pretty difficult for anyone above about 5'10". Not that I don't still want one...
post #12 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by SGladwell
I was, however, disappointed that with the fall of the Miata the Mini and Elise are the only pure fun cars for sale in the US today.

Ahem? What? Porsche Boxster?

Jon.
post #13 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by SGladwell
Have you driven a Z4? It's a cheap, ugly, boring POS with Buick-quality steering feel. As a sportscar, it is even worse than the severely mediocre Z3, which in M Roadster/Coupe guise was at least kind of a snob's Mustang. (Crude, but lots of power and lots of tire and electronics that get out of the way if you make them.) As for the Elise, you must be a small guy. Getting in and out of them with either top affixed is pretty difficult for anyone above about 5'10". Not that I don't still want one...

Looks is in the eye of the beholder, its hardly cheap, the interior is better made and has better hepatics than your Mini and drives every bit as good as it should for its price point / market segment, if you are seriously comparing a Buick to a BMW Z4 I really have nothing else to say.

Jon.
post #14 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by imageWIS
Looks is in the eye of the beholder, its hardly cheap, the interior is better made and has better hepatics than your Mini and drives every bit as good as it should for its price point / market segment, if you are seriously comparing a Buick to a BMW Z4 I really have nothing else to say.
As for the Z4, I stand by my critiques. I don't know what a Buick drives like, as I've never driven one. But I imagine they're soulless, devoid of feel, and extremely floaty. In other words, much like the Z4's electric steering. As to the driving experience (I've driven both 2.5's and 3.0's), well, I know what a sportscar is and don't give a damn about irrelevant ad-driven constructs like "market segment". I've been driving them since before I've been legally driving and riding in them since before I was born. You, by contrast, seem to think that a severely overweight, beslushboxed 4-door that "feels the same at 30mph as at 100mph" is a "sports sedan." In other words, you learned about the driving experience from reading marketing-driven magazines rather than having actual experience with good drivers' cars. So forgive me if I don't give your views about the driving characteristics of cars any credence. Moreover, the interior materials are not, IMO, superior to the Mini's, and given that it costs about 180% as much there should be no question to that effect. Even worse, the employment of those interior materials in the Z4 is abysmal. To "hepatics", I'll give you credit in that you made me look up a word. However, I fail to see what "drugs having to do with liver treatment" has to do with sportscars. Unless you mean that shitty sportcar wannabes cause people to drink and ruin their livers... And the Boxster is again a GT, not a sportscar. Overweight, dulled, and bizarrely for a car sold in country with no state having speed limits over 100mph, designed for effortless high speed cruising above all else. Why do you think that well nigh 80% of them sold have slushboxes? The last Porsche sportscar was the 968 Clubsport, which was sadly never available in the USA but was a spectacularly fun automobile.
post #15 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by SGladwell
As for the Z4, I stand by my critiques. I don't know what a Buick drives like, as I've never driven one. But I imagine they're soulless, devoid of feel, and extremely floaty. In other words, much like the Z4's electric steering. As to the driving experience (I've driven both 2.5's and 3.0's), well, I know what a sportscar is and don't give a damn about irrelevant ad-driven constructs like "market segment". I've been driving them since before I've been legally driving and riding in them since before I was born. You, by contrast, seem to think that a severely overweight, beslushboxed 4-door that "feels the same at 30mph as at 100mph" is a "sports sedan." In other words, you learned about the driving experience from reading marketing-driven magazines rather than having actual experience with good drivers' cars. So forgive me if I don't give your views about the driving characteristics of cars any credence.

Moreover, the interior materials are not, IMO, superior to the Mini's, and given that it costs about 180% as much there should be no question to that effect. Even worse, the employment of those interior materials in the Z4 is abysmal. To "hepatics", I'll give you credit in that you made me look up a word. However, I fail to see what "drugs having to do with liver treatment" has to do with sportscars. Unless you mean that shitty sportcar wannabes cause people to drink and ruin their livers...

And the Boxster is again a GT, not a sportscar. Overweight, dulled, and bizarrely for a car sold in country with no state having speed limits over 100mph, designed for effortless high speed cruising above all else. Why do you think that well nigh 80% of them sold have slushboxes? The last Porsche sportscar was the 968 Clubsport, which was sadly never available in the USA but was a spectacularly fun automobile.

Sorry, I meant haptics.

I love how your "˜assumptions' as to how a Buick drives automatically means that your comparison makes sense. How can I give you credence if you are the one making comparisons without actually driving the car you are comparing? Did you even read the reasons why I bought my car? Because "˜sport' really had nothing to do with the purchasing decision.

If you can't understand what the phrase "˜fells the same at 30 mph as it does at 100 mph', then perhaps you should drive something in the lower echelons of the car industry to see what 100 miles per hour feel in a Kia Rio (my friends car, she was not happy that I went that fast with her car, frankly I'm amazed it did not fly apart).

If automatics are so bad, how come the 911 Turbo is faster in Auto mode than it is in manual mode? How come the world's fastest car has an automatic?

Jon.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
Styleforum › Forums › Culture › Fine Living, Home, Design & Auto › Thoughts on the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata