If you spend any amount of time reading car news and reviews from us or any other outlet, you know that we all love Mazda Miyata. There are two of us Autoblog Own myatus. And that’s because of some basic things. They are affordable, they are reliable, they are relatively practical, but most of all, they are an absolute hut to drive. Of course, with four generations to choose from, it can be a bit difficult to decide (although there is really no wrong choice with these cars). We’ve already talked about the biggest and most practical, so this time we’re going to give it back to the generation that started it all, commonly referred to as NA.
Read more: 2006-2015 Mazda Miyata | Used vehicle spotlights
Introduced for the 1990 model year, the Miata was an instant hit with its lightweight and rear-wheel-drive layout. And it offers timeless styling and charming pop-up headlights that still win people over today. This first generation was built through the 1997 model year, and is still easy to own and maintain today, with its huge fanbase and the availability of lots of parts. They are also great for change.
Why Mazda MX-5 Miata?
As we mentioned in the introduction, you choose a Miata because it’s a lot of fun, and in many ways. Of course having a convertible is a lot of fun, especially one that is just as open as Miata. But they also drive great. The NA in particular is the lightest of the Miata generation at just 2,100 pounds, and has some skinny tires. This makes it easy to throw around the corner, and the fact that it has a fairly low limit that is easy enough to feel means that at low speeds and on public roads it is even more exciting and predictable. Being such an early model, it has great steering feel, even with power steering (yes, at first many lacked power steering).
It also has a great powertrain. The engine is willing to revive and has a classic roar, which is especially enhanced with upgraded feed and exhaust, if you are interested in changing. Depending on the model the power between 116 and 133 horsepower is not great – but with so little weight, they are still worn out. Lots of forced induction upgrades are available for later 1.8-liter models if you want more power, or engine swap kits if you really want to get wild. But there is a lot of fun with stock engines. The stock gearbox is also great. It has small cast and clean, solid gates. Combined with short gearing, you’ll hang the shifter up and down all day and love every minute of it.
Despite the small roadstar shape, the Miatas is a fairly practical choice. The interior has more space than you expect, and for passengers, there’s actually more space than today’s ND Mitter. The trunk isn’t huge, but it’s not hard to pack the essentials for a few days, assuming you’ve packed relatively lightly. If you really need more space, there’s an array of trunk-mounted luggage racks available. And this space is also available in the trunk with extra tires and batteries. Moreover, cars are highly reliable with the availability of spacious and affordable parts. They even get a relatively good fuel economy. These are short and of the 90s, so it’s not great compared to modern cars, but the combined fuel economy of 22 to 24 mpg was strong for that era.
Also worth mentioning is the styling, which is one of the main reasons for the first generation Miata choice. It is the busiest of all Miata sizes and is reminiscent of the early Lotus Alliance. And of course, many people prefer pop-up headlights, which are especially tall and beautiful with their standard round lenses. That being said, if you’re not married to the look, the NB Miata offers almost the same experience as the NA, albeit with a slightly tougher chassis and more powerful engine. But this is for other used car spotlights.
Which Mazda MX-5 would you choose?
Although the NA Miata was largely the same for running its production, it was significantly updated for the 1994 model year. It replaces the 1.6-liter engine, which produces 116 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque, with a 1.8-liter engine that produces 128 horsepower and 110 pound-feet. This engine will eventually produce 133 horsepower and 114 pound-feet before the NA closes. In addition, in 1994 and later, the Miatas was available with a mechanical torsion limited-slip differential, which was more efficient and reliable than the viscous limited-slip differentials available in the earlier models. The internal changes were less significant to make it look more modern. In addition to the extra stock power and more desirable optional rear-end, the 1.8-liter engine has a lot more aftermarket support, so if you want to get even more hate from it, you have to go with it.
It goes without saying that the early ones are a bad choice. These are still very fun, and you might even be able to get one for a little less than the 1.8-liter model. Be aware of some things. The first year and early 1991 models had crankshaft problems. You can check out any possible modifications by VIN and some possible corrections through this helpful technology article on Miata.net. In general the website is an excellent repository of all things related to Miata technology. And as mentioned earlier, the optional condensate does not always hold the limited-slip differential and often only ends up becoming a regular open differential. For change, there are fewer options for the 1.6, but it’s still basically the same as the 1.8 model, it’s relatively easier to drop from 1.8 to the engine and other related parts.
If you’re interested, Mazda has several great special-edition Miatas throughout its first generation. The most interesting were probably the 1993 limited edition and the 1994 and later M editions. The 1993 LE was black and came with BBS wheels and a bright red leather interior, and stylish metallic trimming around the speakers. Subsequent M versions came with special paint colors, leather interiors, wood trim and unique wheels.
Also, when looking for your Miata, there are a few things to check out. Like all used vehicles, keep an eye out for leaks, strange noises, warning lights and any kind of smoke. Also check for rust. They’re Japanese cars of the 1990s, so it’s a real possibility. These cars really like to rust on rocker panels and wheel arches. The tops certainly wear items effectively, if too long-lived ones. Replacement tops are readily available, and may even feature debatable upgrades such as glass windows instead of plastic. Patch panels are also available for rust repair, if you are interested in retrieving a rough example. This Miata also has a timing belt, so you’ll want to check out this maintenance. But apart from those key areas and the crank issues mentioned above, there’s not much to worry about in the Miata that you won’t test any other used car.
Availability and inventory
Mazda has so far produced more than one million Miyats of all generations, and the number of first generation millions. As such, they are not particularly difficult to find. They’re reasonably affordable, though they seem to be getting a little more valuable as the years go by. At the moment, Hagerty priced the 1994 Miata, the first 1.8-liter version, at ভাল 9,900 in “good” condition.
Our list of used cars can be helpful to find a good deal near you. Shrink offers by a radius around your zip code, and pay attention to the deal ratings on each listing to see how one car compares to others in the same area.
What else to consider
Read more: Full list of our used car spotlight articles
If you are looking for NA Miatas, you should also think about the second generation NB Miatas. It shares most of its chassis with the NA, but it has a stronger and more powerful 1.8-liter engine. It features more cargo space and a little more interior room. The engine bay is more open without motorized headlights. And Hagerty’s first year 1999 NB Miata cost 8,700, so you might actually be able to find one for less than a NA. But many buyers will not find the modernized, fixed-headlight design as charming as the original.
There are other fun rear-drive Japanese cars of that era, like the second generation Toyota MR-2 and Nissan 240SX. They each offer even greater space and practicality and a solid roof. However, they are much harder to find due to low production numbers and / or many rough owners. The 240SX was a longtime favorite of both great and weak power drift racers, with the latter going to many 240 scrap yards.
If rear-drive isn’t essential, the Honda CR-X and Del Sol are also fun, stylish two-door options. They were available with high-riveting and fairly strong four-cylinder. However, they are also thinner in the ground due to similarity to MR-2 and 240SX.