(Editor’s note: TheWeeklyDriver.com is now 10 years old. We’re visiting our archives to review cars once new and now well-suited for best-buy status in the used car market. The 2006 Mazda MX-5 is one of our choices.)
Certain cars acquire their reputations via buyers’ gender or age group rather than the size, style, price or performance of the vehicle. Volkswagen’s Beetle and Chrysler’s PT Cruiser are surprisingly popular among women drivers. The Honda Element was marketed to appeal to young drivers, but it’s been successful among urban families who enjoy recreation.
Like the Beetle and PT Cruiser, the Mazda Miata has had great success among women drivers.
And it’s become the world’s best-selling two-passenger convertible. But Mazda had other plans, and they’re overtly apparent considering the 2006 version.
First, Mazda now prefers the name MX-5 to Miata. More importantly, the Miata, which debuted in 1990, has undergone vast changes for ’06. It’s 2.5 inches longer in the wheelbase, 1.6 inches longer overall and 1.7 inches wider. It’s engine has increased from 1.8 liters and 142 horsepower to 2.0 liters to 170 horsepower.
Additionally, color scheming has drastically improved and the car’s presence on the road is anything but its previous “soft” reputation.
My test vehicle for the week was the Mazda Grand Touring edition with a six-speed manual transmission — one of six available MX-5 models. It was nothing short of a quick, stylish, nicely appointed sports car. It perfectly fit the sports car stereotype — long on fun and short on practicality.
The 2006 Miata is Mazda’s third generation of the vehicle, but it’s really an entirely new vehicle. Its exterior presence reveals a lot. Unlike some red sports cars, the Mazda red is a rich, dark brick red and it perfectly complements the dark tan leather interior.
New also for 2006 Miata are 17-inch wheels, front and rear stabilizer bars, xenon headlights, and a one-touch, convertible top with a glass rear window. It all further nicely adds to the Miata’s new look.
The vehicle’s interior is equally impressive. There’s plenty of leg room, considering the car’s two-seat convertible status. Gauges and other instrumentation are clean, well-positioned and function with ease.
The convertible top system is particularly impressive. Unlock one latch above the central console with the bush of a button and the top easily folds back into a flush position. It securely locks into place with a slight push on the top once it’s snugly positioned into place. When you’re ready to put the top back, simply push another level inside the rear seat console and the top releases. Although it’s a manual system, it easily returns into position and secures with the same latch.
Considering the nature of convertibles, the Miata isn’t particularly quiet on the open road. Conversations are difficult at best, but the noise factor is greatly reduced when the windows and the rear wind screen between the two seats are all in the their up positions. With the convertible top is up, the noise level is average.
The 2006 Miata/MX-5 performs well. Steering and handling is quick, and maneuvering through traffic is efficient in stop-and-go traffic or in interstate situations. In one lane change scenario in highway conditions there was a noticeable skid during a lane change.
Despite the momentarily lapse, the new Miata is a fine choice. It’s matched against the Honda S2000 and the Pontiac Solstice in the sports car category. The entry level price point for the Solstice is lower than the MX-5 and it has not yet been reviewed. The Honda S2000 has been reviewed twice and it performs according to the high standards of the manufacturer. It has 70 more horsepower than the Mazda, and other strong features. Its base prices is more than $6,000 higher than a comparably equipped Miata/MX-5.
Briefly stated, the new and improved Miata/MX-5 is handsome and priced well. And its history as a sports car particularly popular among women drivers is likely soon to change.
Safety Features — Dual front and side impact airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 24 (city), 30 (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited mileage; Road side assistance, 4 years/50,000 miles.
Price Range — $20,435—$26,700.