The Beginning of a Legend
In 1990 Mazda introduced a back-to-basics sports car. Utilizing the same philosophy as British roadsters did in the 1950s and 1960s; the MX-5 Miata was a lightweight, front engine roadster that offered moderate power, a well-balanced chassis and top down motoring fun.
The big difference between the MX-5 and English roadsters of old was reliability. Mazda finally made a budget sports car that could be driven day-in and day-out without issue.
Initially available with a 1.6-liter engine, the MX-5 Miata received a mid-cycle refresh in 1994 and the addition of more power thanks to a larger 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Through the entire run of the first generation Miata, pop-up headlights and a manually retracting roof were featured.
Depending on the year, several different trims were offered. Early MX-5s featured Base, Special Edition and Limited Edition models. Later Miatas could be had with the luxurious M Package, sporty R Package and the limited-run Touring Package.
- The number one reason people buy the Miata is because it’s fun to drive. This can mean different things to different people, but owners can always be found grinning when behind the wheel of a Miata.
- The reason the Miata has been so successful is because it’s reliable. Unlike many sports cars before it, the Miata offers an open air, sports car driving experience without it frequently needing major repairs.
- Both casual owners and Miata modifiers like how simple the design of the first generation MX-5 is. It requires little maintenance and is very simple to work on if something does go wrong.
- The first generation Miata is getting on in years and being a convertible, it’s susceptible to leaking water into the cabin. This can occur any number of ways from bad roof latches, dried out seals to the most common issue, plugged drain pipes.
- The 1990-1993 MX-5 Miatas came equipped with the 1.6-liter engine that can suffer from a fluctuating idle caused by the idle speed control valve.
- Those living in humid climates or in regions that see wintery weather will want to check for rust. Even if the car has not been driven in the snow, the Miata is known to rust on both the body and underneath the car.
Before You Buy
The success of the MX-5 Miata does stem from the fact that it has proven to be reliable during its lifetime. From 1990 to 1997 there were no recalls on the MX-5 and for the most part is a trouble free sports car.
Check for rust, water stains inside the vehicle, tears in the roof and the condition of the rear plastic window. On a test drive, listen for unusual sounds from the transmission (automatic or manual) and check the steering is still centered.
A case can be made for nearly every year and trim of the Miata as each has it shares of fanatic supporters. Those looking for a sporting Miata though should look for a 1994-1997 Miata with the R package while those looking more for top down cruising should look into the luxurious 1994-1996 Miata M package. If it is nostalgia you are after, the first year 1990 Miata is the rawest of the breed, but also has the most issues.
Looking for more information? Visit our Mazda MX-5 Miata Forum