Top 10 Best Mazda MX-5 Miata Models of All Time

Top 10 Best Mazda MX-5 Miata Models of All Time

Hard to believe that 26 years ago, no one really knew what a Miata was.

With its immense success over the past two and a half decades, it’s hard to remember a world PM (pre-Miata). With lightweight, lightning reflexes and a fun factor that can’t be measured in this or most worlds, the Mazda MX-5 Miata redefined what an affordable sports car should be.

Lasting 26 years a low volume sports car is no small feat. To keep the thrill alive, many great Miatas have rolled out of the factory during its history. Here is our list of the top 10 best Mazda MX-5 Miata models of all time.

10. 2007 Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT

In 2007 the third generation MX-5 Miata received a new feature not offered on any previous version of the car. A three-piece, power folding retractable hard top convertible roof could now be ordered from the factory. Although it did add weight to the car, it also added a new level of all-weather capability and practicality that couldn’t be matched by the older car’s one piece removable hardtop that required two people to remove and couldn’t be brought along for a drive.

1996-Mazda-MX-5-Miata9. 1996 Mazda MX-5 Miata

In 1996 the most powerful version of the first generation MX-5 Miata was introduced. The 1.8-liter four cylinder engine that had been installed in the car two years earlier now received OBD-II engine management system software. This helped bump power up from 128 HP to 133 HP.

1998-Mazda-MX-5-Miata8. 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata

In 1998, the second generation MX-5 Miata burst onto the scene as a 1999 model. Gone were the pop-up headlights, replaced by more modern looking fixed lights. The 1.8-liter engine remained, but power was up once again to now total 140 HP.

2013-Mazda-MX-5-Miata7. 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Although the end of the third generation MX-5 Miata was near, that didn’t stop Mazda from given it a bit more performance. Called the Club, the new MX-5 trim included all sorts of good go-fast bits like Bilstein dampers, a limited-slip differential and larger front and rear splitters. As well, some of the interior trim was body colored and MX-5 decals ran down the side of the car.

2001-Mazda-MX-5-Miata6. 2001 Mazda MX-5 Miata

In 2001, the second generation Mazda MX-5 Miata received a mid-cycle refresh that gave the car a more aggressive appearance. Many consider this sub-generation the best looking Miata of all time. Available in the 2001 model was a six-speed manual transmission and limited-slip differential.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Review

Power was once again up for the 1.8-liter engine, now making 143 HP total for North America. Unfortunately, Mazda quoted the overseas power output of 155 HP initially which lead to a lot of apologies and an offer to buy the car back off of customers.

1999-Mazda-MX-5-Miata5. 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata 10th Anniversary Edition

Anniversary editions for a lot of cars are little more than a few graphics and new badges. The 10th anniversary MX-5 Miata was a lot more than that. In 1999, it was the only way to get the six-speed manual transmission instead of the regular five-speed. The car also came with other unique features like Bilstein shocks and two tone seats with Alcantara inserts.

1994-Mazda-MX-5-Miata4. 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata R Package

In 1994 the MX-5 Miata received its first substantial upgrade. The 1.6-liter engine was replaced a larger 1.8-liter engine that upped power by 15 HP to a total of 131 HP. Weighing nearly the same as the original 1990 Miata, the 1994 model was significantly faster.

To complement the new power plant, the R Package was available that include Bilstein shocks, under-body aerodynamics and the removal of the power steering system.

1990-Mazda-MX-5-Miata3. 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

We’d be re-missed to not include the car that started it all on this list. In 1990 the Mazda MX-5 Miata burst on the scene as a two seat roadster weighing just over 2,000 lbs. Even if the small 1.6-liter engine only made 116 HP, the car’s chassis was designed to exploit every last pony.

Responsive and properly balanced, a novice driver could easily drive the MX-5 near its limit. With weight so low, the suspension didn’t have to be overly stiff either which had a side benefit of a comfortable ride.

2016-Mazda-MX-5-Miata2. 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Although we’ve only driven the new MX-5 Miata briefly, our initial impressions are that it’s fantastic. Weighing 2,332 lbs. the new MX-5 continues the Miata tradition of exploiting every one of its 155 HP from the 2.0-liter engine. Early instrument tests have the 2016 MX-5 Miata as the faster Miata every produced – even faster than the car residing in the number one position on the list.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Mazda MX-5 Curb Weight in Perspective

Great steering, amazing grip and the best transmission yet in any MX-5, the new “ND” MX-5 delivers. So why is it only in second place? Well, we’ve spent so little time in the car that it’s hard to declare it the best MX-5 ever without a few more drives. Chances are though, after some more time with the 2016 Miata, it will become our favorite.

2004-Mazda-MX-5-Miata1. 2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

With a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 178 HP and 166 lb-ft. of torque, the 2004-2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata is the most powerful Miata ever produced. But claiming the Mazdaspeed as the best Miata of all time based on power alone wouldn’t make much sense as the MX-5 has never been about outright power.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata First Drive

What made the Mazdaspeed so special was that it’s a complete package. It came with a whack of chassis and suspension upgrades that included Bilstien shocks, beefier springs, wider tires, thicker anti-roll bars and a strut tower brace. To let passersby know this car was something special, the exterior also received upgrades include a tasteful skirt package, 17-inch wheels and a rear spoiler.

Although the new 2016 MX-5 Miata may be faster, there’s something undeniably cool about a second generation Miata with a factory turbo engine and all the upgrades to match. Over ten years later, it’s still the coolest MX-5 Miata ever produced.

Discuss this story on our Mazda MX-5 forum

  • Mark Henley

    The new one is not faster than a Mazdaspeed with a few simple FM parts.

  • Elizabeth Singleton

    My favorite was my 2nd 1997 with aftermarket supercharger and lowered suspension. I bought it because after i got the 2nd gen 2003 I really missed my first 1997. – I have owned 4 Miatas – 1997, 2003, 1997, 2006. A Miata has been my daily driver since 1999.

  • Tony Sommer

    Gotta agree! I’m biased because I own one but the Mazdaspeed 2004 is the best Miata of all time. And the little beast refuses to break or fall apart. The Gen 4 Miata is going to have to show me something very special to get me to trade in my Mazdaspeed!

  • main789


  • -T

    And the Mazdaspeed isn’t as fast as an NB with LS1 swap. Point being, compare stock vs. stock, not stock vs. aftermarket.

  • Norm Wick

    Of course, my favorite MX5 is mine, the 2002 SE Blazing Yellow Mica

  • Chucks Kelvin Robert

    Please I want to buy my first Miata but I dont know which one to start with.
    I mean efficiency and rugged, easy to manage, budget of $5-10,000.

  • Chucks Kelvin Robert

    Please anybody wanting to sale Miata?

  • Chucks Kelvin Robert

    Please among to 2010 which one is the best to buy?

  • Chucks Kelvin Robert

    Please advise me on which model to buy

  • Chucks Kelvin Robert

    Which one is good for a first timer like me?

  • Elizabeth Singleton

    Any Miata is good. I don’t know you to know what is good for you. I never felt the connection to my NB 2nd gen that I did to the first gen NA. I like the smaller size, the feel of being g in a cockpit, the pop up headlights and a 96 or 97 had all the final upgraded. Earlier years were a little too stripped down for my tastes. First gens are getting harder to find in Good shape. I like my NC1 but it is bigger. A little easier on cross country trips. I have always gotten sift tops. There are a lot if guys out there who like the3rd gen and like the retractable hardtops. For your price range you can get either. Pick which style you like better to fit your needs and start looking. The NC2, later year models have fancier stuff that I never felt the need for but that some like having. I don’t need my car to tell me my mog, I am going to put gas in and drive it regardless for me, being who I am and what I like, put a 1997 M edition and any other gen Miata in front of me in comparable condition and I will get the 1997.That is my preference.

  • Elizabeth Singleton

    For research purposes you can read threads by owners at miata,net.

  • Dodgex

    Totally love my 2005 Mazdaspeed, the real deal, an unbelievable find with only 35 000 km on it, both tops, upgraded with the Flyin’ Miata and adjustable suspension upgrades. Absolute mint condition kept indoors in a temperature controlled garage every winter by a car collector/lover. I am truly the luckiest guy around. I love this car!

  • Adrian

    When you’re ready to let it go, give me a holla please 🙂

  • Manuel Patino

    Sold my supercharged ’92 but kept my ’91 with VLSD and a few minor mods like the Koni Sport shocks w/ Eibach lowering springs, 15″ Chaparral wheels and RB header and intake. I love my NA and would hate to give it up. That’s basically why I don’t already have an ND 😉

  • Manuel Patino

    Get an NA 1.6 in good condition mileage is not too important. Then take it to a good shop like Rspeed in Atlanta or some other good Miata shop and have them do a 60K service and repair/replace whatever is needed. You could get there easily for $4K~ total. $3~ for the car and $1K or less for the service. If you want to tweak it a bit, another $3K will give you suspension, wheels/tires and possibly an exhaust. If you are a DIY guy you can save many $Ks from this estimate. I’d recommend a ’90-’92 as they will be exempt from emissions testing. Stay away from some of the 1.8 NAs as they can give you a lot of trouble passing emissions and that can be costly to fix.

  • Carjunkie Craig

    My first Miata was a red 93 NA. Came with fresh 1.8 & 5 speed trans, I went with a stage 3 clutch. I heard a noise in rear breaks so I changed to the bigger 94 drilled & sloted. Changed to LSD. Lots of Flyin Miata upgrades. Then I Gave it to my son and got a 97 NA Red for my wife & a blue 99 NB for myself. Crashed them and my boy sold his 93. I looked hard at a Z-4 3.0 BMW for myself & wife went with 335-I BMW. Then I found this 04 Mazdaspeed with 45K for $13.500 like new from old guys barn. Talked him down some and it was off to my garage for all new Flyin Miata upgrade, mega squirt ECU. The Big enchilada. Make sure you get a bigger radiator or your Miata will run hot. It turns out the stock turbo was ok, but to race around was Burning up my clutch trying to shift at high rpm’s just to keep the turbo in boost range. For sure go with the FM Turbo. Over all you will save your clutch from burning up by not having to speed shift at high RPM just to use your stock turbo. My Mazdaspeed doesn’t come stock with a LSD. Be sure to change that out also. After your all done with your (MSM) MazdaSpeed Miata get a car cover and save your car for one day a week. This is a toy not a over the road daily driver. This is a classic collectors item, let’s save them for the future. I have an electric crossover for my exhaust. One switch changes from stock quiet too noisy racing exhaust. It’s the only way to keep the cops from pulling you over. Also if you live in town you have to be nice to your neighbors. Only cost $100.or so.

  • John Smith

    This is a fantastic list of Mazda roadsters. But one thing I dread is the wind noise of my earlier MX-5. The problem was tackled only after mounting a draught-stop. Maybe these roadsters will also need quick fix of a Windblox wind deflector or something to give us noise-free rides.

  • Doug Whiner

    I just had my perfect 96R hit by a lost old woman… totaled. I feel like I lost an old friend.

  • Michael S Thomas II

    Same here bud. I just lost my 94R to an old lady. Struggling with insurance. They’re compairing my car to newer miatas that are automatics. It’s hurting the value.

  • warren

    nice to see my car on here as number 7. although they put the 2013 and mine is a 2015, still the same car. the picture even looks like my car. love my MX-5 Club. only think i need to get used to is the engine is not a rotary . i traded a 2007 RX-8 in on my MX-5.

  • warren

    nice to see my car on here as number 7. although they put the 2013 and mine is a 2015, still the same car. the picture even looks like my car. love my MX-5 Club. only thing i need to get used to is the engine is not a rotary . i traded a 2007 RX-8 in on my MX-5.

  • Doug Whiner

    I hope you got yours taken care of… I got 5500… I bit the bullet and bought a new 2016 Brembo. I am loving it!