We have the answer.
Yes, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is known for being a hairdresser’s car. Those who have never even touched one, and even some who have got behind the wheel, claim that it’s a sports car for those who can’t afford a proper one. After driving the current iteration of the Mazda MX-5 Miata I can say that’s all crap. Now I didn’t get to spend days or even hours pushing the sports car to the limit, but I did get to spend enough time in it to see how the new ND model compares against the purist and archaic NA generation that I actually own.
When the Miata came out in 1989 it was meant to be a lightweight sports car that was affordable, reliable and entertaining through turns. Fast forward 27 years and it’s easy to see how the ND and NA models share a lot of the same characteristics. However, there are also a lot of differences between the two generations of sports cars, which highlights how far cars have come in three decades worth of time. The NA Miata has always been known as a “cutesy” sports car from the outside. With the retractable headlamps up, the 1992 Miata looks like it’s smiling at you, inviting you to be its friend.
The ND, on the other hand, looks angrier. It doesn’t care if you want to be its friend or not and quite frankly, it’s not going to be loved by everyone. Mazda chose a bold exterior design for the ND Miata, which will stop the majority of people from calling it a “soft” sports car. The new look also carries over to the way the fourth-gen Miata drives. The ND Miata’s 155-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is a thing of beauty. The sports car only takes 5.9 seconds to get to 60 mph and has a great amount of grunt throughout the entire rev range. What the engine lacks in power the peppy unit is more than happy to make up in revs.
I wasn’t able to explore the full extent of the 2.0-liter engine’s revs, but after 3,000 rpm, the ND Miata just pulls. It isn’t fast, but the sports car is quick. The ND Miata is much quicker than the NA Miata and can hold its own against other enthusiast-oriented cars on the market. Not to mention the ND Miata’s engine makes a great sound, while the transmission has the same incredible click as the original sports car. When the NA Miata came out it featured an anemic 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that made 116 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque. I’m sure my ’92 Miata’s engine is making much less than the original amount as pushing the throttle all the way to the floor leaves the car barely able to keep up with modern minivans.
The Miata has always been a bare-bones kind of sports car with the philosophy that less is better. While that is true with the majority of cars, the range-topping Grand Touring model’s interior is a great place to be. Even against cars from the same year, the ’92 Miata is hilariously equipped. On the other grand, the ND Grand Touring Miata has everything you could ever ask for—heated leather seats, navigation, power windows and more. The seating position in the ND Miata is much lower and more comfortable, whereas the NA Miata has a more upright position. Not to mention the ND Miata’s seats have just the right amount of bolstering for spirited driving or a highway blast, while the NA Miata’s cloth seats are uncomfortable after a mere 30 minutes.
Don’t let the nice interior fool you into thinking that the ND Miata has lots its roots, though. It’s still a great car to drive. The thick steering wheel is extremely light—a little too light—thanks to the electrically assisted steering, whereas the NA Miata’s hydraulic steering is a little more forceful and enjoyable. Despite the electrical assistance, the ND Miata feels just as easy to drive as the NA Miata and just as willing to enter a turn. Once there the ND Miata’s body rolls makes itself apparent in the same way as the NA’s but has an amazing amount of grip. In addition the brakes are leagues ahead of the NA’s. Stopping is almost telepathic with great bite, which can never be replicated on the original.
If it sounds like I’m in love with the ND Miata, it’s because I am. It is simply miles ahead of the NA Miata in every way. It has more power, better features, is more comfortable and generally more well-rounded. However, it still has the spirit of the NA Miata with the same handling characteristics, feedback and ability to make you smile. There have been other Miatas, but the ND builds upon everything that made the NA great, which makes it a worthy rendition of the original sports car. Special thanks to Brown's Alexandria Mazda for providing us with the new Mazda MX-5 Miata.