2003 MX-5 Miata New Car Test Drive
Car companies are always trying to 'redefine' things. One car that hasn't been redefined in the past dozen years is the traditional sports car. Look up 'sports car' in a modern dictionary and there's a picture of a Mazda Miata. Well, there should be. The Miata is everything the classic sports cars were meant to be, and many things the two-seat British roadsters never were. The Miata is simple and affordable, absolutely reliable, and fun to drive in a way not achieved by powerful sport coupes or high-performance sedans.
The Miata is not brutally fast, nor particularly exotic. Nor were the great roadsters it emulates. Like them, however, the Miata celebrates the simple joy of motion, of human beings relating to machines in a manner that borders on intimacy.
Since its 1989 introduction, Mazda has sold a half-million Miatas, making it the most successful two-seat roadster in history. Its success has inspired a number of imitators, most of them more powerful and more expensive. Those more expensive sports cars are faster and fancier, but whether they're more fun is debatable. The Miata remains the benchmark, for its low-cost simplicity and outstanding sports-car handling. Last year, Mazda increased the Miata's power with variable valve timing, enlarged its brakes, stiffened its chassis, and upgraded its interior.
The 2002 Miata Special Edition comes in two new colors: Titanium Gray Metallic with saddle brown leather seats, and Blazing Yellow Mica with black leather seats with silver stitching and embroidery.
Two primary models are available: the base Miata ($21,280) and the slightly up-market Miata LS ($24,080). New for 2002 are two Special Edition models ($25,755): Titanium Gray and Blazing Yellow.
The current Miata is more lavishly trimmed than its predecessors. Even the base version comes with air conditioning, alloy wheels with 195/50VR15 tires, four-wheel-disc brakes, a CD stereo with four speakers, and power windows and mirrors. Interior upholstery is black cloth and the convertible top is black.
LS adds leather upholstery, a tan convertible top, 205/45WR16 tires, a Torsen limited-slip differential, power door locks, and cruise control. For 2002, the Miata LS features a modular Bose audio speaker system with automatic speed sensing volume control.
Special edition models come standard with a six-disc CD changer and six-speed manual gearbox, aluminum foot pedals, scuff plates, Special Edition badging and floor mats, a black leather Nardi? steering wheel (two tone silver and black on the Blazing Yellow version), and aluminum-like interior trim pieces (center panel, meter rings, inner door handles and shift plate bezel).
All Miatas are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and variable valve timing. It produces 142 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque.
An optional Suspension Package ($1,025) beefs up the base model with a strut-tower brace, Bilstein shocks, Torsen differential, and the wider tires from the LS. Or you can put the Bilsteins on the LS for just $395. Anti-lock brakes ($550) are available only on the LS, as is a six-speed manual transmission ($650) in place of the standard five-speed. You can order an automatic transmission for $900, but if you do, we'll have to wonder whether you are buying the right car. Optional features new for the 2002 model year include an in-dash 6-CD changer and a perimeter alarm with shock sensor. A detachable hardtop ($1,500) is available for driving in cold climates, scary neighborhoods, or on racetracks.