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The most beloved convertible on the road today, the Mazda Miata is neverending fun. Over thirty years since it was first introduced, the Miata continues to chart at the top of every list for a weekend toy or track warrior. Not only is the Miata a great platform to progress as a driver, but it is an incredible cruiser. Just throw the top down and drive through the hills; what more could you want? Although, some years of the Miata are not all they are cracked up to be. Here are the three worst Mazda Miata years to avoid.

1. 1990 Mazda Miata

1990 Mazda Miata black
1990 Mazda Miata | Getty Images

It is a common trend that the first year of any vehicle is usually the worst. In the case of the Mazda Miata, unfortunately, it follows this trend. The early production cars have a famous issue with the manual transmission. A pin inside the transmission can come off when shifting from reverse to first, leaving the transmission stuck in reverse gear. If you are lucky enough to catch it as it happens, you can put the pin in place without taking the transmission off. Otherwise, to fix the issue, you have to pull the transmission off the car and take it apart to fix the pin in place Peak to Peak Miata Club has a detailed write-up on the issue and how to fix it.

Another common issue from 1990 to 1993 Miatas is the “cursed water plug.” The plug is a rubber cap on the back of the cylinder head that will crack, causing a coolant leak. A coolant leak will lead to overheating issues. While it is a small rubber cap, accessing the plug is difficult without impressively small hands.

2. 1999 Mazda Miata

1999 Mazda MX5 silver
1999 Mazda MX5 | Getty Images

Again, the curse of the first year of a vehicle strikes the second-generation 1999 Mazda Miata. This time, the issue is engine-related, as the BP engine for the first two years of the second-gen Miata consumes a lot of oil. Oil consumption can lead to low levels and, if left unchecked, cause a blown engine. With no oil level sensor in the cars, you must continually check your dipstick to top off with oil. Some owners report that the engine consumes up to two quarts every month of everyday driving.

3. 2017 Mazda Miata

2017 Mazda Mx-5 Rf Sport Nav
2017 Mazda Miata | Getty Images

Wouldn’t you guess it, another first year of a generation? Jumping to the fourth and current generation Mazda Miata, the 2017 model year had its own transmission issue. This time, Mazda issued a recall for the automatic transmission as it could downshift unexpectedly. ConsumerReports gives a detailed description of the recall and what cars are affected. While automatic transmission cars have a recall, some manual transmission cars do not. A handful of the 2017 Mazda Miata’s manual transmission breaks internally under normal conditions. Although it isn’t common, it is something to be wary of when buying a used model.

Which year Mazda Miata should you avoid?

Although the pop-up headlights of the first-generation Mazda Miata are enticing, 1990 is the year you should avoid. Not only does it have the transmission and coolant cap issue, but it is also the least powerful of any Miata. Many first-year cars had no options, meaning crank windows, no air conditioning, and paper speakers in the doors. Even if you find a 1991 model, it will be a better investment than the 1990 model.


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