The Mazda MX-5 Miata has a rich history, with the automaker taking inspiration from ’60s-era roadsters to create it. The 2022 Miata is hard to beat with its hearty Skyactiv-G engine, engaging manual transmission, and lightweight proportions. But it isn’t just fun to drive; it also gets some of the best fuel economy numbers in the segment. Now that this zippy little car has been around for over 30 years, let’s reflect on the best Miata models. Here are Autoblog’s picks.
Which are the best Miata models to buy?
According to Autoblog, the most practical Miata is the third-generation NC model. In North America, it was available for the 2005–15 model years. Its standard four-cylinder engine makes 167 hp and pairs with a five-speed automatic transmission.
This was also the first Miata to have a retractable hardtop, and it needs only 12 seconds to operate each way. Additionally, the top won’t encroach on this Miata’s tiny trunk, which measures only 5.0 cubic feet.
The Club and Grand Touring trims can be had with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The latter includes paddle shifters and an intelligent adaptive shifting feature that actively learns your driving habits.
If you want the fastest Miata, Autoblog says get a 2019 or later model. That year introduced the current four-cylinder engine, capable of 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. It also shed several hundred pounds and came with some new standard features, including a backup camera.
Mazda added smartphone mirroring to the 2020 Miata Club and Grand Touring trims. A used 2020 Miata Club might also have Brembo brakes, sport bucket seats, and Bilstein shocks. All trims came with some new advanced safety features.
As of this writing, the current-gen Mazda Miata is the only vehicle in the automaker’s lineup with Kinematic Posture Control. This brake torque vectoring system allows you to apply the brakes to a single wheel. It reduces body roll when making tight turns, adding another layer of thrill to the Miata’s performance.
The Miatas from the first and second generations are the cheapest models, and both still showcase excellent handling dynamics. They don’t have the most powerful engines, but Autoblog believes having any Miata is better than having none.
Mazda introduced the Miata in 1989
The Mazda MX-5 Miata debuted at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. According to Car and Driver, designers intended the car to be a mid-engine roadster, but they ultimately went with the front-engine layout. This car included pop-up headlights (another nod to roadsters of decades past), curvy body lines, and a 116-hp engine.
A few special editions also debuted during this time, including Sunburst Yellow and British Racing Green versions. The 1993 LE model featured jet-black exterior paint, a hi-fi audio system, and deep-red seats. One year later, the Miata finally gained some much-needed safety features and better brake rotors.
The engine got a slight upgrade in 1996, making 133 hp. The redesigned NB Mazda debuted for the 1999 model year with a new body style, conventional headlights, and yet another horsepower upgrade.
What’s next for Mazda’s iconic roadster?
The 2023 MX-5 Miata should be available soon, but Mazda will likely save any drastic changes for the upcoming redesign. CarScoops reports that the fifth-gen Miata is in development. Though the automaker hasn’t revealed any specifics yet, some observers speculate the newest Miata might have hybrid engine technology.
The newest model could debut as early as 2024. In the meantime, there are still plenty of existing Miatas to enjoy.