By 2006 the Mazda MX-5 Miata had become the benchmark for affordable roadsters in the United States. It had been on the market for over twenty years, with competitors disappearing in its wake. Then, the Pontiac Solstice appeared on the scene. Shoppers suddenly were forced to consider Miata versus Solstice before making a choice.
The Miata debuted at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. Quickly accepted by the public, it continued to be adored for years. An all-new version of the roadster was introduced by Mazda in 2006. It was the Miata’s third-generation by then. Mazda also saw it fitting at the time to rename their roadster the MX-5, dropping the Miata name. But the formula success did not change. It was still a fun, lightweight convertible.
Over at Pontiac, the Solstice originally debuted as a concept car at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show. However, its production-ready debut to the general public came in April 2005, albeit a bit unconventionally. It was revealed as a 2006 model year vehicle during a television show called, The Apprentice, which was hosted by business tycoon and celebrity, Donald Trump (long before he ran for office). The car’s appearance on the show certainly enticed the viewers, as over one thousand of them placed orders for the Pontiac Solstice within the first forty-one minutes after the show ended.
It seemed like match-ups between the MX-5, and the Solstice roadsters were inevitable. So, it was not unexpected to have major automotive publications and television shows quickly jump in and make comparisons. Ultimately, both cars were loved, although for different reasons. On paper, both vehicles had similar performance. However, the Mazda MX-5 had a smaller cabin and a harsher ride. But, its neutral suspension was eager to carve the road or the track. The Pontiac Solstice, by comparison, was quieter, heavier, had more room, and had a softer suspension, more suited to everyday cruising.
Sadly, the introduction of the Solstice was a case of too little, too late for Pontiac. The manufacturer had been struggling for a few years. Although the Solstice and the G8 were bright spots, they were introduced just ahead of the financial collapse of 2007 and 2008. General Motors, Pontiac’s parent company, was losing money at the time, and to save itself, took bail-out funds offered from the government. However, it was forced to shutter the Pontiac brand anyhow to stay afloat. This left Solstice fans wondering what could have been if the Miata and Solstice were left to battle it out.
2006 Mazda MX-5
- Engine: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder
- Engine Specs: 170 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque
- Transmission: Five-speed manual, six-speed manual transmission, or six-speed automatic
- Wheels: 16-inch or 17-inch wheels available
- Performance: Zero-to-sixty miles per hour at 7.3 seconds
- Weight: 2,470 lbs.
- Base price: $20,995
2006 Pontiac Solstice
- Engine: 2.4-liter, four-cylinder
- Engine Specs: 177 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque
- Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission, or five-speed automatic
- Wheels: 18-inch wheels
- Performance: Zero-to-sixty miles per hour at 7.2 seconds
- Weight: 2,860 lbs
- Base price: $19,995