Since 1989, the Japanese automaker Mazda has been producing this lightweight, 2-seater roadster, front-engine, rear-wheel drive Mazda MX-5. In North America, it is marketed as Miata while in home market it receives Eunos Roadster name. It was officially introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in 1989 and assembled at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant. Although, MX-5 was considered as a small roadster, it idyllically it is considered as the direct successor of the 1960s British roadsters including the Triumph Spitfire, Austin-Healey Sprite, MG Midget and Lotus Elan.
In 1998, Mazda introduced the second generation of MX-5 (NB). The MX-5 is in its third generation now. The MX-5 is continued to be ranked as the best-selling 2-seat sports convertible until now. Over 900,000 MX-5 units have been sold by Mazda worldwide by the end of February 2011.
The name MX-5 became standard all over the world with the launch of the third generation, though it is still being referred to as Miata in American market. The term ‘Miata’ is taken from Old High German which means ‘reward’.
Generations and Overview
Between 1989 and 1997, Mazda sold about 400,000 units of MX-5 (NA) which was equipped with a 1.6-L (98 cubic inch) straight-4 and a 1.8-L (110 cubic inch) engine, after which a detuned 1.6-L engine was released as an option. In 1998, the MX-5 (NB) was launched with a slight improvement in the engine displacement. It also received revised headlamps and a glass rear window. The MX-5 (NC), a third generation model was released in 2005, powered by a 2.0-L 102 (cubic inch) engine.
The MX-5 was introduced when almost all the similar roadster models had lost their market. The only rival vehicle available at that time was the Alfa Romeo Spider. It was just a matter of decade, when a good number of roadsters were produced in sold all over the world including MG B, Triumph Spitfire, Fiat Spider and Triumph TR7.
As for technical aspects, the car’s body is based on a traditional but lightweight uni-body or monocoque construction, featuring a removable front and rear sub-frames. A supportive framework called the Powerplant Frame (PPF) is used in the MX-5 that links the engine to other components including differential, reducing flex and assists in performance handling. There are some models which feature limited slip differential and antilock braking system. The third generation model receives and optional traction control.
First Generation (NA)
On February 10, 1989, Mazda launched the first generation MX-5 (NA) at the Chicago Auto Show. It was launched with a set price of US$14,000. It went on sale in Japan in March 1989; in United States and Canada in May 1989; and it was made available to public in Europe in 1990. Following the popularity of the vehicle, a hardtop version was made available as an option.
Second Generation (NB)
The second generation MX-5 was introduced with a production code of NB in 1998. It was offered with an upgraded engine as well as with extra styling hints which were taken from the third generation RX-7. In the US market, the second generation MX-5 introduced with a price tag of US$19,770.
Third Generation (NC)
On May 17, 2005, Mazda introduced the third generation MX-5 with a production code of NC. It was offered as a 2006 model year. This generation was introduced following the dwindling sales of second generation model.