That's about all that remains the same, though. Seems like the world would be a better place if everyone drove a Miata once in a while. Early examples weren't particularly fast, but neither were the cars it was patterned after. Plus, sixth isn't a cruising gear-it screams at freeway speeds. But just as with the second-generation Miata 1999-2005 , the third generation is still unmistakably a Miata.
Just as significant from the driver's seat is how the car's mass is distributed. You still have to release the catch on the header rail before pressing the button on the dash but the roof folds away in just 12sec making it the quickest folding hardtop in the world. This Miata is quick — almost as quick as the turbocharged, Mazdaspeed version of the last generation, but smoother — and the exhaust takes on a sawtoothed bark as the engine climbs past 4,000 r. You still have to release the catch on the header rail before pressing the button on the dash but the roof folds away in just 12sec making it the quickest folding hardtop in the world. But the Miata's designated dieticians still faced added calories from the larger engine, the head-and-thorax side-impact airbags, more robust side-impact hardware, larger wheels and those stylish seatback hoops.
From the first one out the door, it delivered what the long-gone and only lightly lamented English sports cars had never quite managed, a delightful, fun, supremely capable, well-engineered car that started every time and ran forever. Where we were most let down was during the daily drive. A power outlet conveniently placed at the base of the C-stack waits for a radar detector or cell phone. But move the weights next to each other at the center of the broomstick, and starting it spinning and stopping it requires much less effort. While we were disappointed by the cabin's noise level and maintenance issues minor as they were , it's hard to stay mad at a car that's so much fun to drive.
The driving office is excellent - the steering wheel and shift lever, both leather-covered for good grip, are positioned nearly perfectly, and the pedals are placed for heel-and-toe driving. It also does well at the track, not a surprise knowing the lineage and past capability of this roadster. The bottom rung is a five-speed 1. The engine now has 2. That's the point of a roadster, and wind protection is very, very good. Cargo capacity: 150 litres 5.
A mesh windblocker fits between the hoops. It has the look of a high-performance car without being a steroid-injected caricature. Seats are neither overly firm nor too plush, properly bolstered for the type of driving the Miata invites but with only acceptable thigh support. Sixth is too buzzy on the freeway, and the engine seems to have enough torque to handle a taller top gear. All gauges are analog, with a large, round tachometer and matching speedometer straddling the steering column and shaded from all but trailing sunlight by an arched hood. The added 28 horsepower and 15 pound-feet of torque give it a nice kick in the, well, back end. As ever, it's strictly a two-seater, and the seats in my Sport model were comfortable, supportive high-bolstered sports seats with synthetic cloth upholstery.
Or you can get a six-speed automatic transmission with optional paddle shifters. Starting at the front, the central air intake is both enlarged and mildly reshaped and augmented by a smaller opening beneath. The tilt steering wheel helps with this, at least a little. The hardtop late availability boasts a wraparound rear window, substantially reducing the convertible's rear quarter blind spots. That gives more room inside, so even six-footers can now fit comfortably. Nor is there a seat height adjustment. The flares also spread wide enough to cover the new Miata's wider track.
Soon there will be another roof choice, and the biggest change yet for the Miata: a retractable steel top that will allow owners to switch from convertible to coupe. Most thought the new look was a positive step and were impressed with the quality of the materials in the cabin. Excellent handling and stopping characteristics help active safety. Several added that the car's incredible driving dynamics, combined with the simplicity of the top's controls, meant even a short drive could be thoroughly entertaining. So how does it drive? This is even more telling when you factor in that the car is larger in every measure, from what's beneath the hood to the interior to the shadow it casts on the road. The new Miata cruises well, too.
Even the base cloth upholstery is nice, with tightly woven, smooth-finish bolsters and waffle-weave insets. Oh, yeah, dropping the spare tire no doubt helped. Even with the engine nudged back for better-yet weight distribution, a six-foot-one driver can fit comfortably behind the wheel especially since the steering wheel now tilts. The bottom rung is a five-speed 1. Overall, interior quality and appearance are way up the charts.
Factor in a negligible weight increase and let the fun begin. This moves more cooling air through the radiator and around the larger engine and combines with a more pronounced air dam across the bottom of the lower opening to give the Miata's face a stronger chin. My test car had the optional suspension package, consisting of stiffer springs with matching Bilstein shocks, and a limited-slip differential to better put power to the ground. But to all but the closest observers, this is the first significantly different Miata since the first debuted in 1989 as an updated homage to the classic British roadster. Expansive, seamless panels and accents bode well for a long life free of squeaks and rattles. Quick, left-right-left transitions on a winding two-lane running along a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii succumb to nearly perfect steering response: light but not twitchy, with good feel regardless of the speed.
It weighs about 10 pounds regardless of where the weights are positioned. The '05's concave side body panels have filled in on the '06, tumbling in a nearly sheer drop from the beltline to the rocker panels. With the wider track and lower center of gravity, it corners flatter than should be possible. High-grade plastics and leather make the interior look as if it came from a more expensive vehicle. Four air registers are spaced across the dash in a hard, shiny accent panel that changes to brushed aluminum for the Limited Edition.