1995 Mazda MX5 PEP 1.8 from North America
Real cheap fun
Radiator failure at 69000.
Welcome to the world's best selling roadster of all time. The Mazda MX5 Miata is a fantastic little car to own, and an even better car to drive.
It's all due to the laws of physics. Even though the power from the 1.8L 4-cylinder leaves a lot to be desired (only 128hp and 110lb-ft of torque), in a car that weighs two-thirds of what most popular family saloons do, this eager little power plant is able to make a relatively slow car (0 to 60 in the high 8/sub 9 second range) feel very fast.
One reason it feels fast is due to the fluidity of the transmission. It is aimed toward spirited driving, and is subsequently geared to keep the little 4-banger in its relatively limited power band (power doesn't really come on until ~4500rpm and is good until redline). This, combined with the fantastic suspension and near perfect weight distribution, makes the car a joy to drive briskly through your favorite twisties.
However, this is not a car to be enjoyed in everyday driving. The Miata's practicality is severely hampered by having only two seats and somewhat limited cargo space (there is more room to be had by removing the spare tire from the trunk, but that is not particularly advisable).
Noise and ride comfort are also not very good; the soft top does not provide enough sound dampening at highway speeds, and the suspension can be jarring over harsh surfaces. I do suspect that the latter has more to do with the age of the suspension, but the car is not supposed to be a Buick to begin with.
The gearing of the transmission also means that you'll be turning at a noisy 4000rpm at 65 mph in top gear. The small size of the car also means that you need to be extremely vigilant, and wary of soccer moms in dinosaur SUVs and macho dudes in equally jacked up pickup trucks.
This is probably the absolutely cheapest sports car you can buy. Period. Since there are plenty of Miata in existence, parts are readily available from both dealers, aftermarket sources, and junk yards. If you have a moderate level of mechanical skill and a basic set of tools, you can do about 80% of all the maintenance duties.
I mentioned a failed radiator above, which was invariably linked to the overheating problem. A brand new OEM spec radiator cost 100 bucks shipped from a reputable online source and took 15 minutes to replace. That pretty much sums up the reliability and repair-ability of this little car.
In conclusion, if you're looking for an inexpensive, easy to maintain, reliable little sports car who's roof also folds down, you can't get much better than the first generation Miata.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 28th March, 2010