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2006 Mazda Miata MX-5

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San Francisco:  Mazda single-handedly reinvented the two-seat roadster with the 1989 Miata, a "basic" roadster. Since that time the new for 2006 MX-5 Miata has grown in size and amenities and it still maintains a very loyal fan base.

My first thought when I saw the picture of me standing next to the 2006 Miata was "how'd I fit in that thing?" You know what? I fit just fine, thank you very much. The new Miata seemed to be designed for people like me, people of a certain age and size group.

The 2006 Miata grew some so folks like me will fit in it comfortably. At 157.3 in. long it is 1.8 in. longer than the previous generation, and 1.6 in. wider at 67.7 in. That may not sound like a lot more room but for those of us who are spreading out a bit in the seat area it does help.

Mazda kept the weight down using a system they call Gram Strategy. Essentially they looked for weight reductions wherever they could. For example, they simplified the rear-view mirror's design to trim 84 grams (0.19 lb.) of weight off of it. All of this kept the gross weight under 2,500 lbs. for the manual transmission models and a Club Spec version weighs a skimpy 2,441 lbs.

There are current Mazda styling clues on the new Miata such as the wheel arches (that hint at old-style fenders) but thankfully (for my tastes) they are not as pronounced as on other models. Redesigning a car like the Miata is tricky - the first generation developed a cult-like following - so any deviation had to be subtle so as not to alienate the faithful, yet different enough to spur new sales. I think Mazda did a good job, as I got a few thumbs up from first generation Miata drivers when they saw the car.

Under the hood is a 2.0-liter, DOHC, Variable Valve Timing, 170-hp, inline 4-cylinder. The all-aluminum engine is PZEV (partial zero) emissions. The first Miata had an iron block, 1.6-liter engine, which later grew to 1.8-liter.

Mazda now says the Miata uses a front mid-ship engine, which means the engine is up front but moved as far back as possible. This keeps the weight distribution 50/50, front to rear. I remember how Mazda worked to get the exhaust tone of the first Miata just right. They did the same with the 2006 model - not too loud but with just enough sportiness.

The Miata is a rear-wheel-drive (what else?) car with three transmission choices. A 5-speed manual is standard, with a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic with "paddle" shifters optional. The Miata I drove had the 6-speed manual. Outright acceleration is not the Miata's reason for existing and I did not put a stopwatch on it, but it felt quick. Anyone who has ever owned a two-seat roadster knows it really is not about ultimate speed, it's more about creating a state of mind.

The only difference between the three transmissions as far as fuel economy goes is in the city ratings - the 5-speed is rated at 25-mpg, the 6-speed manual 24-mpg, and the 6-speed auto at 23-mpg. All three are rated at 30-mpg on the highway.

The soft top on the Miata is a sweetheart. It unlatches with one latch, goes up and down with one hand without getting out, and it has a heated glass rear window yeah, no discolored plastic rear windows anymore!

It says something about the Miata that I really did not pay much attention to the interior. I know it had all the stuff you or I expect in a modern car but it just never was a priority. I was comfortable, the stereo was fine, and all the controls were where I needed them.

The whole reason for a Miata is to put the top down and enjoy the drive. The Miata I drove had these huge, P205/45R-17 tires, yet the ride was never harsh. No it was not luxo-smooth, but neither did it beat the tar out of you.

Many people will buy a Miata as a second or third car, and many of the buyers will be guys my age (over 50), who remember the British roadsters of their youth. They want a car that gives them the same visceral feeling without the pain of oil leaks, hard starting, cramped interiors, and leaking tops. They want the same things that appealed to me in the Miata - a car that makes them feel young without making them feel old because the heater doesn't work, or they have to push it to start it.

A few buyers will race their Miata, mostly Solo-style but some will actually mix it up on a track. That's the way it used to be in the old days except then we had greasy, skinned knuckles and we kept our fingers crossed that we'd be able to drive home.

The Miata pricing is darn good, meaning you get a lot of car for the money. The least expensive is the Club Spec at $20,435, but that probably won't appeal to the majority. Next in line is the base MX-5 at $21,435, with a Touring, Sport, Grand Touring, and 3rd Generation Limited topping out at $26,700.

So if you want to relive your youth, or if you are simply young and want to enjoy life, think about a 2006 Miata. Drive it to work and arrive with a smile on your face. Drive it home and I bet you take the road less traveled.   By Bruce Hotchkiss  AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

You can contact Car Columnist Bruce Hotchkiss at bhotch@earthlink.net

Mazda Home Page

Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 The Miata helps relive some great driving experiences
Topic: 
 The 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata w/Manual Trans
Word Count:  
1014
Photo Caption: 
 The 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Photo Credits:  
Mazda Internet Media
Series #:   2005 - 56

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2006 Miata MX-5

Download the Original Image File here:   2006 Miata MX-5

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