By Nauman Farooq
New car models are introduced every year, but very few go on to achieve cult like status!
Thirty years ago, just such a car entered the marketplace, and it was called the Mazda MX-5 Miata.
The idea for the MX-5 was actually given to Mazda by an American automotive journalist by the name of Bob Hall, who wrote for Motor Trend magazine. Hall, who spoke fluent Japanese, was having a discussion with Kenichi Yamamoto and Gai Arai, who headed the research and development department at Mazda. Yamamoto and Arai asked Hall, what kind of car Mazda should make in the future? Hall replied, a fun-to-drive roadster, just like the ones that the British auto manufacturers have been offering since the 1950’s, but with a big difference – make it reliable.
Car companies are given “bright ideas” by auto journalists on a regular basis, but hardly anything is remembered by the following day, but Yamamoto and Arai took Hall’s advice seriously, and in 1982 work started on this concept.
Seven years later, at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the world was introduced to the first production ready version of the Mazda MX-5 (NA) Miata, and it combined stunning looks with reliability, and the promise of topless fun in the summer – all for just under $20,000.
The MX-5 was an overnight success, and has since gone on to become the most successful two-seat convertible ever made – with over one-million units having rolled off the production line since 1989.
2019 marks a very important year for the MX-5, as it is its 30th anniversary. To commemorate this milestone, Mazda came up with the car you’re seeing on this page here, the 30th Anniversary Edition of the MX-5. Only 3,000 units of this special edition were made for the global market, with 165 examples coming to Canada – essentially, one per Mazda dealer.
So, does the 30th Anniversary Edition of the MX-5 possess some special specification, or is
it a simple appearance package? Let’s find out!
Styling: The styling of the fourth-gen MX-5 (also known as the, ND Miata) has not changed since this model was introduced back in 2015.
For the 30th Anniversary Edition, you can choose between two body styles – the soft-top convertible, or the folding hard-top targa model called the RF – but you don’t get a choice with colors, as they all come in this awesome Racing Orange paint. You also get unique 17-inch alloy wheels by Rays, which have been given a dark finish, with the words “30th Anniversary” etched in them.
All Anniversary Edition models also get orange brake calipers, and piano black rearview mirror caps, plus a numbered badge showing just what number your car is out of the 3,000 units built. While this Anniversary Edition doesn’t sport any unique skirts and spoilers, the subtle changes thanks to the color and wheels makes it instantly recognizable as a 30th Anniversary model. I really liked the way it looked, and judging from onlookers, so did just about everyone else, this car got a lot of positive comments from the public.
Interior: Step inside and you’re greeted by exclusive Recaro sport seats that are finished in Nappa leather and alcantara, featuring orange stitching and piping – you won’t find this exact seat in any other MX-5. You’ll also find alcantara on the door trim and lower instrument panel, plus orange accents on the air vents.
Wait, there more! You also get a leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and parking brake – with orange stitching.
Otherwise, the interior is the same in the Anniversary Edition as it is in other ND Miata, which means a cozy cabin for two, and a useful infotainment system that features just about everything you’d want from such a unit, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. For a little roadster, the MX-5 gives you more than most would expect – I like that!
Powertrain: Only one engine is offered on the 2019 MX-5 (at least, in North America), and that’s the one you’ll find on the 30th Anniversary Edition. It’s a 2.0L inline-four cylinder unit that produces 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to just the rear wheels via either a six-speed automatic gearbox, or a six-speed manual gearbox – as fitted to my tester.
Performance & Driving Dynamics: For those chasing numbers, no Miata was their kind of car, and the new one is no different. It performs well, but it’s not going to knock your socks off! I recorded a 0 to 100 km/h time of 7.8 seconds.
That doesn’t sound like much, but the test was performed when the temperature was just 7-degrees Celsius and the test car was wearing summer performance tires, which really shouldn’t work when it’s that cold – the car would have been much quicker if the temperature was in the mid 20 Celsius range. So given the scenario, 7.8 seconds to 100 is pretty impressive for a car with under 200 hp.
But numbers was never the point of the Miata, it pleased its driver through an involving drive, excellent handling, and open air pleasure. The current ND MX-5 is possibly the best one ever made!
I say “possibly” because I cannot think of a time in any Miata where I didn’t enjoy myself, and surprisingly, the fun actually enhances when the weather gets a bit slippery! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the MX-5 is the best winter car I have ever tested – just get some winter tires and have fun.
For maximum enjoyment, you want the temperatures to be in the 20’s, the sun shining, and a twisty ribbon of tarmac that goes on for miles and miles. While I have not experienced roads like “The Tail of the Dragon” or “Mulholland Drive” in the MX-5, the back roads I have driven it on, sure highlighted the cars abilities. This is where its ride height and suspension geometry starts to make sense. While at slow speeds on less than perfect residential streets the car feels too stiffly sprung, when going quickly through country roads the chassis and suspension come into their element. Couple that with what has to be the best steering in the business, and it makes clear sense why over a million people have bought Miata’s over the last 30 years – this car can be described in one word, and that word would be “joy.”
Fuel Economy: In my fuel economy cycle (170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving), I averaged 7.8 L/100 km, and not only is that very good, but also very consistent. I have tested quite a few MX-5’s over the years, and they all give about the same number in my fuel economy run. So, not only is the MX-5 fun to drive, it is also very kind to your wallet!
Pricing: It will cost you some to bring home! The 2019 Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition is yours from $44,200 for the soft-top version, while the RF variant would require a further $3,000 from your pocket. Surprisingly, there is no premium in price for choosing the automatic gearbox over the manual – although, you lose the limited slip differential (LSD) by going with the automatic.
Verdict: The MX-5 has been the gold (or in this case, Racing Orange) standard for drop-top convertibles for 30 years now, and each generation has brought along its own charms!
Can it be improved upon? Sure, all cars can be improved upon in one way or another, but Mazda has come closest to perfecting the roadster genre with the MX-5, and I hope they’ll still be making this model for another 30 years plus.