1990-1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Costs, Facts & Figures

When Mazda introduced the MX-5 Miata in 1989 for the 90 model year, buyers had several choices in the affordable sports car segment, including the Nissan 240SX, Toyota MR-2 and Alfa Romeo Spider. These cars offered a traditional sports car experience reminiscent of older British cars such as the MGB and Triumph Spitfire with moderate power, an open top and handling suitable for negotiating a mountain road at moderate speeds.

Some reviewers categorized the Miata as a “chick car,” but the first generation, known as the NA, offered pure sports car driving pleasure with the perfect balance of vintage feel and modern reliability.

At the time, European high-performance sports cars such as the Porsche Boxster, Mercedes SLK and BMW Z3 offered superior performance features, but none matched the MX-5 Miata in terms of value for money.

Main characteristics
  • Traditional sports car driving experience
  • Convertible
  • Excellent fuel economy
Features
  • Engine/Motor: 1.6/1.8 liter inline-four
  • Power : 116/133 hp
  • Couple : 100/114 lb-ft
  • Transmission: RWD
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual
Advantages
  • Lightweight for respectable acceleration
  • Balanced weight distribution
  • Reactive handling
The inconvenients
  • Small trunk and space for luggage
  • Plastic rear window instead of glass

A traditional sports car feel from a naturally aspirated four-cylinder

Mazda equipped early first-generation Miatas (1990-93) with a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter inline-four engine that produced 116 hp at 6,500 rpm and 100 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm.

For the 1994 model year, Mazda upgraded the engine to a 1.8-litre engine, producing 128 hp at 6500 rpm and 110 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm, and eventually upped the horsepower to 133 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque.

The MX5’s power output compares favorably to the Toyota MR2’s 2.0-liter inline-four producing 119 hp at 5,600 rpm and a peak torque of 130 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. However, the 1990 Nissan 240SX produced more power fitted with a larger engine, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that generated 155 hp at 5600 rpm and 160 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm.

The Miata engine sends power to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox that features short strokes and clear, strong doors for quick gear changes.

On 1994 and later models, Mazda offered a mechanical Torsen limited-slip differential, replacing the less efficient and reliable viscous limited-slip differentials offered on early models.

Related: Mazda MX-5 Miata Evolution

Respectable acceleration, handling and fuel efficiency

Despite the minimal power, the Miata, with a weight of only 2094 lb (950 kg), offers respectable performance. The sports car accelerates to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, reaches the quarter mile in 16.8 seconds at 83 mph and has a top speed of 116 mph.

When pressed, the engine produces a classic growl and the car’s response seems quicker than the specs indicate, especially with the top down. The 1.8-litre-equipped Mazda hits 60mph a second quicker at 8.2 seconds and can hit a top speed of 122mph. An added benefit of the smaller engine is fuel economy, averaging 22-24 mpg.


An independent double-wishbone suspension, coil springs and an anti-roll bar front and rear ensure the MX5’s handling and ride comfort.

Front and rear vented discs provide stopping power to the 14-inch tires and rims. Braking from 70 to 0 mph requires 195 feet.

The steering, both manual (on some early models) and power-assisted, is responsive, making cornering pleasant, and handling, measured on a 300-foot-diameter pad, is 0.82g, almost equal to the Nissan 240SX at 0.83g.

Related: The resilient roadster: How the Mazda Miata has continued to dominate its class for over 30 years


With a body shape reminiscent of the early Lotus Elans, the Miata is a small roadster, but the interior offers more passenger space than expected. The spare tire and battery take up space in the trunk, leaving luggage room for a weekend. Some owners install trunk-mounted racks for longer trips.

For 1997, the last model year of the first-generation MX5, Mazda offered a new Touring Package that includes power steering, power windows, power mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, alloy wheels and door pockets (the era before the mobile phone). GSM mapping applications). Mazda offered air conditioning and anti-lock brakes as options.

Today, collectors often seek out a specialized version of the MX5. A popular model is the M-Edition, available in Marina Green, which included unique gauges, sporty wood interior trim, leather interior, premium audio system with CD player, air conditioning and chrome alloy wheels .

The other sought-after MX5 is the STO-Edition, of which Mazda only produced 1,500 units. Painted in twilight blue, the limited-edition sports cars featured a tan roof, matching tan leather interior, Nardi leather shift knob, headrest speakers and the Touring Package.

Related: Check Out This Modified Mazda Miata MX5

Mazda MX5 Miata resale prices are still reasonable

According to miata.net, Mazda built over 215,000 first-generation Miatas from 1990 to 1997. When the Japanese automaker launched the MX5 Miata in 1990, the car sold for $13,800.

The high production rate and availability kept the resale price stable. According to Classic.com, today the average resale price of a first generation Mazda MX5 Miata is $11,070, while the lowest recent sale is $1,100 and the highest recent sale is $41,250 . More, Mazda announced a parts program for first-generation Miatas in 2019.

Mileage and special editions are important factors in determining the price of the Miata. Typically, $7,500 is enough to buy a 100,000 mile clean car, $10,000 for a 50,000 mile car, and $30,000 to $40,000 will buy a special edition.


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