Mazda Miata (1999)
The Miata continues to be magnificent car, and it's only two-thirds theprice of the BMW's Z3 convertible.
Mazda decided--wisely--not to screw too much with success. They made somesignificant improvements to the Miata (glass window in back, realheadlights in front), but left the look and the spirit of the car intact.
So, our feelings about the Miata remain the same: as long as you drive thiscar with the top down, it's one of the most awesome cars on the road. Withthe top up, it stinks--which, of course, is true of almost allconvertibles--but particularly a tiny one like this with poor visibility.
Like other cars in this class, you can't drive this car if you have theslightest fear of being squashed like the proverbial grape by a semi. It'sdownright scary to be on a road like Boston's SoutheastExpressway--surrounded by dump trucks holding 30 tons of dirt. Ourrecommendation? Use this car for secondary or tertiary roads. If you haveto commute every day on the interstate, get something bigger.
Incidentally, Tommy now has to buy a Miata. The last time we discussedthis car, he said the only reason not to buy a Miata was because of theirmoronic flip-up headlights--which blocked the driver's view of the road atnight, not to mention spoiling the looks of the Miata. This year, however,Mazda has dumped that design in favor of more-traditional headlights. (Timeto ante up, T.M.)
The new Miata has a glass rear window, which is a significant improvementover the old plastic design, which invariably got creased and became barelytranslucent in no time. (Good job, Mazda! Are you watching, BMW?)
At the garage, we have about a half-dozen customers with Miatas. Like mostgood Japanese cars, they come in for tuneups and brake jobs--but that'sabout it. They're very reliable vehicles. Plus, since no one drives a carlike this in the winter, they're not seeing a lot of abuse.
The engine power has been increased marginally, but this car maintainsclose to the perfect balance of power to weight. The people who say it'stoo slow don't understand what real driving pleasure is all about. Thiscar isn't about speed, it's about fun.
There are other minor, but nice, improvements--like better interiorlighting, better door handles and a slightly bigger trunk. If you've gotthe money for a second (or third) car and you live in a climate where theweather is nice for more than six weeks a year, this car is guaranteed toput a smile on your face every time you put the top down and drive it.
View cars.com model report on this vehicle.