Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Production:||1989 — present|
|Body Styles:||FR roadster|
|Production:||1989 — 1998|
|Engines:||1.6 L B6P (1989-1998)|
1.8 L BP (1994-1998)
|Production:||1998 — 2005?|
|Engines:||1.8 L BP-4W (1998-2000)|
1.8 L BP-Z3 (2001+)
1.8 L BPT (Mazdaspeed)
|Engines:||2.0 L MZR I4|
|This article is part of the Mazda automobile series.|
The Miata was designed to be a basic roadster with a minimum of unnecessary weight and complexity. Its design is inspired by, some say copied from, the Lotus Elan, a 1960s roadster that is widely considered to be one of the best handling sports cars of its day. Items such as electronic controls, power accessories and aerodynamic wings are deliberately left out.
The Miata has a traditional FR layout and 4-wheel independent suspension. It comes with either a 1.6 L or 1.8 L longitudinally mounted B6P or BP engine coupled to a manual transmission (an automatic transmission is available, though rare). 6-speed transmissions are available with newer special edition and LS-model cars.
The body is a conventional, but very light, unibody shell. Miatas also incorporate a unique trusswork called the Powerplant Frame (PPF) which connects the engine to the rear axle, minimizing flex and creating a tight, responsive feel. Many Miatas feature limited slip differentials and antilock brakes, but none have traction control.
With a 50:50 front/rear weight balance (when measured with an average weight driver and a 2/3 full gas tank), the car has a very neutral handling, which makes it easy to drive for the beginner, and fun for the advanced driver. Inducing oversteer is easy and well controllable. The Miata is popular in amateur and stock racing events, particularly the Sports Car Club of America's Solo-II autocross series.
Since production began, over 700,000 Miatas have been made, leading the Guinness Book of Records to name it the world's best-selling sports car on February 13, 2002.
Generation 1 (NA)
The original MX-5 Miata (now called the NA model) was introduced in 1989 as a 1990 model car. It was produced for almost two calendar years, and was incredibly successful worldwide, making the 1990 MX-5 Miata one of the highest-volume sports cars ever made. The original Miata came with a 1.6 L inline four-cylinder engine. The first special edition Miata came in 1991 with the British Racing Green Limited Edition. There was no special edition per-se for 1992, though the black and yellow colors were new and rare. The 1993 Limited Edition was black with a red leather interior.
There were a number of trim levels and special editions available. The standard model was sometimes called the "A Package". A "B Package" added some options, while the "C Package" included a tan interior and top and leather seats. A special "R Package" was introduced for racing, and the annual special editions were formalized as "M Editions". These included all of the luxury options from the C package as well as special paint and, sometimes, special wheels. This generation was phased out in the 1997 model year, with the final 1500 Mark-1 Miatas produced being the "STO" versions.
Generation 2 (NB)
In 1997, Mazda released an updated MX-5 Miata design. This model is known as the NB (referring to the model number printed on the VIN plate) or Mark 2. With its introduction, the earlier MX-5 Miata became known as the NA or Mark 1. The NB features a more-powerful engine and more modern styling cues borrowed from the aggressive RX-7. The BP-4W engine remained at 1.8 L but now included a variable-length tuned intake and other changes. Although almost all parts of the car were different, the most notable changes were the headlights: The first model's retractable headlights had been exchanged for fixed ones.
In 2001, a facelift to the NB was released. There were some minor design changes, the design got a bit more edgy, and some cockpit elements were changed, as were the seats. The 1.8 L BP-Z3 engine was slightly modified and now featured variable valve timing on the intake camshaft. The 6-speed transmission has become available for the top models, as well as 16 in (406 mm) rims and larger brakes.
According to Mazda's specifications, the addition of S-VT increased power by 6 hp (4 kW) but dynamometer tests have shown virtually no change in the power curve. Car and Driver magazine and numerous owners confirmed the missing power, and Mazda was forced to buy back a number of 2001 cars due to these misleading power claims.
2004 saw the introduction of the turbocharged Mazdaspeed MX-5. It featured a light-pressure turbo BPT engine for 178 hp rather than the S-VT BP-Z3. Other features include a special suspension, Racing Hart 17 inch wheels, and special interior trim.
Generation 3 (NC)
The next-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata (NC) will go on sale in August, 2005 for the 2006 model year. It will use Mazda's 2.0 L MZR I4 engine, producing approximately 160 hp and 140 ft.lbf. Automatic and manual 6-speed transmissions will be offered, the former with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Although the chassis is based on the RX-8, there are so many changes that it can not be considered a convertible RX-8. It will continue to use the vinyl/fabric soft top rather than a folding steel top, and will continue with just two seats. A Wankel "rotary" engine will not be offered.
The styling is an evolution of the current MX-5, with more of an RX-8 look to the front clip. Unlike the NA to NB update, which was mostly a nose/tail/interior change, there are substantial differences in almost every body panel, so current accessories will not work with the new design.
The Miata has been on Car and Driver magazine's annual Ten Best list six times: The NA from its introduction in 1990 through 1992; and the NB on its introduction in 1998 as well as 1999 and 2001. The NA was also Wheels Magazine 's Car of the Year for 1989.
In the November 2004 edition of Sports Car International magazine, the Miata was chosen as the best sports car of the 1990s. In the March 2005 edition of the same magazine, the six-decade countdown culminated in the "Ten Best Sports Cars of All Time" issue, of which the Miata secured the number 10 spot, bested only by the likes of exotics and otherwise unobtainable icons of automotive history.
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