Review: 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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94Corolla5Speed
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Review: 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Post by 94Corolla5Speed » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:57 pm

Since I've now owned the car for almost 7 months and nearly 7,000 miles, I feel that I am able to give a precise and thorough review of it. Keep in mind it is 23 years old, so my results are probably not going to be typical of any random NA Miata you find on the street. As always, what matters most is how it was maintained. I will rate it on a scale of 1-10.

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Specifications:
Year: 1990
Make: Mazda
Model: MX-5 Miata
Miles: 85,500
Engine: 1.6L I-4; 116 HP @ 6500 RPM, 100 ft. lbs. of torque @ 5500 RPM (factory @ flywheel)
Suspension: 4-wheel double wishbone independent
Brakes: 4 wheel single piston disc brakes
Curb weight: 2116 Lbs
Gas tank capacity: 11.9 US gallons
Additional options on this car: Power steering, A/C, leather wrapped steering wheel, power windows, hardtop, viscous LSD, 14" alloy wheels, CD/cassette combo, headrest speakers
Modifications: Stebel Nautilus Compact air horn, 60mm Cobalt cat-back exhaust, drilled airbox

Engine/Drivetrain Performance: 6
Handling/Braking: 8
Practicality: 3
Reliability: 8
Cost to own: 8
Feasibility of Sexual Encounters: 2
Fun Factor: 10

Engine/Drivetrain Performance: I'll start off with probably the least appealing aspect about this car from a pure driving standpoint: the engine is small. 1.6 liters just can not produce much power without forced induction. To get this car to move at a reasonable click, you must rev it above 3500 RPM. Below that, and it just does not have enough torque to move it around. With all that being said however, it is a fantastic small engine. It sounds wonderful with a modified intake and exhaust, and since the gearing is so short, at highway speeds it can pass effortlessly, even in top gear. The transmission is very robust (although my shifter assembly needs a refresh at this point) and the shifts are positive and precise. Clutch action is very light with a bit of freeplay near the top of its travel. The differential still does a fairly good job, (only had 10-15% lockup when it was new) though the differentials in the 1.6 cars are prone to breaking, even under stock power, when abused. I would not recommend launching hard very often.

Handling/Braking: This is where the Miata truly shines. Even with my 23-year old almost shot stock suspension, it still corners and handles amazingly. I easily take highway on ramps at double the recommended speed (with bad suspension and terrible all-season tires) and when it does break away, it does so predictably and it is very easy to correct. The steering is very direct, albeit a bit light. In the rain, it can get loose if you push it. If you drive normally, it will not send the back end out, but if you try to kick it out, it will comply. As for braking, it astonished me when I first drove the car. Extremely good pedal action that is very linear and grabs almost right at the top of the travel. Braking itself is very good, I still have never locked up the crappy tires even under hard braking. My experience will vary once I refresh the suspension and install better tires.

Practicality: There is not much praise to be given here. Two seats, almost no storage in the interior, and a very small trunk that has nearly 1/3 of its space occupied by the spare tire and battery. If you are not willing to deal with this lack of space, this car will not work for you. Even I have had issues with the laughable trunk space. I have had to relocate my cargo to the passenger seat. Also, the fuel tank is extremely small, and the gas gauge reads empty when I have used about 10 gallons. So once I hit 200 miles, my gas gauge is nearly empty. It is very frustrating.

Reliability: With proper maintenance, this car is very reliable. So far, I have had no problems with it in the 7 months that I've owned it. As long as the maintenance is kept up and you give it the old Italian tuneup once in a while (every day) it will perform beautifully.

Cost to own: It is a fairly inexpensive car to begin with. Maintenance parts are cheap and plentiful (even OEM), and there is a DIY writeup/video online on nearly everything you can think of doing for this car. Gas mileage is fairly good for a sport-intentioned car like this if you keep your foot out of it. For me, I see about 23 city, and about 30 highway. Mixed driving usually results in 26-28 mpg.

Feasibility of Sexual encounters: Damn near impossible. The only way I could see it being done is if you take the top off, sit on the parcel shelf, and have her (or him, I mean, it is a Miata) straddle you. But that kind of defeats the point of car sex (quick and discreet).

Fun Factor: It's literally the most fun I have driving a car. Not the quickest, best handling, or most comfortable thing I have driven, but it all comes together beautifully and is extremely rewarding to drive. Everything makes you feel like you are in a go kart XL. I look forward to driving it whenever I get the chance. It is a very "seat of your pants" type car. Everything about it has a certain feel that can not be described by words, but just feels "right" when you are in the driver's seat.

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Re: Review: 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Post by DKaz » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:46 am

Sweet Miata!

As for FOSE, just drive back to your Corolla. :mrgreen:
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Re: Review: 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Post by noob5,000,000 » Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:08 pm

94Corolla5Speed wrote: Handling/Braking:... The steering is very direct, albeit a bit light. ...
Does it have power steering? If so, you might want to consider deleting it. Neither of my FCs have it, the feel is great and they're still very easy to drive at low speeds (and I bet the FC's front end is a bit heavier). Not sure what your steering rack ratio is and how much of a difference it makes, but I doubt it could really matter that much with a car that light, especially since you're probably not going to run huge meaty tires any time soon.
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Re: Review: 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Post by AHTOXA » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:26 pm

I like racks.
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94Corolla5Speed
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Re: Review: 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Post by 94Corolla5Speed » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:06 pm

noob5,000,000 wrote:
94Corolla5Speed wrote: Handling/Braking:... The steering is very direct, albeit a bit light. ...
Does it have power steering? If so, you might want to consider deleting it. Neither of my FCs have it, the feel is great and they're still very easy to drive at low speeds (and I bet the FC's front end is a bit heavier). Not sure what your steering rack ratio is and how much of a difference it makes, but I doubt it could really matter that much with a car that light, especially since you're probably not going to run huge meaty tires any time soon.
Yep, it has PS. Currently, I don't care enough to delete it, since I don't really mind it. I drove a manual steering Miata before I bought mine, and maybe I was just used to numb Corolla steering but it was heavy! Difficult to move around at parking speeds. Then again, the PS rack is 2.8 turns lock to lock and the manual rack is 3.3. So maybe that would make a difference.

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