Evolution of Mazda Miata: What has changed across 4 generations?  

Updated Nov 17, 2020 | Same topic: Evolution of Cars

After all these years, the Miata remains true to its roots.

Even before Mazda’s engineers started to print its blueprints, the Japanese company knew what it wanted for the Miata. It was clearly a lightweight coupe that was inspired by the small, and nimble classic British roadsters, specifically the Lotus Elan.

Years later, despite the drastic changes in appearance, the Mazda MX5 Miata still provides that raw driving experience one can only get from a rear-wheel-drive, front-engine, lightweight open-air coupe. On top of that, it still remains to be one of the more affordable sports cars that you can buy today.

Let’s delve into the history of the Mazda Miata and how it evolved over the years.

A Picture of the Miata evolution through different generations

All the generations of the Mazda MX-5 Miata from 1989 to 2015 [Photo: Budget Direct Car Insurance]

Mazda Miata: 1st Generation (1989 to 1997)

At the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, Mazda unveiled the MX-5 with the production code NA. It only weighed 960 kilograms, and it was powered by a 1.6-liter inline-4 gasoline engine paired with a six or five-speed manual, or a four-speed automatic. By sports car standards, the said engine’s 115 horsepower and 136 Nm of torque weren’t that impressive. But considering the weight of the MX-5 NA, it was more than enough for carving canyons and back roads.

A picture of the Miata NA's front side and rear.

"Track day bro" [Photo: Budget Direct Car Insurance]

Initially, the Japanese division of Mazda wanted a mid-engine car for it to compete against the Toyota MR2. The American rear-wheel-drive, front-engine design however, was chosen.

>>> Related: Mazda Miata NA: The roadster messiah

Mazda Miata: 2nd Generation (1998 to 2005)

In 1997, Mazda finished developing the second-generation MX-5 Miata. It had the NB production code, and it no longer had the pop-up headlights that became the NA MX-5 Miata’s calling card of sorts. Apart from that, the NB Miata also gained a bit of weight at 1,065 kg.

Regardless, the NB MX-5 had a more powerful 1.8-liter capable of making up to 140 horsepower and 157 Nm of torque. It also had a better drag coefficient, it now had anti-lock braking, as well as Mazda’s Variable Intake Control System. That’s on top of maintaining the RWD and front engine design which driving enthusiasts really loved from the Miata platform.

A picture showing the Mazda Miata NB

The Miata NB [Photo: Budget Direct Car Insurance]

Fun fact, the NB MX-5 was the first and only Miata to come with a turbocharger via the Mazdaspeed marque.

Mazda Miata: 3rd Generation (2005 to 2015)

Based on the Mazda Ibuki concept car, the MX-5 Miata NC was larger than the first two generations. This was because Mazda wanted to make it roomier, and more premium. It was also the first Miata to come with a retractable hard-top and the first in its line to get a 2.0-liter engine. The said engine could make up to 170 horsepower and 188 Nm of torque. Sure, it was the most powerful naturally-aspirated Miata engine when it came out, but the NC was also heavier. The soft-top variants weighed in at 1,110 kg, and the hard-top at 1,153 kg.

The Miata NC

The Miata NC [Photo: Budget Direct Car Insurance]

>>> Related: Why is the Mazda MX-5 called Miata in the U.S.?

Mazda Miata: 4th Generation (2015 to Present)

Fast forward to 2016, Mazda surprised the world by debuting the fourth-generation ND Miata. Pleasantly surprised that is because this Miata was certainly a return to form. In fact, it is 100 kg lighter than the third-gen MX-5 Miata. Combined with the new electric power-assisted steering system, it was definitely back to providing agile handling characteristics reminiscent of that of the first and second gen versions.

When it was first released, Mazda gave the 4th-gen NC Miata a 1.5-liter engine capable of making 155 horsepower and 201 Nm of torque. Later on, Mazda gave it a 2.0-liter mill that can make 182 horsepower and 205 Nm of torque. And in talking about the 4th-gen Miata, one cannot ignore the six-speed SkyActive Manual tranny which provides one of the most satisfying driving experiences you can have today.

A picture showing the front, rear, and side of the ND Miata

The ND Miata is a return to form [Photo: Budget Direct Car Insurance]

Later on in 2016, Mazda introduced the retractable fastback (RF) version of the NC MX-5 Miata. It’s a bit heavier than the soft-top variants, but it does offer more noise reduction. Some argue that the RF MX-5 Miata is also “stiffer,” which in sports cars is a good thing for handling.

Currently, the soft-top Mazda MX-5 Miata ND is available locally at Php 1,980,000 for the 2.0 MT variant, Php 2,190,000 for the 2.0 AT variant, and Php 2,265,000 for the 2.0 AT Caramel Top variant.

As for the hardtop variants, all come with a 2.0-liter engine paired with a six-speed variant. Prices for the RF MX-5 Miata range from Php 2,360,000 to Php 2,690,000.

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Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar G.B. Miguel


Cesar is a graduate of AB English with previous experience working as a freelance writer for varied internet publications in-between his former stints in the Pharmaceutical Industry, and later as a First Aid Provider and Training Staff at the Iligan City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

Since childhood, Cesar has been keenly interested in cars. He has learned the ins and outs of these marvelous vehicles and is a competent amateur mechanic who is keen on sharing his knowledge.

Cesar is perceptive of car culture in general – not only in the Philippines but in global regard, as well. His knowledge ranges from the prevalent stories and trends among car enthusiasts around the world, to closely following the latest local and international developments in the automotive industry.

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