TO THE POINT
What’s New? Completely redesigned, with more power, better handling, and additional space. But the styling leaves us flat.
Selling Points: Refined and powerful engine, excellent brakes, steering and tire grip, compliant suspension, upscale interior.
Deal Breakers: Funky front styling, narrow and stiff seats, hard plastic cupholders on the door panels
Our Advice: Nothing provides bang for the buck like the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Improving an icon is dicey business. Ask the Coca-Cola Company what happened with that new recipe they tried back in the 1980s, or Jeep how folks felt about square headlights on the 1987-1995 Wrangler. And don’t even get us started on Disney World’s Epcot Center. Facing the challenge of crafting something all-new, yet comfortably old, is daunting at best, but to a large degree Mazda has found success with the redesigned 2006 MX-5 Miata.
Loved and cherished by enthusiasts around the globe, the Mazda Miata jump started the modern roadster renaissance when it debuted for the 1990 model year. Its design principle was a simple one: jinba ittai, a Japanese phrase loosely translated to mean horse and rider as one. To its credit, the company has successfully managed to keep its elemental sports car light, lithe, and incredibly responsive during its 16-year run, despite increasingly stringent safety and emissions regulations.
Those attributes remain intact with the all-new 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata, a car that represents a dynamic home-run yet breaks little new ground as a sum of its parts. In many ways, the new version is a big improvement over the old car, but in just as many ways, the old car is preferable to the new version. And with sexy new entries from Pontiac and Saturn arriving to steal market share from Mazda, the somewhat dowdy MX-5 has its work cut out for it.
Nevertheless, dynamics are what the Miata has always been about – not comfort, not aesthetics, not luxuries. This car is to a driving enthusiast what Chimay Ale is to a beer connoisseur or Tiffany and Co. is to a gold digger. It is aspirational, not as defined by price or prestige but by freedom. The 2006 Mazda MX-5 is your ticket to ride, a cheap thrill that lasts a lifetime, an escape clause in the daily grind. Even if the front end is homely, we still love this car.