In 1990 Mazda started a roadster revival with the introduction of the MX-5 Miata, a compact and very affordable drop top that became one of the most popular sports cars ever built. But even the best design shows its age eventually, and Mazda has now introduced an all-new MX-5 for 2006. So let’s see if it has what it takes to fire us up all over again.

Before we start, let’s talk about the name of this tidy rear-drive roadster, the 2006 Mazda MX-5. Miata has been officially dropped. You won’t find it anywhere on the car. But, because it is so well known, it will still be used in advertising and promotion. Go figure.

Ordinarily, this third generation, and only second total redesign, MX-5 might deserve a name change since every part is new. Yet, they combine into the same minimalist sports car theme that we all fell in love with 16 years ago.

The MX-5 did grow a bit, but just a bit. Its 2.0-inches longer, 1.6 inches wider, with 2.5-inches more wheelbase. This allowed designers to pen a much more muscular stance with only a small weight gain.

That huskier look comes from prominent fenders, which house 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels. The nose wears a rounded grille that recalls the original 1990 Miata. But now HID headlights are an option, and there is a new, subtle power bulge in the aluminum hood. A revised double wishbone front and new multi-link rear suspension provides the support.

The MX-5 has never been known as a powerhouse, but the 2006 edition gets a 28 horsepower boost. The 2.0-liter dual-overhead-cam 4-cylinder makes 170 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque, up 15.

Both 5- and 6-speed manual transmissions remain from ‘05, but new for ‘06 is a 6-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters. With its revised internals, the 6-speed manual on our car required a firm hand, but rewards it with positive engagement as it snicks into every gear. And it allows every bit of power to reach the rear wheels, resulting in a 0 to 60 time of 7.3 seconds. The quarter mile takes 15.6 seconds at 89 miles-per-hour.

But handling has always been the MX-5’s true forte, and that has certainly not changed. Turn-in is motorcycle-quick, with the rack-and-pinion steering requiring minimal input, and allowing easy mid-corner corrections.

With or without our Grand Touring model’s stiffer sport suspension, the chassis is tight and lively, with tons of feel, plenty of grip, and just a touch of mid-corner understeer. Turn off the optional stability control, and enjoy smooth tail end slides. It’s only when the front suspension unloads over big mid-corner bumps that it loses some composure. Otherwise, it’s every bit the smart handling roller skate as its predecessor.

Braking is also upgraded with bigger ABS-equipped discs all around. They stopped the MX-5 from 60 in only 116 feet, with a pedal that’s a little soft, but offers great feedback.

You could never call the MX-5 plush, but the new car soaks up bigger bumps, and sends less tire and suspension noise to the cabin, which opens up to the sun by way of an improved manual soft top, with a single point latch. And once you flip it down, it locks into place without a bothersome boot.

Most of the MX-5’s growth went into the cockpit area, where it’s noticeably wider, with 3.5-inches more shoulder room. Minimal increases in head and leg room, however, mean that it’s still tight for those over 6-foot. Side impact airbags are a welcomed standard.

Now, we don’t much care for the wide, glossy trim strip on the instrument panel, but are quite pleased with the otherwise clean, efficient control layout. The new seats are also wider, with better support in both back and bottom cushions.

Trunk space has grown slightly to a usable 5.3 cubic-feet. There’s still little room for a spare tire, so you get a bottle of repair foam and a compact air compressor. Run-flat tires are an option worth thinking about.

Now, the trunk may be larger, but prices are more flexible. The line now runs from the stripped down $20,995 Club Spec model, to the Limited model for $27,260. So, there is an MX-5 for almost every budget.

It’s been 16 years since the Mazda Miata - sorry, MX-5 - started a roadster revival. And with the 2006 Mazda MX-5, it becomes a sports car movement that will continue to thrive as long as there are any real auto enthusiasts left. 



  • Engine: 2.0-Liter Dual-overhead-cam 4-cyl
  • Horsepower: 170
  • Torque: 140 Lb Feet
  • 60-0 MPH: 116 Feet
  • 1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 89 MPH
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.3 Seconds