The Eunos Roadster (known as the Mazda Miata in North America) is perhaps one of the best small JDM sports cars. When it was first unveiled, most thought it would be in the Kei car category like the Honda beat, but that was not the case. One of the few JDM sports cars with a convertible roof and Miatas with a convertible top was marketed as the Mazda Roadster or the Eunos Roadster.
In America, this legendary JDM sports car is known as the Miata. In Japan, it is known as the MX-5 Miata. The Miata doesn’t have the most powerful engines, but the power output is just enough for a car that barely weighs 2,300 pounds.
Through production, only two NB Miata specs by Mazdaspeed had a turbocharged engine. The rest were naturally aspirated 4 bangers. Power output was between 100 and 200 horsepower for all production models, including special editions.
The Eunos Roadster (Mazda Miata) makes the perfect first car due to its low maintenance and running costs. With a combined 25mpg, you’ll never have to worry about driving up mountain roads unless you did not have fuel before that. Due to a 50-50 weight distribution and front-engine rear-wheel-drive configuration ranks among the top JDM drift cars you can get on a budget.
Turbocharging a Miata is viable, but the engines cannot hold much horsepower with stock internals. Suppose you are aiming for anything north over 250 horsepower. You’ll have to change the internals and some major engine and transmission rework in that case. The braking system on the Miata will not hold for long if you increase the power output, so you better get a new one ASAP.
If an engine swap suits you better, then go for it. Eunos Roadsters (Mazda Miata) are known to be compatible with every engine you put in them. You’ll get a Miata with a 13B from its bigger brother, the RX-7, or a Lamborghini V10. You aren’t limited when it comes to engine swapping a Miata.
Pros and Cons
You can get a Eunos Roadster (Mazda Miata) listed for just under $5,000, which is a fair price by JDM car standards. If you are a fixer-up type of person, some are listed even for under $2,000, provided you’ll fix them and get them running. Regardless of their old age, Miatas always pull a crowd. Everyone wants to see the pop-up headlights.
Like most JDM cars, Miatas have a simple but efficient build quality. Rarely will a Miata stall on you when driving. This is one of the reasons a Mazda Miata makes the perfect beginner car. Due to the simple build quality, you can do fluid changes and other maintenances on your own. You’ll save some cash and learn how to maintain a car while at it.
The Eunos Roadster (Mazda Miata) ranks among the most reliable JDM cars. Through production, Miatas have a 4.0 reliability rating making them one of the most reliable cars you can own. A Miata will serve you for hundreds of miles with only necessary component changes with proper care and maintenance.
Fun to drive
The engine options might not be the most powerful JDM engines, but they sure pack a punch. A Miata barely weighs 2300 pounds, and a 50-50 weight distribution is perfect. You can drift your Miata in an open parking space or cruise on the highway. Be sure you’ll beat some of these modern Sedans and SUVs, and you’ll look good doing it with no roof.
A Miata will always pull an eye regardless of whether it’s modified. It will always stand out as that little red, white or black car, even in a parking spot full of supercars. If you get an NA Miata, leave the headlights popped up, and cameras will be flashing around your car.
Miatas make great project cars
Regardless of how you plan to use your Miata, building it to your specifications can’t be that hard. Miata parts are everywhere and vary in price depending on the quality. If you just want a car that you use to drive to school, a cheap 200-horsepower build is enough.
On the other hand, building a race and drift car is different from swapping out the old suspension to installing chassis braces. Installing the parts is easy, but you’ll have to prepare mentally and financially.
Small Cabin and trunk space
Due to the small body, the cabin and trunk spaces are limited. This is a common issue with Mazda sports cars, including the RX-7. A Miata is not a car you can take to the store for grocery shopping. Well, unless you don’t have a passenger. You cannot have more than one passenger as the Miata only seats two, the driver and the passenger.
You’ll feel every bump and pothole while driving a Miata. Sometimes going over high bumps can be quite the hassle, and you have to go over sideways.
Timing chain slippage
As the tensioner and guide rails get old and used, the timing chain tends to slip, and this will cause a loss of power, and the engine might stall when driving. If it’s too bad, the engine will not even start. Replacing the timing belt, tensioner, and guide rails altogether solves this.
If you park your Miata and notice oil patches beneath it, the engine is leaking oil. There is a high probability that the oil is leaking through the gaskets. Replace the old gaskets and fill the engine with new oil after flushing to prevent a mixture of the old and fresh oil.
Rust is a common problem in old JDM cars. However, it occurs in different places depending on the vehicle. In Miatas, rusting occurs on the subframe, and engine bay, especially around the battery, frame rails, rear shock mounts, and the rocker panels. Painting or any other method of rustproofing will solve this.
Pop-up headlight failure
Electronic wiring powering the pop-up headlights may sometimes fail. One headlight may pop up instead of both or may fail to retract. Rewiring the headlights solves this. You can also wire each headlight individually. This lets you pop up one headlight and wink at your fellow Miata owners.
Leaking soft top
The soft top tends to leak due to cracks caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight. It is recommended to replace the soft top since more cracks will form if you repair the old one as time goes by. If the rear plastic window is leaking, you can replace it and keep the soft top if it’s in good condition.
Prices for the Eunos Roadster (Mazda Miata) start at approximately $5,000 for one in good condition or a special edition one with few issues. Special editions and higher trim Miatas are priced at around $8,000. Still, they rarely will a Miata go over $18,000 unless it has very low mileage or the previous owner has put extensive work into it.
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Models and Specifications
1989-1997 Mazda Roadster (NA Miata)
The NA Miata is known for its pop-up headlights. Most people judge the performance of an NA Miata according to the appearance of the headlights. Suppose the headlight casing is empty, is replaced by turbos or has angry lights. In that case, that is not your average Miata.
You get the NA Miata with a 1.6-litre B6ZE engine or a 1.8-litre BP engine mated to a 5/6-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission. Mazdaspeed spec Miatas had the same engines but supercharged. The 1.8-litre BP engine was later stroked to 2.0 litres by Mazdaspeed. Power output for the first generation was between 110 horsepower to 160 horsepower increasing with engine displacement.
Two roof options are available for the NA Miata, both convertible and a hardtop and a soft top. If you have a soft top, you can fold the roof back and reinstall it if the weather changes. You don’t have to altogether remove the roof like in a hardtop Miata.
Eunos Roadster (Mazda Miata) made special limited editions of the Miata for the first-generation Miata, but no significant upgrades were made. Special limited editions mostly had special exterior color schemes or interior paint jobs. Such as the Sunburst NA Miata, which features a Sunburst Yellow paint job. Other special editions include the Black NA Miata and the M edition NA Miata.
1998-2005 Mazda Roadster (NB Miata)
Unlike the NA Miata, the NB did not have pop-up headlights. Mazda cancelled the pop headlights due to the new pedestrian safety regulations, which demanded that having a ‘sharp’ surface at the front of the car threatens pedestrian safety. The NB Miata carries over some styling aspects, such as the fender and bumper design from the RX-7 FD.
The second-generation Miata used the same engines as the first generation. But with an addition of a 180 and 200 horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged BP engine by Mazdaspeed. A new 6-speed automatic transmission was added, allowing a driver to shift gears using paddle shifters. You can also get a 4-speed auto or a 5-speed manual in an NB Miata, as the 6-speed manual was only available for special edition specs.
Major upgrades from the NA Miata include improved wheels and tires, optional ABS, a glass rear windshield, and enlarged front and rear anti-roll bars. The NB Miata was also slightly wider and thus had better aerodynamics than the NA Miata.
Mazda also made special editions of the NB Miata, most featuring special color schemes. However, some of them also had performance upgrades.
10th Anniversary edition MX-5
The 10th Anniversary edition MX5 features a 6-speed manual transmission, a new suspension setup with Bilstein shocks, and a Torsen LSD. It was also faster and had a higher speed limit than a standard NB Miata due to the addition of a sixth gear. Mazda equips a Bose stereo in every anniversary spec, and the NB Miata was not left out.
Alcantara seats, an upgraded dash, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a shift knob were some of the 10th Anniversary NB Miata’s interior upgrades. All Anniversary NB Miatas were signed by Mazda’s President, James Miller, and had a badge of authenticity. Mazda made 3500 units of the Anniversary spec NB Miata.
Limited to 100 units, the SP (Special Performance) is the second rarest NB Miata. It had a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine pushing out 200 horsepower, and it held the title for the most powerful Miata until 2021. A new exhaust manifold, Garett GT2560R turbocharger, custom ECU, stainless exhaust, and a carbon Kevlar air filter housing enabled the MX5-SP to hit 0-100 in under 6 seconds.
No exterior upgrades were done on the MX5-SP, but ‘SP’ badges at the rear and on the intercooler distinguished the SP spec Miata from other variants.
The standard 1.8-litre turbocharged engine had an RH5 VJ35 turbocharger. This enabled the 1.8-litre engine to push out 180 horsepower. Other upgrades over the standard NB Miata included a new suspension setup with Bilstein shocks, front-mounted air to air intercooler, a 6-speed manual transmission, and a new clutch assembly.
Club sport MX-5
This is the rarest NB Miata, as only 50 units were made. It was created as lightweight as possible and had the standard 1.8-litre engine. The air conditioning, stereo, and power steering were removed to shed some weight. It has a Torsen LSD, and Bilstein shocks from the 10th Anniversary MX5. Of the 50 made, 25 were hardtops, and 25 were soft tops.
2005-2015 Mazda Roadster (NC Miata)
Mazda installed an electronically retractable roof that folds back without compromising trunk space for the third generation. Two engine options for the NC Miata were a 1.8-litre MZR and a 2.0-litre MZR. A 5-speed manual was standard, but you could also get a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed auto with paddle shifters.
In 2006 the NC Miata had a facelift giving it a widebody look due to the fender bulges over the wheels. You can lower your NC Miata without cutting the fenders due to wheel fitment. The 2008 facelift featured new headlights, a bumper design, and a chrome exhaust tip.
Like other generations, the NC Miata also had special editions, but most did not have any special performance upgrades. Most had special color schemes and interior upgrades but with similar specs to the standard variant. Mazda also made 1099 units to commemorate its 25th Anniversary. The only noticeable differences with the 20th Anniversary spec are multicoloured stitched seats, chrome accents, and 25th Anniversary badging.
The MS-R (Motor Sport Racing) spec features a front shock tower brace, an LSD, chassis bracing, a new suspension setup with Koni shocks, and race sway bars at the front and the rear. It has the standard 2.0-litre engine mated to a 5-speed manual.
All wheels have disc brakes instead of rear drum brakes in a standard NC Miata. A front lip and lower ride height enable the MS-RT to be aerodynamic and look different from the standard NC Miata. The MX-Superlight, a roofless concept Miata, was made to celebrate Mazda’s 20th Anniversary, but it was never put into production
20th Anniversary edition MX-5
The 20th Anniversary MX-5 did not receive any performance upgrades, but it’s worth mentioning. It has 20th Anniversary badges on the interior and exterior, Recaro bucket seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a parking brake handle. Wheels were also made of aluminum, thus reducing the car’s overall weight.
2015 to present Mazda Roadster (ND Miata)
This is the current Generation Miata under production since 2015. It features two Sky-Active G engines. A 1.5-litre engine with a power output of 130 to 160 horsepower. The 2.0-litre engine has 130 horsepower to 190 horsepower depending on the year of production.
NA Miata 1989-1997 – 431,506
NB Miata 1998-2005- +/-320,000
NC Miata-2006-2015- +/-250,000
Miatas are relatively cheap regardless of the condition you get one in. Why not get a Miata and save yourself some cash for that turbocharger kit or new wheels?
Yes. But not with the stock engine, transmission, suspension, LSD, and brakes. The stock engine will hold a maximum of 250 horsepower with stock internals. You’ll need to upgrade the engine components, suspension, transmission, LSD, and brakes for your Miata to be drift ready.
A Miata will last for about 250,000 miles with reasonable care and maintenance. After that, you have to start planning for an engine rebuild or replacement, suspension rebuilding, repainting the car, and any other issues that arise after 250,000 miles.
Yes. Due to its low buying and maintenance costs, the Mazda Miata makes the perfect beginner car. If you are a teenager or looking to buy a car for your teenager’s 16th birthday, no other JDM car suits the occasion.
Yes. However, you’ll have to assess your engine’s condition before doing that. It is also recommended that you get a turbocharger kit instead of sourcing every component required individually.
Early models (1989-1992) of the NA Miata had crankshaft issues that led to engine failure. If the previous owners did not replace the OEM crankshaft, you might end up replacing the engine.
No. The Mazda Miata is a gender-neutral car. There are some who perceive it to be a woman’s car due to its size.
Yes. You can easily convert a hardtop Miata to a Soft top and vice versa.
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