The second generation MX-5 (NB) was launched in 1998 (for the 1999 model year), the third generation (NC) model was launched in 2005 (for the 2006 model year), and a fourth generation (ND) was released in 2015 (for the 2016 model year). It is the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car in history and, by April 2016, over one million MX-5s have been built and sold around the world. Production of the MX-5 had fallen by 2013 to below 14,000 units, due to the world finance crisis in 2008, and the pre-announcement in 2012 of the coming ND model.
Since the launch of the third generation, Mazda has consolidated worldwide marketing using the MX-5 name with the exception of the United States where it is marketed as the MX-5 Miata, and Japan, where it is known as the Roadster. The name "miata" derives from Old High German for "reward".
The MX-5's first generation, the NA, sold over 400,000 units from May 1989 to 1997 – with a 1.6 L (98 cu in) straight-4 engine to 1993, a 1.8 L (110 cu in) engine thereafter (with a de-tuned 1.6 as a budget option in some markets) – recognizable by its pop-up headlights. The second generation (NB) was introduced in 1999 with a slight increase in engine power; it can be recognized by the fixed headlights and the glass rear window, although first generation owners may opt for the glass window design when replacing the original top. The third generation (NC) was introduced in 2006 with a 2.0 L (120 cu in) engine.
Launched at a time when production of small roadsters had almost come to an end, the Alfa Romeo Spider was the only comparable volume model in production at the time of the MX-5's launch. Just a decade earlier, a host of similar models — notably the MG B, Triumph TR7, Triumph Spitfire, and Fiat Spider — had been available.
The body is a conventional, but light, unibody construction, with (detachable) front and rear subframes. The MX-5 also incorporates a longitudinal truss, marketed as the Powerplant Frame (PPF), providing a rigid connection between the engine and differential, minimizing flex and contributing to responsive handling. Some MX-5s feature limited slip differentials and anti-lock braking system. Traction control is an option available on NC models. All models weighed approximately one tonne.
The fact is that if you want a sports car, the MX-5 is perfect. Nothing on the road will give you better value. Nothing will give you so much fun. The only reason I’m giving it five stars is because I can’t give it fourteen.
In 1976, Bob Hall, a journalist at Motor Trend magazine who was an expert in Japanese cars and fluent in the language, met Kenichi Yamamoto and Gai Arai, head of Research and Development at Mazda. Yamamoto and Gai Arai asked Hall what kind of car Mazda should make in the future:
I babbled [...] how the [...] simple, bugs-in-the-teeth, wind-in-the-hair, classically-British sports car doesn't exist any more. I told Mr. Yamamoto that somebody should build one [...] inexpensive roadster.
In 1981, Hall moved to a product planning position with Mazda USA and again met Yamamoto, now chairman of Mazda Motors, who remembered their conversation about a roadster and in 1982 gave Hall the go-ahead to research the idea further. At this time Hall hired designer Mark Jordan to join the newly formed Mazda design studio in Southern California. There, Hall and Jordan collaborated on the parameters of the initial image, proportion and visualization of the "light-weight sports" concept. In 1983, the idea turned concept was approved under the "Offline 55" program, an internal Mazda initiative that sought to change the way new models were developed. Thus, under head of project Masakatsu, the concept development was turned into a competition between the Mazda design teams in Tokyo and California.
The first round of judging the competing designs was held in April 1984, with designs presented on paper only. The mid-engined car appeared to offer favorable qualities, although it was known at the time that such a layout would struggle to meet the noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) requirements of the project. It was only at the second round of the competition in August 1984, when full-scale clay models were presented, that the Duo 101 won the competition and was selected as the basis for what would become the MX-5.
The Duo 101, so named as either a soft top or hardtop could be used, incorporated many key stylistic cues inspired by the Lotus Elan, a 1960s roadster, including the door handles and grille opening. International Automotive Design (IAD) in Worthing, England was commissioned to develop a running prototype, codenamed V705. It was built with a fiberglass body, a 1.4 L (85 cu in) engine from a Mazda Familia and components from a variety of early Mazda models. The V705 was completed in August 1985 and taken to the US where it rolled on the roads around Santa Barbara, California and got positive reactions.
The project received final approval on 18 January 1986. The model's codename was changed to P729 as it moved into the production phase, under head of program Toshihiko Hirai. The task of constructing five engineering mules (more developed prototypes) was again allocated to IAD, which also conducted the first front and rear crash tests on the P729. While Tom Matano, Mark Jordan, Wu Huang Chin, Norman Garrett, and Koichi Hayashi worked on the final design, the project was moved to Japan for engineering and production details.
By 1989, with a definitive model name now chosen, the MX-5 was ready to be introduced to the world as a true lightweight sports car, weighing just 940 kg (2,070 lb).
Although Mazda's concept was for the MX-5 to be an inexpensive sports car, at introduction the design met strong demand, with many dealers placing customers on pre-order lists and several dealers across North America increasing the vehicle markup.
Mazda used a design credo across the four generations of the MX-5's development: the phrase Jinba ittai(人馬一体, [dʑimba ittai]), which translates loosely into English as "rider (jin) and horse (ba) as one body (ittai)".
With the first generation of the MX-5, the phrase was developed into five specific core design requirements:
That the car would be as compact and as light as possible while meeting global safety requirements.
That the cockpit would comfortably accommodate two full-stature occupants with no wasted space.
That the basic layout would continue with the original's front-midship rear-drive configuration with the engine positioned ahead of the driver but behind the front axle for 50:50 weight distribution.
That all four wheels would be attached by wishbone or multi-link suspension systems to maximize tire performance, road grip, and dynamic stability.
And that a power-plant frame would again provide a solid connection between the engine and rear-mounted differential to sharpen throttle response.
The MX-5 was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show on February 10, 1989, with a price tag of US$14,000. The MX-5, with production code NA, was made available for delivery to buyers worldwide in the following dates: May 1989 (as a 1990 model) in the US and Canada; September 1, 1989 in Japan; and 1990 in Europe. An optional hardtop was made available at the same time, in sheet moulding compound (SMC). Demand initially outstripped production, fueled by enthusiastic press reviews.
In Japan, the car was not badged as a Mazda, as the company was experimenting with the creation of different marques for deluxe models, similar to Nissan's Infiniti, Honda's Acura and Toyota's Lexus. Instead, the Mazda MX-5 was sold as the Eunos Roadster in Japan, and was joined by the MX-3/AZ-3/Eunos Presso (based on Japanese Mazda dealerships). The exterior dimensions were also in compliance with Japanese Government dimension regulations, and the two engines provided Japanese buyers a choice that obligated an affordable road tax option.
Mazda MX-5 with hardtop (Australia)
The body shell of the NA was all-steel with a light-weight aluminium hood. Overall dimensions were 3,970 mm (156 in) in length, 1,675 mm (65.9 in) in width, and 1,235 mm (48.6 in) in height. Without options, the NA weighed only 2,150 lb (980 kg). It had a drag coefficient of Cd=0.38. Suspension was an independent double wishbone on all four wheels, with an anti-roll bar at the front and rear. Four-wheel disc brakes, ventilated at the front, were behind alloy wheels with 185/60HR14 radial tires. The base model came with stamped steel wheels from the then-current 323/Protege.
1990 Mazda MX-5 1600cc DOHC 4-cylinder engine. This example has been modified with the addition of a GReddy TD04 (Mitsubishi) turbocharger kit
The standard transmission was a five-speed manual, a unit derived from the one used in the Mazda 929/Luce (also rear-wheel drive). The gear shift was the subject of close attention during development, with engineers told to make it shift in as small a gear pattern as possible and with minimal effort. In Japan and the US, an optional automatic transmission was also offered but proved to be unpopular. The Japanese and American markets also received an optional viscous limited slip rear differential, although it was only available for cars with a manual transmission. To achieve the low introductory price, the base model was stripped. It had steel wheels, manual steering, roll-up windows, and no stereo or air-conditioning. Power steering, air-conditioning, and stereo were added as standard equipment in later years.
The NA could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.3 seconds and had a top speed of 126 mph (203 km/h) although Japanese market Eunos models were limited to 112 mph (180 km/h). This first generation of Miata (often referred to as the NA) included a special Limited Edition of 250 examples in 1991, produced in British racing green with the first use of tan interior, to celebrate the highly successful launch of the MX-5 in the UK. These have a numbered brass plaque on the dash above the glovebox and on the front of the Owners Book, and are fitted with alloy wheels from MSW (Mazda Sports Workshop) which are often mistaken for BBS's, but which are entirely unique to this model.
1500 LE (Limited Edition) cars were produced in 1993. This model featured red leather interior, upgraded stereo, Nardi shift knob, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise, limited slip differential, power windows, power mirrors, power steering, air conditioning, BBS wheels, Bilstein shocks, front and rear spoilers, ABS brakes, stainless sill plates, and Harley style peanut tank door speaker trim. All 1993 LE cars came in black.
For the 1994 model year, the first-generation MX-5 was freshened with the introduction of the more powerful 1,839 cc (1.8 L; 112.2 cu in) BP-ZEengine, dual airbags and a limited slip differential in some markets. The chassis was substantially braced to meet new side-impact standards, most visibly by adding a "track bar" between the seatbelt towers inside the car, but also to the front and rear subframes. Also, 1994 and 1995 were the only years in which Mazda offered a light metallic blue paint (Laguna Blue Mica), making these cars rare collectors cars to some. 1994 also saw the introduction of the "R" package, a sport-themed package with Bilstein shocks, stiffer sway bars, retuned springs, subtle front and rear underbody spoilers, and a Torsen LSD. Air conditioning was optional, but the "R" package was not available with power steering, leather, or an automatic transmission. It can also be identified by a red Miata badge on the rear instead of the usual black. No body style changes were made, however.
The new 1,839 cc (1.8 L; 112.2 cu in) engine produced 130 PS (130 bhp; 96 kW) @ 6500 rpm and 149 N⋅m (110 lb⋅ft) @ 5500 rpm of torque , which was then increased to 135 PS (133 bhp; 99 kW) @ 6500 rpm and 155 N⋅m (114 lb⋅ft) @ 5500 rpm for the 1996 model year . The base weight increased to 990 kg (2,180 lb). Performance was thus improved slightly, because the additional weight was more than offset by the extra power. In some markets such as Europe, the 1.6 L (98 cu in) engine continued to be available as a lower-cost option, but was detuned to 66 kW (89 bhp). This lower-powered model did not receive all the additional chassis bracing of the new 1.8 L (110 cu in). Japanese and US cars offered an optional Torsen LSD, which was far more durable than the previous viscous differential.
The retractable headlamps of the NA (front car) were replaced by fixed headlamps on the NB (rear car).
There were a number of trim levels and special editions available, determined by local Mazda marketing departments. In the US, the base model was offered for US$13,995 at launch and was very basic, with manual windows, steel wheels, and without A/C or power steering. The "A Package" offered power steering, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum alloy wheels and cassette stereo. The "B Package" added power windows, along with cruise control and headrest speakers, while the "C Package" included a tan interior and top and leather seats. The "R Package" was for racing, and the annual special editions were formalized as "M Editions". These included all of the luxury options from the "C Package" as well as special paint and, sometimes, special wheels. In the UK, to celebrate Mazda's 24 hours of Le Mans win, Mazda brought out a special edition of the MX-5, with the winner's color scheme (see Mazda 787B) and came equipped with BBR (Brodie Brittain Racing) turbo conversion; the car is one of the most sought after special edition cars of the MX-5s.
The first generation MX-5 was phased out after the 1997 model year (with the exception of 400 limited edition Berkeley models sold only in the UK in 1999 to mark the end of the NA), with the final 1500 NAs produced for the US market being the "STO" ("Special Touring Option") versions.
M2 special editions
Facelift Mazda MX-5 (Australia)
A small range of Miata units were assembled by the M2 Incorporated. Founded in November 1991, M2, also known as "Mazda Too", was Mazda's new off-line planning / niche-house / Research & Development company back in the early '90s. The M2 Corp. employees had noble intentions — creating niche-mobiles derived from Mazda's volume products. Although M2's basic mission involved focusing on the "soft" aspects of vehicle design in an attempt to create more specifically targeted niche variants, the changes to the off-line cars would go well beyond mere cosmetics.
Heading the M2 operation was Mr. Masakatsu Kato, original father of the Miata (Eunos Roadster) in Japan, as well as creator of several Mazda concept vehicles. Kato-san was assisted by Hirotaka Tachibana, development engineer responsible for the superb dynamics of the Mazda FC (second-generation RX-7) and the NA Roadster (Miata MX-5). M2 Corp. was based out of Tokyo, Japan. M2-Corp was a 100% owned subsidiary of Mazda, and it was closed by Mazda in 1995. Mazda kept a similar program going with the Mazdaspeed vehicles, and then in the late '90s Mazdaspeed was absorbed into Mazda as a subsidiary company in Mazda Auto Tokyo. There were many types of M2 branded vehicles between 1991 and 1995, beginning with the 1001 up to the 1031 Cafe Racer (Dec-91).
M2-1001 Cafe Roadster (Dec-91) Limited 1/300 M2 Corp. released the M2-1001 Roadster in December 1991. It was a special "Limited Production" Roadster variant that was a short production run of only 300 units, in a special Blue/Black Mica Paint, with a sticker price of $26,000. Prospective buyers were required to show up in person at M2's Tokyo headquarters to register for a lottery to place an order for this extremely limited Roadster.
This upscale Eunos Roadster was M2's first turn-key, race-ready offering. A list of popular features, while not exhaustive, is as follows: functional front airdam with integrated fog lamps, vintage aero mirrors, 4-point roll bar, vintage gauge cluster, fixed back bucket seats, polished 3-spoke steering wheel, stiffer suspension package with M2 specific rates, polished aluminum strut brace, upgraded exhaust by HKS, intake system, 1.6L motor with new aggressive pistons, upgraded camshaft, lightweight flywheel, LSD cooling intake, manual steering, manual windows (A/C was optional), racing pedals, centerless console with matching shortened radio bezel, aluminum gas filler cap, a more aggressive wheel & tire package (15" x 6" Panasport rims), and a rear spoiler (which became standard for the R package). The performance changes made to the Roadster would bump the power to 132 bhp (98 kW) at 7,000 rpm, and 109 lbf⋅ft (148 N⋅m) of torque at 5,500 rpm. Once released, it proved so popular that people were paying up to $35,000 for one.
M2-1002 Vintage Roadster (Nov-92) Limited 1/300 M2-CORP released its second Roadster in late 1992, with a slightly different front bumper but all the same items as the previous 1001 Roadster. This one did not do as well as the 1001.
M2-1028 Street Competition Roadster (Feb-94) Limited 1/300 M2-CORP released its third Roadster in early 1994, based on the original "Jinba Ittai" concept made by Toshihiko Hirai. This was billed as a track-ready Roadster. (The US saw a cheaper version known as the R-Package.) Offered in Chaste White or Brilliant Black only, this Roadster used the new 1.8L powerplant with upgraded pistons, camshafts, and other similar goodies as the previous 1001 and 1002. This Roadster had an output of close to 150 bhp (110 kW), and included 14" Eunos Factory Rims with a unique gunmetal paint with polished lip. The only real changes were a new set of lightweight side mirrors, MOMO Steering Wheel, Centerless console, racing seats, racing tow hook, a set of lower lip spoilers (R-Package), and a newly designed "Duck-Tail" trunk lid with integrated spoiler. The M2-1028 trunk lid was made from aluminum and weighed only 7.7 lb (3.5 kg), a very light weight from the original lid of 15.5 lb (7.0 kg). It also came with a 6-point roll cage, but no soft-top, instead featuring a tarp that stretched over the cage. With optional FRP Hardtop with plexiglass rear window for more weight savings coming in at only 19 lb (8.6 kg).
Brodie Britain Racing (BBR) of Brackley, United Kingdom, have had a long history of involvement with the first generation (NA) cars in the UK, having supplied parts and equipment for a dealer supplied BBR Turbo version of the car between 1990 and 1991. This raised power output to 150 bhp (110 kW), and produced 154 ft⋅lb (209 N⋅m) of torque. The kit comprised 68 parts and was covered by a full dealer warranty. They were supplied and fitted to around 750 UK spec cars, including for the 1991 'Le Mans' special edition, with a further 150 kits being supplied overseas. Two decades later in 2011, BBR now offer a turn-key refurbishment package for old NA MX-5's, again including a turbo charger kit. This now increases power output to 220 bhp (160 kW), and produces 175 ft⋅lb (237 N⋅m) of torque. The estimated top speed is now 140 mph (230 km/h), with 0–60 approached in 5.5 seconds. The turbo charger used is a Garrett AiResearch GT25 ball bearing unit, and the package also includes an air-to-air intercooler, and a digital piggy-back ECU to control timing, fueling, and boost pressures. Subject to a satisfactory donor car, the refurbishment and turbo upgrade package includes rust treatment, a paint respray, new seats, wheels, and other trim. As of January 2011 the cost for a 'refreshed' BBR MX-5 Turbo is £7,500.
In the United States, NA (and later model) turbo conversions are available from companies like Flyin' Miata  and Bell tuning  (formerly distributed by parent company BEGI engineering ). The conversions use mainly Garrett turbochargers (2860, 2556) and are available as a kit or fully installed. Bell Engineering offers a California Air Resources Board ("CARB") approved kit as well.
Technical specifications (UK)
Drivetrain specifications by generation (UK market)
The second generation MX-5 was unveiled in 1997 and put on sale in 1998 for the 1999 model year. While it kept the same proportions of its predecessor, its most noticeable change was the deletion of the retractable headlamps, which no longer passed pedestrian safety tests and were replaced by fixed ones.
The third generation Mazda MX-5 was introduced in 2005 and was in production until 2015. This generation introduced a Power Retractable Hard Top variant that features a folding mechanism that does not interfere with trunk space. During its release, the third generation MX-5 received several accolades such as the 2005-2006 Car of the Year Japan Award and Car and Driver's 10Best list from 2006 to 2013.
The fourth generation Mazda MX-5 was unveiled in 2014 and has been in production since 2015. This generation introduced a Retractable Fastback (RF) variant that features a rigid roof and buttresses that give the silhouette a more coupé-like appearance than the soft top convertible. The fourth generation MX-5 has received several accolades such as the 2015-2016 Car of the Year Japan Award and the Red Dot Best of the Best Award in Product Design 2017. In addition, the car is the basis for the Fiat 124 Spider and Abarth 124 Spider.
Production numbers and details
In 2000, the Guinness Book of World Records declared the MX-5 the best-selling two-seat sports car in history, with a total production of 531,890 units. The 250,000th MX-5 rolled out of the factory on November 9, 1992; the 500,000th, on February 8, 1999; the 750,000th, in March 2004; the 800,000th in January 2007, and the 900,000th in February 2011.  As of April 2016, total production of MX-5 has reached 1,000,000 units. The one millionth car rolled off the production line and was shown in select cities, where the first 240 fans of the vehicle present could physically sign it before it went to the next destination.
Mazda also reapplied to Guinness World Records to have the record updated to 900,000 units.
On April 22, 2016, Mazda broke its Guinness World Record by producing its one millionth MX-5.