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1991 Mazda MX-5 Review
  • Light, agile & fun, RWD dynamics & manual gearbox
  • Lack of safety features, Seating position

by Goran P

It was not that long ago that my friends laughed at me when I bought my first MX5; a red NA ’91 model. Since then, that has changed somewhat and the little ‘girly’ MX5 has become somewhat cool for young ‘stancers’.

I’m not a stancer, or a hairdresser, nor have I been over the past two years; I have however in this time owned all three models of MX5’s – first a red NA, then 6 months later a black supercharged NC, and I now a silver NB SE.

Am I crazy? Probably, but there are worse obsessions out there, right? I should probably mention that I have owned a mix of 9 other performance orientated cars over the 9 years I’ve had my licence. So yes, I probably have some issues.

I consider myself very lucky to have gotten away with owning three MX5s, and one of each model – my girlfriend often tells me that I talk about cars more than I talk about her, yet I’ve managed to get away with it (love you, darl).

My MX5 NA experience –

Positive points:

– Great value, cheap to run & reliable

– Rear wheel drive

– Convertible

– Amazing 5 speed manual

– Agile & balanced

– Genuinely fun at any speed (mostly low)

There was just something about the little red NA that made me want to drive, all the time. Coming out of my daily at the time, a ’08 M/V Golf GTI with DSG; the little NA was uncomfortable, tight to get in and out of, the stereo didn’t really work, and my girlfriend complained about the space. However, I just couldn’t stop driving it. Space and comfort is not what this car was about – don’t buy an old MX5 if this is what you value most, and you plan on carting your pets and friends around in – buy one if you love driving. Take the top off, row through perfect manual gearbox, and rev its guts off.

This car makes you feel like Ferris Bueller, kind of.

All smiles then? Well, no… it is a car that can be difficult to live with at times if you forget why you bought it, and if you forget what this car is about.

Negative points:

– Lack of power steering; difficult at low speeds

– Soft-top can be a pain to operate due to age

– Chassis a little tired

– Lack of LSD

– Lack of ABS

– Old stock suspension lets it down a little

– Niggly electrical issues

To me, the old NA MX5 is a car you buy if you can make enough sacrifice to own a second car, or if you don’t do a lot of driving – and, if you’re lucky enough to find a ’89/’90 model you can club register, then you’re laughing. A cheap, reliable genuine sports car.

A short comparison to the NB & NC –

So how did the ’06 NC compare to the NA? It was bigger, safer, much faster, easier to live with, and very lively to drive. I had the folding hardtop model which meant the roof would open (or close) in 12 seconds, brilliant.

It was also equipped with a ‘Flyin Miata’ Cosworth supercharger kit (previous owner spent big coin), full coilover suspension, and up-rated brakes. This made a great car even better; it was economical, fast, reliable, and more comfortable.

Was it more fun to drive than the NA? Yes and no – you had to be brave or take it on a track to fully exploit it. In the end, I sold it due to concerns around engineering and insurance legality.

The one in-between; a ’04 MX5 NB SE. So how does it compare? Well, as expected, it’s kind of like a hybrid of both. On one hand, it’s based on the original NA but with 15 years of tweaks; it’s still small and mostly uncomfortable, but still light and agile along with some added comfort and safety features. On other hand, because it is a factory turbo model (there was also the locally tweaked SP), it has the power and torque (albeit now with a couple of simple legal modifications/tune), and also comes with up-rated factory bits like Torsen LSD, additional under-body bracing and other goodies. For me, this makes it the pick.

Every MX5 I’ve owned has been a pleasure – they all shared the key things I valued in such a car. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with owning one, or two…

Oh, and the ND is about to hit the market. Lower entry price, and just may be the best MX5 to date. You beauty.

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