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Driving All 4 Wrap Up

At the end of the festivities on Saturday, I asked everyone to write up a review of their impressions of each generation, keeping it kind of short. The responses are in the comments of the event post already, but I wanted to create a separate post for them on its own. I think we all had mixed feelings about it only being the four of us. On one hand it would have been nice to get a few more Miatas out to choose from. But on the other, by the time we each drove 3 Miatas and rode in the passenger seat of our own car 3 times we had used up pretty much all of three hours and it was getting seriously warm and traffic on US-25 was getting denser.


Big thank you to Brian for making this happen. I believe we all had a great time! We were asked to leave our impressions in brief statements – no road and track or car and driver reviews…

Gen I (NA) – Larry’s beautiful car – obviously this is what put Mazda on the map. True sports car for the masses, great all around package. Gets the job done. Feels great even after 20 years and 13x,xxx miles. I like the pop up headlights…

Gen II (NB) – Brian’s car – Mazda should have quit here. Just dropped the (current) new motor and 6 speed into this body and hold on. Brian’s car has a few nice suspension upgrades and drilled rotors. Felt tight and fun.

Gen III (NC) – Karl’s – retractable hard top. More grand touring than track car. I think Mazda lost their connection with the original generations and went towards a different crowd. Great example of a Gen III car.

Gen IV (ND) – I’m biased. There is a lot to like. Great balance, great drive train, creature comforts. Incredible fuel economy. Slightly less connected, more body roll than I’d like, steering doesn’t give the feedback of the NA or NB. 25,xxx miles of trouble free and leak free motoring. Wish list – quieter tires, different spring package.

Great fun, now lets schedule a mountain run….

Peace,
Don Nesbitt


Being the least knowledgeable and experienced with Miatas and sports cars in general of the four owners, I will leave it to Brian, Larry and Don to comment on the attributes and shortcomings of each of the four generations of Miatas. I enjoyed driving each vehicle. Especially appreciated, and benefited from, having the owners of each Miata riding along to provide useful information and history of each car. I come away with a sense of context about my own Miata that I could not have recognized without having participated in this event.

My takeaway is this. First, my NC is an automatic. All three other Miatas had manual transmissions. Not having driven a stick shift in about 30 years left me feeling like a distracted driver from time to time while trying to recognize which gear I was in. Brian, Larry and Don were all gracious enough to tolerate my poor shifting and misapplied gearing. Beyond that, I learned how better connected the driver of each of their cars is required to be, and why the Miata has a reputation for being a drivers car.

Secondly, I came away with the knowledge that, in part by accident, I had purchased the right Miata for me. It is easy to drive. An important factor for someone of my maturity. It blends the right amount of sportiness with simplicity to allow for the optimum level of enjoyment, comfort and practicality. That is what I went looking for when I first started my car search.

A special thanks to Brian for putting this event together.
Karl Splan


NA – My first love. Like Don, I too like the pop-ups.1 Driving Larry’s car is a lot like driving my car, same 5-speed transmission connected to basically the same motor, but minus the suspension mods. I maintain that my perfect Miata would be to travel back to 1991 and steal my own ’90 Mariner Blue with about 20,000 miles on it and bring it back to present day.

NB – Seeing as time travel has not been invented yet this is my perfect Miata. If it were stolen or destroyed by falling space debris I would probably buy another 2001-2005 even if I had to spend nearly 5 figures for low mileage example.

NC – I can see why Karl and the rest of the Club members who have NCs like them. The first two generations are more elemental sports cars in the style of the British roadsters, this is more of a sports touring car. While only marginally larger in dimension it feels like a bigger smoother car. And I bet if you put the folding hard top up, a lot quieter too.

ND – Although it is the least Miata-looking of the generations, I really like the looks of this car. 10 years from now (if they haven’t invented time travel and I can’t go back and steal my ’90) I’ll probably own one of these for a couple reasons. 1. My current car will be worn out and low mileage NBs will be be rarer than hen’s teeth. 2. There probably won’t be a NE or if there is it will probably be self-driving.

The idea for this was Karl’s, so I’m thanking him for that and the other two should get a prize for showing up and letting relative strangers take the wheel of their car. And even though I have been behind the wheel of all 4 generations before, it was fun to learn the reasoning on why each person drives their particular generation of the car.

Brian Bogardus

1. Disclaimer – back between 2001-2004 I ran a website called the Barndoor Fan Club.


Don pretty much summed it all up, but here’s my chime-in:

The NA: The car that started a new Roadster era, just enough to get and keep you excited about driving again. It has enough road feel without being bone jarring for a good ride. I’ve looked at it since it came out, drove a few that I was disappointed in and finally finding/buying almost 9-years ago. We like it enough that we’re having a hard time deciding to let it go after buying the ’08 PRHT. Pure driving fun with a few touches of refinement. We’ve driven it to Key West, Niagara Falls and more with no complaints and happy with the ride, performance and economy. The NA has got to be the most-fun-per-dollar car you can own.

The NB: I had ridden in it when it belonged to Dave, but driving it was like driving my NA, performance and sound wise, just looked different. I could feel a few upgrades, but overall it is an NA with cosmetic changes. I did notice seating much higher (maybe 2”) than the NA.

The NC, with auto and PRHT: Since I own an ’08 of the same with the GT package, I was not going to drive it but Karl asked me to and eval it (his is an ’07) against mine. Well, it was the same, and I showed him a few things he could do with the paddle/manual shift verses the full auto. The big difference is how the seat was much lower and I felt swallowed up more than the ’08; I did some research on that and find that the ’08 gained some height and an adjustment for it; as it was a common complaint with early NC owners. Karl is comfortable with that and has a good find, with a low miles car for an ’07. As Don said, maybe they overworked the NC, as it’s a totally different car and drive from the A and B; maybe Mazda was trying to take some of the German car market. Oh, the seats in our NA are more comfortable than the ones in the NC.

The ND: in a word, nice. I could learn to really like this car. The seats were very comfortable, performance and handling very sharp and tight; it felt like a new car. I didn’t play with any features and hardly looked at the gauges, just drove by the feel. A long drive would not be hard. I think Mazda accomplished getting the Miata back to a roadster. I do not like that stand-up display on the dash, but I hardly noticed it during the drive and the one time I did look at it, I couldn’t see it for the sun. That’s the one (well there’s no PRHT, very little inside storage and the $$$) thing that would keep me from buying an ND.

My rating would be:
1 – the NA
2 – the ND
3 – the NC
4 – the NB

Thanks to all that participate and shared their beloved Miata’s.
Larry Garner
’97 NA
’08 GT, PRHT, auto


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