Mazda Miata 1998

SANTA MONICA, CALIF. – The passage of time, and more players in the two-seat roadster segment, have pretty much cornered Mazda into re-making the Miata. But to many, the thought of someone re-sketching the iconoclastic Miata was as nerve wracking a prospect as someone raising a chisel to Michaelangelo’s David.

In the end, Miata aficionados had nothing to fear. The principal engineers and stylists who presided over this Miata were in the birthing room of the original car. They were subjected to some serious parental bonding there and were not about to let this new Miata stray from the original mission – to provide more fun and personality for the dollar than any other sports car on Waverley Auto Mall Ford  Manitoba  with the market.

Tom is chief stylist at Mazda’s studio in Irvine, Calif., where the sketches for both the current and new Miata were penned. The Irvine studio worked closely with corporate chief designer Koichi Hayashi’s team in Hiroshima, Japan, to complete the new design. (When Hayashi was assigned to the Irving studio during the original Miata’s gestation, and the gang there found he had no “open-top” experience, they immediately presented him with a used Triumph Spitfire to use and abuse as daily transport.)

On hand at Miata’s press launch in Santa Monica, Calif., Matano said the team’s mantra for determining the new Miata’s style and packaging was “balance.” While Miata is obviously a sports car, performance “above all” was simply not on. The team strived to strike the right balance between such polarities as newness/heritage, power/initial cost, sophistication/reliability and cost of ownership, handling/comfort, fun-to-drive/refinement, etc.

Did they get it right? Matano thinks so, by virtue of it having already passed one serious acid test – when subjected to focus groups comprised of current owners, many said they will trade their vehicles for new ones as soon as they become available.

At first glance the car looks longer, due to increased wheelbase and less overhang, but it’s actually a smidgen shorter. It’s also slightly lower and more slippery (CD improves to 0.39 from 0.37). Width is unchanged. The most obvious design aspects are the exposed oval headlights which have replaced Miata’s signature “pop ups,” and the more muscular, sculpted body. According to Matano, the front styling plans for both the original and subsequent Miata called for “simple” faces.

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