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2006 Mazda Miata MX-5

2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata Road Test

by Jessica Howell

Under steely blue skies, I steered our Mazda Miata MX-5 tester, speedy enough and just the right size (read: small) for zipping in and out of traffic to get to the exit ramp as fast as possible. Early June thunderstorms were looming… and the rag top, of course, was stowed neatly within the car’s miniscule body.

Easy on, easy off. Just like the McDonald’s parking lot so easily accessible beside the expressway ramps, the Miata convertible roof goes up or down in one clean swoop, with minimum muscle required. A manual convertible top may seem outdated to many, but to me it was a welcome step back towards simplicity.

In fact, most ways in which the Miata operates can be categorized as simple. And not simple in a bad way. Lined up among its competitors: costlier, more complicated versions of the roadster, Miata scores points for keeping things basic. That means a fun, sporty car to drive and an appealing price tag too.

Lower yourself into the road-cradling two-seater and you’ll find comfortable seating, adequate leg room and plenty of space for a passenger to enjoy the ride alongside you. Granted, there’s not an ounce of room behind either seat, but the Miata never claimed to be an entirely practical car. You’ll find about five feet of cargo space in the trunk – about enough room for a pillow and an overnight bag. Seriously.

Handling of the vehicle is exactly what you want - quick and responsive. Equipped with Miata’s only available engine – a 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder – our model was considered Sport trim. It flaunted 170-hp manipulated by a 6-speed Sport automatic transmission that could be thrown to the left for sport, or "manual," mode or toggled with paddle shifters that flanked both sides of the steering wheel. (Mileage is listed as 22 city/30 highway.)

Fast and faster, fun and more fun. The Miata brought life back into our daily errands. It drives with responsiveness that makes you feel like you’ve been out of the driver’s seat for quite some time – rigid riding, fast brake response and the mechanical music of a car that abides to your every whim. All in all, Mazda has stuck with the tried and true Miata recipe in the creation of their 2006 model – one part speed, one part sport and a healthy handful of pure driving excitement. Dip into the driver’s cockpit and you can’t help but grin… rise out of the low-slung roadster and you can’t deny the sporty swagger that follows your step.

Maybe it’s the fact that the Miata actually brings you closer to the road – and not only in rear to pavement proximity. Drop the top and the sky is suddenly within reach. Nudge the gas pedal and feel the engine respond eagerly. The fact that it’s a teensy, weensy car makes for the amplified sound of tires against asphalt – and for once, we don’t really mind. Didn’t someone say that the simplest things in life were the most rewarding? We agree.

Read more on Miata MX-5 in RTM's 2006 Model Guide