A Simple Recipe for Fun – Martin’s Mazda Miata NC (2007)
Joyous, youthful, and carefree. I could never imagine an angry Miata driver let alone a Miata driver on a road rage. The Mazda Miata, or MX-5, has been around since 1989 and is currently in its fourth generation, the ND. The one we have here is the third generation Miata, the NC. This is pre-SkyActiv and pre-Mazda & Ford Divorce Miata. To be precise, this Miata is the NC1 Miata. The NC Miata had a facelift in 2009 (NC2) and another one in 2013 (NC3).
This time, we have to thank Martin for providing this car for a review on Cars of Malaysia.
Martin has had the car for more than 5 years and the car was originally silver in colour with a 6-speed automatic transmission (torque converter). This is the Hard-Top Version. Some Miata buyers would opt for the soft top version, since it has more space for a roll cage inside the cabin area. It’s also tough to find a manual transmission Miata in our second-hand market, so what usually happens for those seeking a manual Miata is a manual transmission conversion. This one was converted.
Why did Martin buy a Miata? His first car in Gran Turismo was an NA Miata. You can figure out the rest of the story.
The MX-5 is a front engine, rear-wheel-drive car with a 4-cylinder NA (Naturally Aspirated) Engine. Small roadsters are usually associated with older British car makers (MG, Triumph, Austin-Healey, etc.), but the Japanese do have notable tiny roofless cars too like the Miata, the Toyota MR-S and the S2000. As a matter of fact, things get even more scaled down with the likes of the Suzuki Cappuccino, the Honda Beat, and the Honda S660 (You can see more tiny-Japanese cars in this article on an event in 2017). The Miata boasts a 50-50 weight distribution which I was sceptical of at first when Martin told me about it. I hear this almost all the time when people talk about FR* cars.
*FR= Front engine & Rear-wheel-drive
Well, to prove this point, Mazda made this video of a balancing act with the MX-5. If we still want to argue if there was any trickery in this video, maybe we could try this experiment ourselves one day when Cars of Malaysia has the budget for it.
Miata Is Always The Answer? Maybe not here in Malaysia.
Unlike the Honda S2000 and the Toyota MR-S, the Mazda Miata still exists in showrooms in 2018. In my opinion, the NEW Miata (ND) has become a fashion-statement car like the Mini Cooper and the Volkswagen Beetle. Older generation Miatas are great track cars but the brand-new ones (ND) are just way too expensive to risk being totalled at the track. A new ND Mazda Miata would cost you RM241,198.00 (OTR without insurance). You could get a bigger car with that money.
If we’re shopping in the second-hand market, a Miata NC would still cost above RM100k but they’re mostly automatics. There is a Miata NA for sale on carlist.my (1.8 Manual) selling at RM50k. More NAs and NBs are on mudah.my with the lowest being RM50k and the highest being RM75k with the 1.6 engine. Still, if you’d like to give track racing or autocross a try, I would personally suggest getting a Proton Satria instead. They are cheaper to crash & repair if you’re just starting out. Miatas may be a very popular track car choice in other countries like the US, UK, and NZ, but they are still quite costly in our market. Buy a Miata for the joy of it (fun drives through twisty roads). Don’t buy it as a track car (unless you can very well afford it).
What is it like to drive?
Fun and claustrophobic. This still is a traditional fun car with hydraulic power steering, a mechanical hand-brake, a standard 6-speed manual transmission, analogue gauges, and no push-start button. I like it. It’s also easier to drive than the AE86 & R32 I tried previously (The NC Miata is more forgiving and is a lot younger than the AE86 and the R32). Martin has installed a short-shifter, so I imagine driving a stock NC Miata with a stock shifter to be a more relaxing ride. The throttle is also electronic and I believe that adds to the smooth power delivery that the Miata has at low speeds. It’s not eager.
The drive is engaging, the steering feedback is great. Stretching gears is fun and 2nd and 3rd gear have very decent range. Although installed with a straight pipe (unintentionally*), the car really isn’t that loud even with the top down. It’s comfortable at low speeds and it isn’t nerve wrecking when you floor it. I expected a less comfortable ride from a car this size but was surprised with how the ride comfort turned out.
* The car had a SARD mid-pipe but the catalytic converter shot itself. A straight pipe piece was welded in instead.
Getting inside can be claustrophobic to some. The car is low, small, and rear-wheel-drive. The transmission already takes a considerable amount of space in the cabin. Everything is very close to you from the steering wheel, the gear knob, the hand brake, and the roof. What I like about the cabin is that you can have your left arm fully rested on the armrest while shifting gears. What is lacking is a floor-mounted gas pedal which is now present in all Mazda cars. It does make the drive more engaging and puts your foot in a more comfortable position.
Pictured above is the foot pedal layout in a 2015 Mazda 2 which I tried previously. Unfortunately, Mazda had not enforced this yet when the NC1 Miata was in production. The ND Miata has a floor-mounted gas pedal. Having experienced 2 Mazdas, I must say the ride has never disappointed me.
The seats in place are R34 seats which Martin had wrapped in a different trim to match the interior (including the steering wheel). As always, I give my thumbs up to semi-bucket seats.
The Engine (And its Ancillaries)
As mentioned earlier, this is pre-Mazda & Ford divorce. So, Ford has the rights to build and use this engine under the Duratec brand name. Mazda calls this the MZR engine, short for “MaZda Responsive”. We’ve talked a little about the Ford-Mazda relationship before in the Ford Fiesta Ecoboost Review.
This is the 2.0L, naturally aspirated, 16 valve, DOHC LF-VE engine. This is the NC1 and as Scotty Kilmer puts it, newly launched models have higher chances failure since there is no feedback yet from customers and service centres. The internals in the NC1 were not true forged internals and Mazda improved this in the facelifted NC2. There is a one-in-a-million random engine oil deprivation issue that happens with the NC1 and unfortunately, that’s what happened to Martin’s car at one point. Mazda fixed this issue when the NC2 was launched and included other improvements such as better suspension geometry. I believe things were further refined when the NC3 was introduced, and if you’re looking for an NC Miata, a safe option would be to opt for the NC3 (The NC3 is virtually impossible to find in Malaysia. You can opt for the NC2 instead).
The NC1 is also guilty of using plastic parts. An example of this is the coolant tank. As plastics go, the thread on the coolant tank cap eventually wore out so Martin had this replaced with an aftermarket coolant tank by Moroso.
The Miata is a fun car. It’s small, agile, and very engaging to drive. But in Malaysia, it’s not as affordable as it is in other countries like the UK, US, and NZ (even second-hand Miatas). This particular Miata is the NC1. Of course, the NC2 or NC3 would be better choices (if you’re looking for an NC) since the car has undergone further iteration after receiving feedback. I’ve talked about this in the 2007 Persona article and it continues to be proven true in other makes as well.
Why buy a Miata NC then?
For the joy of it. The Miata will put a smile on your face (when there’s no random one-in-a-million engine oil deprivation). It is a small rear-wheel-drive car with an open top and 2.0L engine. I imagine the Miata is perfect for a stress-relieving drive up and down Fraser’s Hill.
This isn’t a sensible choice if you compare it to the likes of a Perodua Axia, Honda City, or Toyota Prius*. But it is a sensible choice for a fun car if you compare it to a GT-R or a Civic Type R. Just make sure you get an NC2 or NC3.
Looks wise, we are all entitled to our own opinion. To me, the NC Miata still has an adorable happy face unlike the sinister smile on the ND Miata. For a more adorable face, you can try looking at the NA Miata with pop-up headlights.
All automatic NC Miatas do not get forged internals :(
The NC Miata is the fattest Miata
I like the Miata.
Thanks, Martin, for making this possible.
Full Mods List:
- Autoexe NC-03B FRP Front Bumper
- GarageVary Carbon Fiber Hood
- GarageVary Side Skirts
- ChargeSpeed Mudguards
- ChargeSpeed Rear Carbon Diffuser
- Custom Rear Spoiler (1 out of 3 from Thailand)
- RS Factory NC1 to NC2 Eyelid Conversion
- Custom CCFL Headlights
- Marrakesh Brown exterior colour
- Rewrapped Abaris Wisteria Semi Bucket Seats (from R34 Skyline)
- Revlimiter Custom White Sterling Gauge Faces
- Autoexe Suede shift knob
- Custom leather shift and brake covers
- Schrothe Racing 4-point harness
- Beatrush Cabin Brace
- SmartTOP Module for Roof control
- Aluminum Pedals
- 17" Rays Gramlights 57FXX 50+ Offset
- 10mm spacers Rear, 8mm spacer front
- Autoexe Lug nuts
- KsSpeed milled front brake rotors
- Dixcel slotted rear brake rotors
- Endless Stainless Steel Brake Lines
- 2.0L Ford Duratec from 2008 NC
- NoPro Silicon Air Intake Hose
- GruppeM Carbon Air Intake
- Moroso Aluminum Coolant Tank
- Greddy Grounding Harness
- NGK Iridium Spark Plugs
- SARD Oil Catch Tank
- Beatrush 3-point Tower Brace
- Maximworks 4-2-1 manifold
- SARD Midpipe (rewelded to straight pipe)
- Autoexe Rear Muffler
- Tuned by DK Tuning
- Ohlins DFV Fully Adjustable Suspensions
- Beatrush full underbrace
- Cusco Front-Rear swaybars
- Kaaz 1.5way LSD