Introducing Tim's Early-Life Crisis: 2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Test

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
introducing tim s early life crisis 2004 mazda mx 5 miata long term test

Silver was not my first choice. But after spending weeks on the prowl for an older Mazda Miata, I found the right car within walking distance of my childhood home.

Our new-to-us Miata is a 2004 model with a six-speed manual and only 43,000 miles under its belt. Always stored for the winter, as most Miatas are in this part of eastern Canada, the car is in ridiculously good condition, revving seductively and shifting like nothing else shifts this side of an RX-8.

I’m not a huge fan of the MY2004-2005 OEM wheels. I’d prefer cloth seats. It’s silver, not the black I was after.

But after considering German droptops and Jeep Wranglers and numerous vehicles that did not come close to fulfilling my list of requirements, I couldn’t deny my initial instincts.

I wanted a Miata for 28 years. I have one now.

What caused me to avoid the other cars on the list we showed you earlier this week?

The Jeep Wrangler was let down on a few counts. First, tedious softtop operation, combined with hardtop removal, make it less of a spur-of-the-moment convertible. Pre-owned Wrangler prices are also exceptionally high. I’m moving to an area with some exceptionally fun roads, and while the Wrangler would’ve been a great winter companion in Prince Edward Island, it wouldn’t have been any fun on the undulating rural roads of central PEI.

The European convertibles, particularly the BMW 3 Series, are undeniably desirable. But I was frightened by long-term maintenance costs for German cars that often appeared tired and worn when I’d examine them in daylight. I’d have appreciated the power of a BMW inline-six, no doubt, but power isn’t really what I’m after. Moreover, the rate of depreciation for these cars — cars which other buyers likewise believe to be costly to maintain as they age — wasn’t encouraging.

I couldn’t help but consider other four-wheel-drive SUVs: GM brutes and oddballs like the Land Rover LR3 and Volkswagen Touareg. There was even a Hummer H3 Alpha that intrigued me. Then there were Minis and Golf GTIs, tuned Preludes and RSXs. But we weren’t looking for a second vehicle so much as we were looking for a financially sane convertible purchase. Mrs. Cain and I both work from home; vehicles in our possession rack up very little mileage.

If, for some reason, our new Miata must be sold in the coming months or years, it’ll be a car without much more mileage than it currently possesses, a car that was stored in the garage all winter, a car that will be more fastidiously maintained than our 2015 Honda Odyssey.

If the $7,500 USD price I paid concerns you, consider the fact that there were other Miatas — older and more costly Miatas — selling around the same time. (Canada’s average asking price for a 2004 MX-5 Miata GT is $8,800 USD.) Finding a Miata that wasn’t roughed up or ostentatiously modified wasn’t easy for me, nor will it be for the buyer who’s looking for a Miata when I’m selling mine.

Selling? Nah, I certainly don’t plan to. I love this car.

Although it’s heresy among Miataphiles, I’m actually not a huge fan of the NA’s look. The NC is a sweet little car, and I’m a big fan of the style, but I don’t find the driving experience as engaging. Obviously, the new MX-5 Miata — the ND — is a spectacular device, but it was far outside my price range. This leaves the NB, the 1999-2005 car with its 142-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder and sub-2,500-pound curb weight and 28 mile per gallon highway efficiency.

The Miata heads to the Mazda dealer this afternoon for an oil change. I’ve already de-fogged the headlamps, brought the drainholes up to snuff, and cleaned the roof.

It’s not perfect. The 12v outlet doesn’t work. The floor mat attachment doesn’t stay firmly in place. A three-year-old boy has already left crumbs in the passenger seat.

It’s also silver.

That’s okay. I’ll survive.

[Images: © 2017 Timothy Cain]

Timothy Cain is the founder of and a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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2 of 81 comments
  • Car Ramrod Car Ramrod on May 21, 2017

    The answer is always Miata (unless you're over 6'1"). Good luck!

  • Bloodnok Bloodnok on May 21, 2017

    although i'm driving and loving driving a 2017 roadster, the nb model is still the best looking mx-5 made. so you have a winner, mr cain. may your roads always be twisting cuz that's the most fun.

  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.
  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
  • Roger hopkins Why do they all have to be 4 door??? Why not a "cab & a half" and a bit longer box. This is just another station wagon of the 21st century. Maybe they should put fake woodgrain on the side lol...
  • Greg Add me to the list: 2017 Sorento EX AWD w/2.0 Turbo GDI 68K miles. Changed oil religiously with only synthetic. Checked oil level before a rare long road trip and Ievel was at least 2 quarts down. That was less than 6 months after the last oil change. I'm now adding a quart of oil every 1000 miles and checking every 500 miles because I read reports that the oil usage gets worse. Too bad, really like the 2023 Tuscon. But I have not seen Hyundai/Kia doing anything new in terms of engine development. Therefore, I have to suspect that I will ony become a victim of a fatally flawed engine development program if I were to a purchase another Kia/Hyundai.