By on June 16, 2017

2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata 2015 Honda Odyssey - Image: © Timothy CainSince purchasing my 2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata out of a driveway in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia little more than one month ago, I have not driven the car nearly as much as I’d hoped to.


Of course not.

I’m a relatively young father of two little ones. I have taken on increased responsibilities at TTAC. I must drive a manufacturer-supplied test car each week. Our family is scheduled to move to Prince Edward Island this week. I’m busy.

Also, this is spring on the east coast of Nova Scotia. The weather has been, shall we say, iffy.

But I’ve driven my little roadster enough to learn plenty about Miata life, almost all of which is good.

First, driving other vehicles now brings me very little joy. The Miata is so involving 100 percent of the time — not just because of the delightful six-speed manual but also wind in hair, lively steering, seat-of-the-pants communication, the aroma of every fast food restaurant — that other vehicles are becoming decidedly clinical. It’s like going from a Nashville Predators home playoff game to Amen Corner at Augusta National.

Golf is great. Sure. Whatever. But where’s the action?

Second, just because the Miata has made the experience of other vehicles joyless, from an automotive enthusiast’s perspective, does not mean the experience of driving other vehicles is without pleasure altogether. I appreciate our 2015 Honda Odyssey EX even more now than I did before.

The Odyssey isn’t known to offer the quietest of cabins, but compared to the Miata? After a Miata journey, top down on a late May evening with the heaters blasting because it’s 45°F, the entire Odyssey experience is akin to fine dining with the Lexus LS after lunching with a Lada Riva.2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata - Image: © Timothy CainThe Miata is clearly not all bliss.

Top up, for example, it’s just not worth it. This car was purchased by me for me as a summer toy in Prince Edward Island. With the top up during Nova Scotia’s coastal, showery spring, all of the noise from the Miata and its traffic companions enters the cabin and booms around aimlessly. Moreover, while I’m not claustrophobic I do feel unwelcome in the top-up Miata, as if it’s asking my three-year-old to drive, rather than me.

Fortunately, he can come along for the journey. Child seat installation is a breeze and the passenger airbag is turned off with the key in the centre console.

It’s a 13-year-old car, so it’s not perfect. The Miata likes to crank a bit before starting if it’s been sitting for a few days. The bolts holding the wiper arms down are very rusty. The column-mounted signal stalk is as chintzy as any part you’ll find on the cheapest new car on sale today. The cupholder cover pops open too easily and is located where my arm wants to be if I’m to operate the shifter.

But my local dealer, Steele Mazda in Dartmouth, chosen for its proximity and Miata knowledge, gave the car a thorough inspection following an oil change last month. Issues? Aside from those bolts and wipers that needed replacing ($20 for the pair) and a driver’s floormat that isn’t properly affixed, nothing.


Of course not.

[Image: © 2017 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

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

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23 Comments on “2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata One Month Long-Term Update: Life Gets In The Way...”

  • avatar

    “The Miata likes to crank a bit before starting if it’s been sitting for a few days.”

    As a fellow 04 owner, I thought it was weird, too when I first got mine. But after a little research I found that not only is it perfectly normal, it has nothing to do with how long its been sitting. That’s just the way it is. Three or four slowish cranks before it turns over. I put some new spark plugs in and it improved somewhat. Gotta remember this car may have been built in this millennium, but the engine dates back to the mid-80s.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    I can definitely relate, as I swap between my ’08 Miata and my Cadenza, with the parked car stored in an offsite garage. It takes a bit of planning when I want to change out, but there’s a definite mood that strikes me when I know it’s time to take the Miata out for a few days.

    And usually, by the end of that time, I’m more than ready to return to being swaddled in Korean near-luxury.

    • 0 avatar

      That whole “offsite storage” ritual, is a big problem for sports car ownership in urban settings in the US. Motorcycles are much more convenient that way.

  • avatar

    As a 5-year roadster owner now, I echo all of your sentiments. I only put around 3-4k on my S2000 a year now because I only drive it when it’s nice, and I limit myself to 1 day per week of commuting since it’s 90 miles round trip. Plus toddlers don’t fit so well in the passenger seat.

  • avatar

    Every NA Miata I’ve owned over the years (4) has had the longer crank time but never failed to start. I’ve always thought that it was built in to allow for some oil pressure to register to the top end.
    The reliability of these cars is one of the great joys of owning one. I believe the only non-maintenance item I’ve ever replaced was a backup light switch on my 1st Miata, a white’92. Enjoy your car for many years to come, weather permitting.

  • avatar

    Get yourself a set of aftermarket seat heaters. Installation is not as hard as you’d think. Don’t forget the hog-ring pliers.

  • avatar

    Completely commiserate with you – it’s hard squeezing a 2-door coupe into a short summer. I had an 07 SKY Roadster, redline trim, which while completely stock looking dynoed 320lbs-ft at the wheels. Absolute blast to drive, but in the end, I let it go while still mint to an appreciative buyer with more time than I had.

    With that much power and handling, the envelope around you is just so small and confining (am in downtown Toronto), and the ruckus of the busy road and lack of storage space took some of the shine off when I would try and use it for daily errands (vs. night time or rural drives).

    I miss it, but just couldn’t find the time to get behind the wheel enough.

  • avatar

    This sounds a lot like motorcycle ownership. With a bike though it’s at least very clear when it is and isn’t good to ride. And with the earplugs anyone who rides faster than ~40 MPH should have noise fatigue is kind of low. And of course, the level of engagement…..

    IMO, motorcycles are the ultimate Miatas. That said, with a kid on the way, I’m seriously contemplating buying someone’s completed Exocet project and selling the bike. Though I would miss out on the HOV lanes and motorcycle parking….

    • 0 avatar

      Going from a motorcycle to a Miata was a more pleasant transition than I thought it would be, and I loved my bikes. Only got out of it because of a crash that made me decide it was likely that my luck would run out faster than my immaturity.

      No matter how good a rider you are, you can corner more confidently on public roads in a Miata – the capabilities of the vehicle just vary way less with road conditions when you have four wheels. This makes up somewhat for the lower involvement, in my opinion, along with the fact that a Miata on sticky tires will usually outcorner a sport bike at street speeds. And as someone who rode enough that I once had to borrow a coworker’s snow brush before leaving my work parking lot, having a closeable roof and small trunk are handy luxuries.

  • avatar

    After driving my 1999 Miata, my 2013 Tacoma double-cab long-bed feels like a Lincoln Town Car. One of the older “good” Town Cars.

    After a few days in the Tacoma, the 19 year old NB feels like a large-(ish) go kart.

    Both good feelings.

    The NB never starts in second one, usually second 2. It was a bit longer until I replaced the glass mat battery. The battery is easy and clean to change as it is in the trunk on the right (passenger) side, protected from the dirt and grease batteries collect in under-the-hood locations.

    Make sure the replacement battery has vents to connect to your car’s venting hoses.

    Come to think of it, my 1964 VW bug had a regular 6 volt battery with removable caps under the rear seat and it was not vented.

    I wonder why.

  • avatar

    “It’s like going from a Nashville Predators home playoff game to Amen Corner at Augusta National.

    Golf is great. Sure. Whatever. But where’s the action?”

    The Amen Corner to Miata’s Nashville Predators game is a Ferrari 458 Cabrio.

    I’ll take the Ferrari.

  • avatar

    i drive my wife’s z3 more than she does, just to start it up and circulate the fluids… we put less than 2-3k miles on it a year.

    i want her to sell it but she refuses.

  • avatar

    The Odyssey isn’t known to offer the quietest of cabins, but compared to the Miata? After a Miata journey, top down on a late May evening with the heaters blasting because it’s 45°F, the entire Odyssey experience is akin to fine dining with the Lexus LS after lunching with a Lada Riva.

    Reminds me of my first new car a 1985.5 Mustang SVO. Compared to my then TR6 it was so smooth and quiet.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a lot of cars, and a number of sports cars since I owned my ’92 Miata (1996-2000). Despite owning a number of Porsches and currently having a 997.2 Carrera S as a summer car, the ONE car I miss and regret selling is that old Miata. I can’t think of another car I’ve owned that was as much FUN.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about buying another Miata, but I would also keep the Porsche. Although NA or early NB Miatas are not expensive, for me I have to also budget in a storage lift so I can park both sports cars in my garage!!!

  • avatar

    I’ve never been inclined to buy a drop top, but if I did, you’d never catch that top up. Never.

    I drove a friend’s Chrysler Sebring (first gen) with the top up. I HATED it. SO loud and the cheap interior became all a buzz with vibrations and booming echoes from the cars around me, it was awful. Visability that makes the CH-R look like a 1980 Audi 4000.

    I see people on nice days with the top up. Too hot? Too much air? Scared it will sneak up a rain shower? YOU NEED AN ACCORD COUPE WITH A SUNROOF.

    That being said, the Miata is NOT a Sebring. But, I did drive one, literally a secretary’s car (worked at our dealership), was an automatic and she insisted on keeping the top up despite it being a balmy 78°, sunny and we weren’t going on the freeway.

    The Miata is a driver’s car, top up or down. I personally would love a factory Miata 3 door hatch with a fabric roof like a “California Top” BMW 318Ti.

    But, aside from *possibly* a V-8 Mustang, the Miata is the drop top I’d have if I had one. But, I’d probably remove the top assembly completely and pack dry clothes in the trunk.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s true; driving a(n older) Miata with the top up feels like driving a tent. I even feel like my driving skills devolve when I have the top closed – probably a result of the rattling top distracting me and rattling my confidence. Maybe the restricted visibility is a factor, too. I see at as an added poor-weather capability compared to a motorcycle, because comparing the experience to other cars is a disappointment. I do give credit to its simplicity and ability to stay water tight even after a decade or two.

      I agree; whenever the weather allows it, the top goes down, even for a 5 minute drive. Fun fact: at highway speeds you can leave the top down even in a downpour and still stay quite dry as long as you leave the windows up. People look at you a little funny, and it’s hell if traffic unexpectedly forces you to stop or slow down, but it’s a great feeling. A soaking wet interior is a pain because the seats take a day or two to dry out, and I’m sure is going to cause damage if it happens with any regularity.

      The heater is also pretty powerful for such a small cabin. For highway driving you can stay comfortable down to about 50 degrees with the top down, but you can go sub-freezing if you’re driving around in town. Top up, I haven’t encountered a situation that the heater can’t easily keep up with.

  • avatar

    Glad to hear you are enjoying the car, Tim.

    I daily-drove a 1995 Miata (NA) for 17 years and it was a lot of fun. Then I inherited a 2006 model (NC) from an older relative who had to give up driving and I now daily-drive this newer one and have for several years now.

    There is a difference! Newer one is definitely more civilized, refined and quieter-much easier to live with here in LA on a daily basis on the NVH reduction alone.

    As with so much in life there is a trade-off: less of that visceral, oily, leathery pure machine connection. You can’t have it both ways and I’m lucky to have experienced both.

    You are going to enjoy this summer!

  • avatar

    Loved my Miata, but only for the first 50 miles of any trip, then it became a bit of torture. It was a fun car, joy to drive, if only for an hour. More then that made all the shortcomings really evident. Sold it and bought a Merc 300 sport with 6sp manual. a much more rewarding car to drive even for long trips. Miata is the answer, but I simply do not know the question.

  • avatar

    I’ve yet to ride in a sports car that wasn’t a penality box with the top up. I’ve had an ’84 Alfa since the mid-90s that still wears its original convertible top in good condition. This is probably because the only time the top is up is when the car is in the garage.

  • avatar

    I did a couple of cross-country trips in my previous Miata (a 1991). Foam earplugs came in really handy since your head is essentially level with the tires from heavy trucks. As a shorter driver I actually found the Miata pretty comfortable and the ride isn’t overly harsh, but the noise level on the freeway got tiring. The single-layer soft top keeps rain off your head but does little for noise insulation.

    I now have another NA Miata, a 1990, and also have two kids but I’m a single dad. As a result, I rarely have an opportunity to drive it. But if the weather is nice and I’m only driving one of the kids or just running errands, it just makes me smile to drive the Miata. It will sit for weeks then start up without any issues. I’d love something more exotic and have always wanted an early Alfa Spider but I think this car offers all of the fun without the headaches.

    I don’t think your use of the car makes you unique. The classifieds are full of early Miatas with relatively low miles. Here in Michigan, they are usually spotless summer-only rides as well. Mine is an early car with only 78k miles on it and had probably never even been driven in rain, much less snow, before I got it last year. On a smile-per-dollar basis I can’t think of a better buy.

  • avatar

    CEL on my Miata. Code is P-2402. It’s a 2013 Club Sport PRHT with just over 3K miles. Car was in storage for a good amount of time.
    So I’m about a month past warranty. I suspect the part needed is AJ51-18-581A.

    What are the chances Mazda will cover all or part of the repair as “goodwill” if I have dealership repair?

  • avatar

    I’ve owned a 2001 Miata NB for 4.5 years. It was my daily driver for the first 4 years (now a mostly driver). My rule is that if it is over 50 Farenheit and nothing is falling from the sky; the top is down. I always thought the interior was cozy in the winter and the heater warms VERY quickly and is powerful. Even my wife agrees to have the top down when its above the mid-50s.
    Having said that, the top-up noise has been getting to me lately – I think some of it has to so with worn tires.
    Our ’06 Town & Country, which isn’t the quietest vehicle in the world feels and sounds like a Lexus LS in comparison. But two things I say about the Miata is 1) It’s everything I want and nothing more {this is an extreme compliment} and 2) The nicest thing about driving ANY other car is getting back in the Miata.

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