By on September 26, 2017

2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT - Image: © Timothy CainMrs. Cain is taking the littlest boy to a baby shower. I’ve got the older boy, a car-loving three-year-old who’s been pleading for a trip to the ice cream barn for days.

I take the car seat out of our Honda Odyssey and am presented with a choice. For roughly 40 minutes of evening driving from Margate to Schurmans Point, around Summerside, and back home, do we take the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe with its massaging seats and Burmester audio? Or do we opt for our 2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata? It’s fall in Canada, but the heat wave experienced by much of the continent has presented us with a lovely day. Granted, the evening temperature is fast falling, and the boy has a runny nose.

It’s snot a difficult choice to make. The roof goes down, his window stays up, the heater cranks up, the garage door goes down, and we’re off for a father-son bonding session in the best car in the world.

2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata - Image: © Timothy CainOkay, maybe it’s not the best car in the world. It’s not an E39 BMW M5, it’s not a Ferrari 488 GTB, it’s not even a 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata. But right here, in this moment, at this temperature, with warm air wafting up from the floor, with these starry skies, with this six-speed’s shifter and this rev-happy 1.8-liter and the supple ride and the abrupt turn-in, my Miata is without peer.

Of course, I knew it would be. That’s why the remarkable CAD $89,595 Benz stayed at home. The Miata’s level of engagement tricks my body into lowering its blood pressure while alerting all of its senses. You become so aware in the Miata: the shifter’s slot into second sends the faintest tremor up my whole arm, I hear wild animals calling to each other under bright moonlight, I watch as the sky’s darkness adopts countless different hues, I smell the potatoes being turned into french fries at Cavendish Farms. And all of that awareness, together with the messages being delivered from the Miata to the seat of my pants, takes the stresses of the day and throws them overboard into Malpeque Bay.

I wish more evenings ended this way (particularly with the chocolate-vanilla swirl at Kool Breeze), but there are other cars to drive, lawn tractors to ride, and minivans to load. Since acquiring my Miata in May — and updating you just the once — I’ve only driven around 2,300 miles, taking the Miata’s odometer just beyond 45,000. Rated by the EPA at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, I’m averaging 26 mpg in my 13-year-old Miata despite my appetite for redlines, thanks to the rarity with which I encounter intersections at which I must stop.2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata headlight - Image: © Timothy CainIssues? On a handful of occasions, the battery’s positive post hasn’t enjoyed sweet communion with the Miata’s positive connector, and the Miata will not, on those occasions, start. My baking soda/toothpaste/olive oil concoction cleans the cloudy headlamps well, but only briefly. A friend arrived this past weekend with a special Meguiars kit that should have more lasting effects. (As an aside, the Autoglym roof protector I used works a treat.) The sun visors are useless for anyone of stature, so I unscrewed the driver’s visor for better visibility. The 12V outlet doesn’t work, meaning the Miata had to be pulled alongside the Odyssey in order for the tire pump to be plugged in when the Mazda’s tires needed topping up. The seats are by no means great, lacking support down low, up high, on the sides, and anywhere else you can think of where support would be nice.

But the seats aren’t that bad. Cloudy headlights can be remedied. I know how to counsel the battery post and the battery cable connector. These are minor issues by most used car standards, and they become all the more irrelevant when takes into account the joy derived from driving the Miata.

This late September heat wave will quickly end. Fall will strike soon. Winter will make its forthcoming presence known with frosty mornings. The Miata will be winterized, stuffed into the back of the garage, and ignored until the end of April. But in the remaining days, I’m certain my average weekly miles will increase.

Cool outside temperatures and warm cabins create the most delightful convertible cabins, and the knowledge that the Miata’s 2017 is about to come to an end necessitates maximum use.

I can hear this evening calling.

[Images: © 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 and Instagram.

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29 Comments on “2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Update: Late September Is Convertible Season...”

  • avatar

    Is it a forward facing car seat? That whole airbag + child seat thing is what makes me shy away from 2 seaters with my daughter on the way. Obviously while she’s in infant it has to be a rear facing seat which requires a back seat, but I’d be afraid even with a forward facing seat + airbag.

    • 0 avatar

      Two-seaters generally have a way to turn off the passenger airbag for that scenario. In my 2006 MX-5, it requires inserting the key in the switch to do it to make sure you really mean it, but the option is there.

      It’ll also do it automatically if it senses weight below a certain threshold in the passenger seat.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      You turn it off with a key switch.

      • 0 avatar

        Do the NDs still have that feature? My eldest is about to transition to a front-facing seat and, since I’ve just got ahold of a new Odyssey, that could make the ND viable as Daddy’s Daily.

        • 0 avatar

          Even in the newer NCs, and pretty much all new cars have an occupant detection system. If the weight is below a certain threshold, it will disable the airbag itself. There will be an indicator somewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      You can put a rear facing seat in the front seat if it is the only option.

      I carted around my daughter in a regular cab Silverado W/T and F150 XL when she was an infant. I wouldn’t want to do that all the time, but it works in a pinch.

    • 0 avatar

      The passenger side airbag can be disabled. Also, it turns off automatically if enough weight is not in the passenger seat. I used to frequently drive my kids to school in my MX-5/Miata. It was no problem. And, other than being a sports car, it was no different in size relative to the small economy cars being driven by others to drop off their kids. But, of course, it felt tiny when I pulled up next to one of the huge Suburbans or full-sized pickup trucks.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    As the saying goes, The Answer Is Always Miata. And in this case, it couldn’t be more true. The stuff memories and father-son bonds are made of. Good on you. And long live your Miata.

  • avatar

    Nice piece Tim, and sums up the appeal of a late September run in a littler roadster nicely!

  • avatar

    I recently had the opportunity to drive an NB Miata from Ft Lauderdale to Pensacola. Time constraints ensured that I’d have to stick to the interstates. I expected it to be miserable. I was pleasantly surprised that it was fun to drive even in a straight line, and possibly due to the mentioned effect wherein the car simultaneously heightens your senses while lowering your blood pressure, I arrived just as invigorated as I have when taking the trip in my WK2 Grand Cherokee SRT with its heated/cooled seats, adaptive cruise, and gratuitous power. What a neat little car.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      I don’t find NB bad on the highway at all, even with windows down. I don’t remember disliking the NC on the highway, but Mrs. Cain says our Miata is much better. ND isn’t bad until you get into the RF – highway journeys in that car aren’t fun with all of the wind and noise entering the cabin and refusing to leave.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Yup, my 5y/o loves our “daddy-daughter date nights” where we usually take the S2000 and go hit her favorite pizza place, then a playground, and finish it off with some “fro-yo” at the local shop. Not many great driving roads along the way (it’s all in our little town, suburban surface streets) but same experience of open top in the night air and a little kid who is enthralled with it all. The S2000 is the only car she rides in where she doesn’t request to watch YouTube on the iPhone as soon as she gets in.

    • 0 avatar

      Love it. Whenever I play hooky from work and stay home with my 2 y/o son, he will at least once during the day bring me his shoes and the keys to my SVT Mustang Cobra (New Edge vintage, but unfortunately not the Terminator) while yelling “Dad! Dad!” with an expectant look on his face. Gotta hand it to the kid, he loves power and loud V8 exhaust and he came by it honestly.

      That thing’s hell to get a rear facing car seat into, though.

  • avatar

    I just drove my 2000 Miata out to lunch today. It compelled me to take the longest path possible.

  • avatar

    Glad your Miata is doing exactly what its supposed to do, give you many smiles-per-gallon.

    This piece, and some of the comments so far, make me really want to be a father. Perhaps one day.

  • avatar

    Took my NA out this weekend with my 10 year-old daughter to run errands on beautiful and very twisty back roads in my part of New Jersey. Upon returning I commented to my wife that the Fall may actually be the best time to own a convertible – less sun, better light, perfect crispness to the air.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Fall is for sure the best time for convertibles. And basically everything else. I’m psyched that Chicago will return tomorrow to normal fall temps tomorrow after about a week of 90* days and I can drive my convertible again.

  • avatar

    This fall has been wonderful for Miatas so far. I took mine to a couple of open houses in the country – I’m starting to research buying a house – and replaced the radiator and motor mounts, along with a couple of other things. Working on the car in the nice weather is almost as nice as driving it, especially since maintenance is simple and infrequent. The radiator replacement was preventative – it’s plastic and was nearing 20 years old, so I bought an OEM-equivalent for $70. The mounts were still in okay shape, but I was itching to put in some firmer ones. Mazda makes a factory “Motorsport” mount which is 40% stiffer than stock, and offers nicer response and crisper shifting. The price for this is a little more vibration at idle, which is something I can live with.

    This weekend I plan on taking my NB up north, where the leaves are starting to turn, into ski country for a beer festival. Miata life is good.

    PS: Tim’s inoperative cigarette lighter is quite possibly just a blown fuse. I once accidentally shorted mine while trying to probe the voltage with my multimeter – it happens quick.

  • avatar

    Some of the best father-son bonding moments you can have take place in cars.

    For me, it was 1975, after my dad and I detailed out his ’73 Citroen SM and took it for a drive on a glorious fall day.

    (Of course, this was on one of the days the SM decided to actually run, but that’s another story…)

    As we hustled down the country road we lived on, the Beatles’ “Michelle” came on the radio. I can still hear the sexy Maserati V-6, and I can smell the car’s engine bay mixing with the leather on the seats amid the distant odor of burning leaves.

    Good stuff.

    Enjoy it, Tim!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Having owned a Z3 for ten years, I will certainly agree that there’s nothing like a ride in a roadster to brighten your day. At various times I took all of my girls in it: my middle daughter on trips to Charlottesville for college; my youngest on a daily ride to her school. None of them are gear heads, but it was part of a great bonding experience that continues to pay me dividends, even as two of them are well into their 30s.
    I’m too tall for a Miata; otherwise I’d get one. I miss the Z3, but dealing with a 15-year old BMW of unknown provenance is not something that attracts me. And I am not so fond of its successors.

  • avatar

    I too plan on taking advantage of the cooler fall weather taking my daughter for rides in our 335i. Also, as far as headlight polishing goes, I highly recommend the Sylvania kit. There is a UV protectant that is applied after all of the polishing steps are completed. I have done several cars for my friends and they all turned out very well.

  • avatar

    Just last night I dropped our daughter off to play in the pep band and we took the Cobra. It was a perfect night for it and when we got there the teacher had not yet arrived to unlock the band room so all the students waiting outside were staring at her. She doesn’t very often like to bring attention to herself but it was her request to take the roadster.

    Some days it is worth not having a top, outside door handles, A/C, or other creature comforts.

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