By Greg Wilson

Test Drive: 1999 Mazda Miata, 10th Anniversary Model car test drives mazda
To celebrate the Miata’s tenth birthday, Mazda introduced this special edition, limited production (7500) 10th Anniversary Model Miata, which features unique Sapphire Blue paint, two-tone leather and artificial-suede sport seats, and a six-speed manual transmission. MSRP is $35,650, and only 150 will be sold in Canada.


Limited production Miata has unique 6-speed manual transmission

What we have here is a limited production, special edition version of the recently-redesigned 1999 Mazda Miata – LIMITED because only 7500 10th Anniversary Model Miatas will be produced with just 150 of those coming to Canada – and SPECIAL because the 10th Anniversary Model has a number of unique features, including a six-speed manual transmission, unique ‘Sapphire Blue Mica’ exterior paint, special two-tone leather/artificial suede seats, a stiffer suspension, and a special price: $35,650 (about $10,000 more than a base Miata.)

Don’t expect any discounts though. With so few available, the 10th Anniversary Edition is already a hot collectible. Canadians can take heart in the fact that the 10th Anniversary Model is cheaper here than in the U.S.A. The U.S. Manufacturer’s Retail Price is U.S.$26,875, or Can.$39,775 at current exchange rates (U.S.$0.68/CAN$1.48.)

The 10th Anniversary Model Miata (hereinafter referred to as the ’10th’ for brevity) comes in any colour you want, as long as it’s Sapphire Blue Mica. A matching blue soft top, blue top cover, polished aluminum alloy five-spoke wheels, and an ‘Aero Sport Package’ (front air dam, side skirts, and rear spoiler) are also part of the 10th Anniversary package.

Test Drive: 1999 Mazda Miata, 10th Anniversary Model car test drives mazda
A colour-coordinated interior is highlighted by black leather sport seats with blue artificial-suede inserts, a blue-and-black leather-wrapped Nardi steering wheel, blue-and-black shift knob and shift boot, special blue embossed floor mats, and stainless steel door sill protectors. Carbon fiber-look trim surrounds the center dash area, and there are bright trim rings around the tachometer and speedometer which feature special red gauge needles. The whole effect is very tasteful and sporty, in my opinion.

To enhance its exclusivity, each 10th Anniversary Miata has a red and chrome badge on the left front fender indicating its sequence number (my test car was number 1656 out of 7500) and a special ignition key and key-ring which also has the car’s number on it. In addition, every owner receives two Seiko 10th Anniversary watches, a 1/43 scale model of a 10th Anniversary Miata, and a certificate of authenticity!

Top marks for marketing, Mazda!

Aside from cosmetics, the most important difference between the ’10th’ and other Miatas is the new close-ratio six-speed manual transmission, replacing the standard 5-speed manual (a 4-speed automatic is not available on the ’10th’). An extra gear seems like a perfect solution to one of the Miata’s few faults: busy engine revs at highway speeds. At a steady 100 km/h in fifth gear, the Miata’s 140 horsepower twin cam 16 valve 1.8 liter four cylinder engine spins along at 3500 rpm, and at 120 km/h, its into the 4000 rpm range – too noisy and busy for comfortable highway cruising.

The new six speed transmission lowers engine revs to 3100 at 100 km/h in top gear. This is more comfortable, but it’s still not as low as a typical four cylinder sedan at that speed. That’s probably because the new six-speed manual transmission was designed to make the Miata perform better rather than cruise better.

Mazda’s press literature states that, “..the carefully chosen gear ratios mean there’s minimal drop in revs when shifting up, keeping the 1.8 l 16 valve DOHC powerplant firmly within its optimum torque range to deliver scintillating performance.”

On a two-day weekend trip over some twisting mountain roads, I can confirm this claim. The new six-speed allows you to maintain higher revs, and thus better throttle response when exiting a curve. You have to shift more often, but fortunately, the new 6-speed transmission has even shorter throws than the already class-leading short throws of the standard 5-speed manual transmission – although perhaps a little stiffer.

To give the suspension a tighter feel, the ’10th’ also has unique Bilstein shock absorbers and a front strut tower brace which Mazda says improves body stiffness.

All of this improves on what is already a very balanced sports car. Like other Miatas, the 10th offers a 50/50 front to rear weight distribution and a low center of gravity, a fully independent double wishbone suspension, 195/50R-15 inch Michelin Pilot radials, Torsen limited slip rear differential, quick (engine-speed assisted) power steering, and superb 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS. The added flexibility of the six-speed transmission and slightly stiffer suspension makes it feel a little more like a race-car – although not uncomforatbly so.

In fact, the ’10th’ is a great car around town because it’s so manoeuverable. Lane changes are a snap, parking is easy, and visibility with the top down is excellent.

Test Drive: 1999 Mazda Miata, 10th Anniversary Model car test drives mazda
Still there are some sore points. Drivers over six-feet tall will find themselves ducking under the windshield header to see where they’re going. Interior room is snug, and there’s still not much storage space. Rear three-quarter visiblity with the top up could be better. The trunk is wider now that the spare tire has been moved from the sidewall to the floor well, but it’s still only less than half the size of a small sedan’s trunk.

Standard equipment on the ’10th’is fairly extensive. Apart from the features mentioned above, every ’10th’ includes standard dual airbags with a passenger-side deactivation switch, a standard Bose AM/FM/CD/cassette player with 4 speakers and power antenna, glass rear window with defogger, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, cruise control, 2 cupholders, and a flip-up windblocker (which doesn’t work very well).

Options are few: air conditioning (which comes with dual front fog lights), a 6-disc CD changer, block heater, and a removeable matching blue hard-top.

Fully-equipped, a ’10th’ goes for over $40,000 with taxes. Ouch!

Still, for a unique and collectible sports car which has no direct competitors, it could be considered a good value. The Miata is the only small, front engine/rear-wheel-drive 2 seater sports car on the market for under $30,000. The ’10th’ is just that little bit more exclusive.

More information is available at www.mazda.ca


Technical Data:

1999 Mazda Miata 10th Anniversary Model
Base price $35,650
Type 2-door, 2 passenger convertible
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive
Engine 1.8 litre four cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower 140 @ 6500 rpm
Torque 119 @ 5500 rpm
Transmission 6 speed manual (4-speed automatic)
Curb weight 1032 kg (2275 lb.)
Wheelbase 2265 mm (89.2 in.)
Length 3945 mm (155.3 in.)
Width 1676 mm (66.0 in.)
Height 1228 mm (48.4 in.)
Trunk capacity 144 litres (5.1 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.4 l/100 km (29 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.4 l/100 km (38 mpg)
Warranty Basic 3 yrs/80,000 kms
  Powertrain 5 yrs/100,000 kms)




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).