Only 250 of these Mazda Miata Special Edition models were imported into Canada this year. Special Edition models include a unique Mahogony Mica exterior colour, a standard six-speed manual transmission, polished alloy wheels, tan leather upholstery and tan convertible top, crome-coloured instruments, Nardi wood steering wheel and shift knob, and stainless steel scuff plates. The asking price is $34,790.
6-speed manual transmission is best feature of limited edition Miata
Almost every year since 1991, Mazda has introduced a unique, limited production version of the Miata sports car to whet the appetites of those who want a Miata that’s a little different, a tad more exclusive, and a little more expensive than the standard Miata. Most of these limited production versions have been called ‘Special Edition’ models, but some have been called ‘Limited Edition’ or ‘M Edition’, and some have had no particular moniker, just a limited production run.
Common traits of special edition models over the years included a unique exterior colour, a standard leather interior, a full load of options, and sometimes, a unique convertible top colour and special tires and wheels.
The first one was the 1991 Miata Special Edition. It offered a unique (at the time) British Racing Green exterior colour, a tan leather interior and a black convertible top. In 1992, a limited edition ‘Black Miata’ with tan leather upholstery, a tan top and power windows was offered.
Perhaps the most distinctive of all the special edition models was the 1993 Miata Limited Edition which had a black exterior, red leather upholstery, a red boot cover, a tan top, and BBS lattice-style alloy wheels. Only 1500 of these were made.
The 1994 Miata M Edition had a blue exterior, tan leather seats, tan convertible top, and polished alloy wheels, while the 1995 M Edition had a burgundy (Merlot Mica) body colour, tan leather, tan top, and 15 inch BBS alloy wheels. 1996 M Editions were blue with a tan top and 15 inch Enkei alloy wheels and 1997 M Editions were Marina Green with tan leather upholstery, tan top and 15 inch performance tires with 6-spoke alloys.
During the 90’s, special ‘R’ versions of the Miata were offered in the U.S., but Canada didn’t get any.
In 1999, a special edition ’10th Anniversary’ model in ‘Sapphire blue’ with a six-speed manual transmission, black leather interior and polished alloy wheels was introduced.
Special edition for 2000
For 2000, the Miata Special Edition model (which is limited to 250 cars in Canada) comes in a unique Mahogony Mica exterior colour. Like the 10th Anniversary model, the 2000 Special Edition offers a standard 6-speed manual transmission while all other Miatas have a 5-speed manual transmission as standard equipment.
A 4-speed automatic transmission is available as an option on all Miatas, but very few Miata buyers order this option.
In terms of features, the Miata Special Edition is essentially a Miata with the optional Leather Package and Aero Sport Package, plus a few unique items such as the 6-speed transmission.
The Leather Package, which is normally a $4,100 option, includes a tan-coloured soft-top and tan leather interior, leather-wrapped Nardi steering wheel, cruise control, Bose AM/FM/CD/cassette sound system with 4 speakers, foldable wind blocker, 195/50R-15 inch tires, 15″ alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, limited slip differential. Standard Miatas with the Leather Package come in Blue, Green or Black exterior colours only.
The Aero Sport Package ($1,800) includes body-coloured front air dam, side skirts, and rear spoiler.
Over and above these features, the 2000 Miata Special Edition substitutes a unique Mahogony Mica body colour and adds a standard six-speed manual transmission, cr�me-coloured round gauge faces with chromed rings, a wood-rimmed Nardi steering wheel, a Nardi wood shift knob and handbrake handle, woodgrain centre console, chrome door handles, stainless steel scuff plates on the door panels, and polished alloy wheels.
A Miata with the optional Leather Package and Aero Sport Package retails for $33,045, while a Special Edition model is priced at $34,790.
Though it’s well-equipped, there are some options you can add to the Special Edition, including air conditioning ($1,391), a removeable hardtop ($1,675), and automatic transmission ($1,075). (Note: in the U.S., air conditioning is standard on the Special Edition). I recommend you get air and the hardtop – the former is invaluable on excessively hot summer days and helps when it comes time to re-sell the car; the latter is practical and stylish during the Winter when the temperature goes below zero.
With a full load of options, the Miata Special Edition now comes very close to $40,000. Hmm.
Designed for drivers
I can’t even begin to talk about the Miata Special Edition, or any Miata, without mentioning how much fun it is to drive. This car was designed for the fun of driving first, and as a transportation device second. Volumes have been written by owners and experts on the merits of the Miata’s traditional front engine/rear-wheel-drive layout, 50/50 front to rear weight distribution, fully independent wishbone suspension, four wheel disc brakes, and quick, responsive steering.
But let me add a few things that aren’t normally mentioned. The Miata’s superb handling is a result of its excellent balance, both longitudinal and lateral. With the engine and transmission positioned longitudinally, rather than transversely as in most front wheel drive cars, forward dive and rear pitch are minimized when braking and accelerating, as is lateral lean when cornering. For the driver and passenger, there is a sensation of balance and control, and a resulting feeling of safety and security. The Miata has very high handling limits, and excellent recovery characteristics, so it’s really enjoyable to drive on a twisty road. Its four-wheel independent suspension includes double wishbones with coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers, and front and rear stabilizer bars.
However, in the snow, the Miata’s lighter rear-end means less traction, and is not as grippy as in a front-wheel-drive car. A good set of four snow tires and perhaps a couple of sandbags in the trunk will solve that problem.
140 horsepower engine
The original 1989 Miata had a 115 horsepower 1.6 litre four cylinder engine, and it’s increased over the years to 1.8 litres and 140 horsepower. Though the current Miata weighs more than the original Miata, it has significantly better off-the-line performance and passing power than earlier versions. The 1.8 litre twin cam, 16 valve four cylinder engine willingly revs up to its 7000 rpm redline, and 0 to 100 km/h comes up in under 8 seconds. A torque-tube, a brace-like structure connecting the engine and transmission, reduces the twisting and bending normally associated with hard acceleration, so the Miata’s drivetrain feels rock solid.
When highway cruising, the engine revs comfortably at 3,100 rpm at a steady 100 km/h in sixth gear. The engine’s highway cruising speed is a couple of hundred rpm lower than the Miata with the 5 speed manual transmission. I would have preferred lower revs of around 2500 rpm, but I have to admit that this engine is incredibly smooth at high revs, and doesn’t feel strained at all.
I found the six-speed manual transmission in the Special Edition was even quicker and smoother than the six-speed that I tested last year in the Miata 10th Anniversary Edition model. Only the Honda S2000’s manual transmission has shorter shifts than this transmission, but the Miata’s shift effort is slightly easier.
Fuel consumption is reasonable for a sports car: in the city, the Miata Special Edition gets 9.7 litres per 100 km (29 mpg), and on the highway, it offers 7.4 litres per 100 km (38 mpg). With the automatic transmission, those figures are slightly worse: 10.5 l/100 km (27 mpg) city and 7.6 l/100 km (37 mpg) highway.
I found the Miata’s engine-speed sensitive power steering to be quick and responsive with just 2.7 turns from lock to lock and a tight turning circle of just 9.7 metres (30.2 ft.). Great fun! The Miata really goes where you point it – negotiating twisty roads a pleasure rather than a chore, and reduces the stress that hours of driving can create. I might also point out that as a rear-wheel-drive car, the Miata’s steering is unhindered by engine torque forces and a nose-heavy weight distribution.
Braking is also superb, in part because of the standard disc brakes and the car’s light curb weight 1047 kg (2308 lb.). Too bad ABS is not available on the base model. You have to order the ‘Leather Package’ to get ABS.
The Miata Special Edition’s interior is extremely attractive with a combination of beige leather seats, chrome door handles, and wood trim. The Special Edition’s unique wood-rimmed, airbag-equipped Nardi steering wheel is small, sporty and easy to grip, while the matching Nardi wood shift knob, wood handbrake lever, and wood trim on the lower console all look very attractive.
The upper half of the dashboard is black to prevent glare, while the lower half is a tan colour that matches the tan leather seats. Behind the steering wheel are unique cr�me-coloured gauges with chrome accents – the door handles and handbrake button are also chrome.
An AM/FM/CD/cassette player is standard, but there are no redundant controls for stereo volume or cruise control on the steering wheel hubs – which is fine by me – I don’t like controls positioned on a moving background.
The power mirror controls are in an unusual place – on the right side of the steering wheel on the lower dash area. There are also controls for the front fog lights and cruise control on the lower dash. Like many European sports cars, the power window buttons are in the centre console area.
There are two cupholders inside the centre armrest, but since they are behind the shift lever, cups can be struck by the driver’s elbow when changing gears! A better position might be ahead of the shift lever, but admittedly, there is very little ‘real estate’ in this car.
One complaint: air conditioning is not standard equipment – I thought it should be in a car of this price.
Miata’s have standard dual front airbags, and the passenger airbag can be turned off with a key-operated on/off switch on the dash – this is for the safety of children or babies travelling in the passenger seat.
The Miata’s interior is cozy, and the windshield header is low. Driver’s over six feet tall will find themselves ducking under the top of the windshield to see traffic lights. The small trunk is cozy too, but is wider than the previous pre-1997 Miata – the temporary spare tire was moved from the side of the trunk to below the floor. However, this means the new trunk is not quite as deep as before.
Manual convertible top
Like other Miatas, the Special Edition has a manually-operated convertible top – a power top is not offered. The Special Edition’s top is beige and has a glass rear window with a defroster. Unlike earlier plastic rear windows, glass rear windows don’t fog up and they don’t scratch. In addition, the owner doesn’t have to zip it out before putting the top down, and zip it up again after putting the top up.
Putting the top down requires releasing two clips on the windshield header and lifting it up and over your head. To finish the job, you should get out of the car, fold the clips down, and put the flexible vinyl boot cover over the top so that dust and moisture doesn’t get in. Besides, the Miata looks so much better with the boot cover in place.
The Miata’s convertible top doesn’t have any extra noise insulation or padding on the inside of the convertible top. However, this keeps the top light and easy to put up and down.
With the top down, I found wind buffeting to be acceptable at 100 km/h, and it doesn’t seem to get any worse with the windows rolled down. The small windblocker behind the seats doesn’t do much good – there are aftermarket windblockers which do a better job.
Still unique in the marketplace
After all these years, there still isn’t a comparable competitor for the Miata. The BMW Z3 went upscale with a standard six cylinder engine a couple of years ago, and the new mid-engined Toyota MR2 is not available in Canada. Sports cars like the Mercedes-Benz SLK, Honda S2000, Porsche Boxster, Audi TT, and Chevrolet Corvette are all much more expensive than the Miata.
Which leaves the Miata in a class of its own. Base models are now $27,145 (up from $26,995 earlier this year), Leather Package models are $31,245, and Special Edition models are $34,790. It’s not cheap, but the Miata is a well-made, statistically-reliable car, and its price is comparatively low in the sports car class.