To ensure that the new MX-5 Miata embodied jinba ittai, Mazda engineers employed the tenets of Kansei engineering, the principles of which dictate that every aspect of design, mechanics, and dynamic response must ultimately contribute to driving satisfaction. Thus, despite larger dimensions, a bigger interior, improved safety, and additional features, the new 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata weighs just 22 pounds more than the old car, which means that the base model should remain under 2,500 pounds.
That means the new MX-5 Miata will remain lightweight, lithe and lively - characteristics that made it a hit in the first place.
Power flows to the rear wheels through a standard short-throw, six-speed manual transmission equipped with triple-cone synchronizers that reduce engagement force in the first four forward gears. A six-speed automatic transmission is optional, and features a manual shift mode for greater driving involvement.
Like the original Miata, the redesigned 2006 version features a double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension, this time equipped with anti-dive and anti-squat geometry. The handsome multi-spoke 17-inch wheels are one size larger in diameter, and wear 205/45 performance tires. They front a four-wheel-disc braking system with larger rotors, stiffer calipers, and other modifications designed to produce short pedal travel and linear brake application. Mazda has also retuned the power rack-and-pinion steering, and when combined with the new MX-5 Miata's wider track, larger tires, and stiffer body structure, it produces quicker response and better handling.
Completely new from the tires to the top, the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata benefits from a 22-percent improvement in body flex and a 47-percent bump in torsional rigidity, which alone could substantially boost the Miata's light, lithe, and lively feel from behind the wheel. But Mazda also slid the engine 5.3 inches further back in the chassis, putting it well behind the front axle to achieve a perfect 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution and a reduced yaw moment of inertia, which contributes to more stable and higher handling limits. And with a height bump of less than an inch, the new MX-5 Miata's center of gravity remains among the lowest on the market.
Longer and wider, the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata's wheelbase is stretched 2.6 inches, length is bumped less than an inch, width increases 1.6 inches, and height is nearly unchanged. The classic Miata "Coke-bottle" body shape that tucked inward between the wheels is traded for a wider cockpit and space for a new side-impact airbag system that protects both the torso and the head.
At both ends, the body tapers for a taut look, but the wheel flares are exaggerated to accommodate the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata's wider track, larger wheels, and to provide a familial link to the RX-8 sports car. Raised to meet new European pedestrian compatibility standards, the taller and flatter hood features grooved detail to mimic the old car's bubbled bonnet. At the back, the new MX-5 Miata sports twin exhaust outlets for a performance-oriented appearance.
Not only is the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata's cabin larger, it gets additional storage space for improved daily-driving utility. The glovebox is bigger, the door panels have bottle holders molded right in, and the rear bulkhead includes three storage compartments (two located behind the front seatbacks). Two cupholders are also located in the center console, and a coinholder is a new feature. The trunk is larger, too, though still adequate only for weekend getaways for two.
Simple, modern, and punctuated by signature round air vents, the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata's dashboard continues a traditional design theme. The center dashboard panel includes intuitive knobs and buttons for the stereo and climate controls, and the MX-5 Miata's five analog gauges feature metallic trim and polarized glass to reduce glare in bright sunlight.
Manually operated like before, the top drops to fit flush and smooth with the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata's body, eliminating the need for a snap-on tonneau cover. The top includes a glass rear window with a defogger, and a detachable hardtop is optional for both foul-weather climates and to meet amateur racing regulations. Black is the standard top color, with saddle (tan) available on upper trim levels.
Three interior color schemes, each matched to the piano black trim and silver control accents, complement the eight exterior colors. Base 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miatas have black cloth seats, while higher-grade models are equipped with a choice between monotone black leather or a black-and-saddle leather treatment.
But, as with the RX-8, driving pleasure remains the elemental reason for the Mazda MX-5 Miata's existence. On paper - and with the RX-8 setting the example for light, lithe, and lively performance - it's hard to believe that this latest iteration of the world's best-selling roadster won't inspire a whole new love affair with open-air motoring.
Photos courtesy of Mazda