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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Mazda Miata MX-5 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Mazda Miata MX-5 Overview

Drop the Top and Pop the Clutch

If you're out shopping the market for a new car these days, you'll hear the terms "sports car" and "roadster" used quite liberally. There are sports cars with four doors, roadsters with back seats and even sport SUVs. But if you're looking for the genuine article—a fun little roadster that doesn't cost an arm and leg and that will bring a smile to your face every time you turn the key—then Mazda's Miata should be your first test drive.

The Miata design is amazingly clean and simple. Mazda has kept the Miata small and light, true to the heritage of the great European roadsters from Lotus, Triumph and Fiat. Unlike the somewhat questionable reputation of its overseas cousins, the Miata is as reliable and trustworthy as the day is long. The idea of the little two-seater sports car may have come from Europe, but it took Japan to figure out how to make it bullet-proof and to remain that way as the years pass. Take a look at any older Miata, even one dating back to the first year of production. If the owner has performed all the routine maintenance and taken good care of the car, it should look and run as well as the model you are about to purchase. It is this kind of dedication to engineering coupled with Mazda's passion for driving that has kept the Miata a favorite among both convertible and sports car enthusiasts for over 10 years.

There are two trim levels from which to choose: the Miata and the Miata LS. There are also Mazda's SE (Special Edition) cars that seem to appear each year. The SE models are set apart by special paint and wheels and usually are unveiled later in the model year. The base Miata comes nicely equipped with all the conveniences required for open-air motoring. It features a manually-retractable canvas top that is so brilliantly designed you can lower and raise it without having to get out of the car. Simply reach back, give a little lift and the lightweight aluminum mechanism glides overhead; with two quick flicks of the attaching levers, the top forms an airtight seal with the windshield frame. One other thing you'll appreciate about the Miata's top is that it has a glass rear window, complete with defroster.

The Miata is built to hold only two people and small amount of gear. Mazda's engineers have milked every inch of useable space the Miata chassis has to offer and converted it into two useable areas: the passenger compartment and the trunk. The Miata's snug interior is made up of two cloth covered bucket seats and a wide center console that conceals the transmission and drive shaft tunnel (the Miata is a rear-wheel drive car). You sit low in the Miata with your legs stretched out in front of you. There is actually a good amount of legroom in the little roadster, but some may find that it is the Miata's top that presents a limitation. Drivers over six feet or those with long torsos may find themselves looking out over the top of the windshield when the top is down and bumping up against it when in place. Once you settle in, the snug cockpit-like environment wraps itself around you, so much so that you almost become one with the car. Everything you need is within half an arms length-if even that much. The seats have great support for both lower back and legs, but the lack of side-to-side mobility means that after a few hours of driving, you may still need to stop and stretch. The Miata also has a small but workable trunk that can fit an overnight bag or a few bags of groceries.

A peppy, 1.8-liter engine moves the lightweight Miata with ease; its 142 horsepower is more than enough to get the little roadster up and running. The Miata comes standard with a quick action five-speed transmission. The shift throws are so short and so precise you can operate the lever with little more than a flick of your wrist. On the road, the Miata is a blast to drive. Its 50/50 front to rear weight distribution gives the Miata an uncanny sense of balance. Tug hard at the steering wheel and the Miata responds with a lightning fast directional change. Press hard on the brakes, and marvel how quickly the Miata comes to a level stop, even without the assistance of the optional anti-lock brakes. You can drive this car for hours and never stop being amazed at how well it performs; there really is nothing like it on the road. The Miata also offers the option of a six-speed manual gearbox, though you'll probably find the 5-speed to be more than sufficient.

The Miata comes standard with air conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes, front fog lights, dual power mirrors, power windows, AM/FM stereo with CD and alloy wheels. That cover's most of the basics and should be enough to satisfy most customers. But if you are the type that likes to have all the bells and whistles, then the Miata LS might be a better match for your taste. The LS model adds cruise control, larger wheels, power door locks, a limited-slip differential, keyless entry and an optional Bose Audio system (we suggest you get this if you can, it sounds great, top up or down).

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