Many accolades have been heaped upon Mazda’s diminutive roadster over the past 25 years. Practically every automotive magazine extant has named it one of its 10 Best, All Stars, Cars of The Year, etc., etc., etc. Remarkably, what seems like such a simple idea, was all but extinct by 1989, when the Mazda MX-5 Miata was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show on a blustery February day 25 years ago. And while the weather outside may have been cold, the car introduced that day would set the automotive world on fire.
The little Mazda became a bona fide mainstream hit.
For reasons having absolutely nothing to do with the MX-5’s dynamic prowess, the petite roadster became the “it” car of the early 1990’s. And yes, Mazda dealers absolutely had a field day with the demand created by the adorable drop-top two-seater. With a base price of $14,000, the Mazda was seemingly affordable to practically everyone who wanted one. We say seemingly, because dealers recognized what they had on their hands and applied “marketplace adjustment” pricing to the two-seater. And still, demand continued unabated. In fact, demand was so strong; many dealers were actually doubling the sticker price of the Miata. In fact, there is probably someone out there who is still upside down in a first generation Miata.
It really did seem as though every young (or young at heart) blond woman on the planet was clamoring to own one of the cute little cars. Awakened by the success of the Miata among mainstream buyers, owing to its “cuteness”, a host of “cute” cars followed the Miata to market—each of them finding considerable success in their own right. These included the Volkswagen New Beetle, the MINI Cooper, and the reborn Fiat 500.
And, while popular culture got its next new must-have fashion accessory, people who genuinely love to drive got a driving enthusiast’s dream come true. A contemporary recreation of the small British sports cars from the fifties, sixties, and seventies, the Miata was at once nostalgic, and yet completely fresh. The Mazda MX-5 offered all of the delightful fun of wind in your hair motoring, outstanding handling, and terrific responsiveness, without the mechanical maladies routinely plaguing those old British roadsters.