Sunday, February 27, 2005

Gen 3 Mazda Miata Revealed

Mazda has released the official photos of the all-new third-generation Mazda Miata, which makes its public debut next week at the Geneva Motor show. Autoweek's coverage tells us that the car is longer, wider, and taller than the outgoing model, and that it receives a 20HP increase to 160, along with more torque.

The increased size is good news for sports car enthusiasts who found the previous generation Miata to be somewhat of a tight fit. I've driven my friend's on a few occasions, and while it's an excellent car, if I put a fez on while driving it I might be mistaken for a Shriner.

When it debuted in the summer of 1989, the original Miata struck a nerve. Sports car aficionados wanted it. People who saw it smiled at it. It had universal appeal. And it wasn't expensive.

By 1995, Alfa romeo had left the US market, leaving the Miata as the sole lightweight 2-seat sports roadster on the market. Things changed in 1997 with the debut of the Porsche Boxster, and later more competition arrived in the form of the Honda S2000, but both those cars were priced above the Miata, which by then had a cult following of its own.

I expect the new car to be a resounding success, but the landscape has changed. The competition in that market segment is set to be fierce, as GM will be releasing the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky to compete directly with the Miata.

It's going to be interesting to watch how Mazda defends its iconic roadster against these two very impressive newcomers.