It’s been ten years since Mazda shocked and delighted sports car lovers with a wonderful little retro roadster called the Miata. Since then, this superb back-to-basics sports car has established itself in the hearts and garages of tens of thousands of fiercely loyal owners. So to celebrate a decade of success, Mazda has released a special commemorative edition Miata, and that in itself is just one more reason for Miata fans to celebrate!
Because this 1999 10th Anniversary Mazda Miata offers everything that Miata fans crave, and then some! Its eye-catching Sapphire Mica Blue paint stands out even among previous anniversary Miatas, especially since the convertible top shares the body’s striking blue hue. While its new lower front air dam, with smoothly integrated fog lights, deeper side sills which flow into the rear mud guards, and polished 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels wearing low profile tires, give it a ground-hugging stance.
The look-at-me look continues on the inside with a two-tone blue-and-black interior treatment on the three-spoke Nardi steering wheel, the tight-fitting bucket seats with their faux blue suede center panels, and black leather side trim, and blue shifter boot around the slick new six-speed manual. Which sits atop the center console’s imitation carbon fiber trim panel.
The rest is familiar Miata, with the large analog gauges surrounded by chrome trim rings, and straightforward controls for the standard Bose CD stereo and heat and ventilation. Air conditioning is oddly enough optional, even though all other power accessories are standard.
Top operation, however, remains manual and simple. You flip a couple of latches and give it a gentle tug, and that’s it. An easy-to-attach soft tonneau cover, blue of course, covers the top when in the folded position.
But the 10th Anniversary Miata is not just about looks. Under the hood is the familiar 1.8-liter, dual-overhead-cam, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine, making 140 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. But in addition to the new 6-speed manual transmission, the drivetrain also gets a Torsen limited-slip differential. With such modest Miata power, limited-slip will be more of a plus on slick roads than in time trials. Still, we hit 60 in 7.4-seconds and ran the 1/4-mile in 15.6 seconds at 93 miles-per-hour. Both the same as the last few Miatas we tested.
And while our test car’s brand new drivetrain was still pretty tight, there was no mistaking the shifter’s slicker, lighter feel. But it will take more miles on this car to see if the 6-speed really can make it quicker.
Pitted against our well-broken-in, long-term 5-speed Miata, the anniversary car never quite managed to edge out its seasoned sibling.
But when the road got twisty, we left its predecessor in the dust! That’s thanks to stiffer Bilstein shocks, and a front strut tower brace, that nicely stiffens up the chassis. They give the 10th Anniversary Miata a more rigid feel and helped to quicken turn-in on tight corners, while high speed behavior is also improved, with the firmer suspension giving it a more planted, progressive feel at the limits of tire adhesion.
Out on our local roads, the stiffer shocks make for a slightly harsher ride. But open highway cruising is much more pleasant. The extra gear up top requires the engine to turn at 400 fewer rpm than the top gear in our 5-speed model. This results in noticeably lower interior noise levels, which to us is reason enough to opt for the 6-speed.
Buyers might also wish to add the anti-lock brake option to the standard 4-wheel discs. Our new car stopped in an acceptable average of 122 feet, but suffered from inconsistent pedal feel and frequent lockup. Hardly perfect, but then few back-to-basics sports cars ever are. But it is a better Miata.
And more expensive as well. The base price for the Mazda 10th Anniversary Miata is $27,325. That’s over $7,000 more than the base price of a standard Miata. With the optional air conditioning and California emissions equipment, our car comes to $28,375.
While a pretty stiff tab, it’s still less than a BMW Z3. So, Mazda is confident that all 3,000 Anniversary cars will quickly be snapped up by dedicated Miata enthusiasts. And we think that they will be too, because the 1999 Mazda 10th Anniversary Miata isn’t just another Miata. It’s fun, flashy and very exclusive and a great way to kick off the second decade of the Miata.
Engine: 1.8-Liter Dohc 16-valve 4-Cylinder
Torque: 119 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 93 MPH
60-0 MPH: 122 Feet