Depreciation Station: 2006–’15 Mazda MX-5

[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the September 2016 issue of Classic Motorsports. Some information may be different today.]

It might not come from Maranello or Stuttgart, but the third-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata is simply an amazing sports car–just the right size, a nearly perfect chassis, and plenty of power managed by a real manual transmission. And with an MSRP starting around $25,000, it’s a heck of a buy, too.

Looking to spend even less? Cast your eyes to the previous generation. Mazda produced their NC-chassis Mazda MX-5 from 2006 up until last year, meaning there are lots of good cars out there.

That generation of the MX-5 also boasts enough racing pedigree to fill a museum. It’s a cornerstone of SCCA autocross and club racing, has won big in the pro ranks, and formed the basis for a spec road race series backed by the manufacturer itself.

No matter which model year selected, the basics remain the same. Mazda’s proven 2.0-liter MZR engine provides power, with most cars getting a manual transmission sporting either five or six speeds. While a little bigger than the first two Miata generations–as well as the current one-the NC car is still smaller than most of its contemporaries. Inside it’s comfortable for two.

Big news arrived for 2006 with the availability of the optional Power Retractable Hard Top. Press a button and the MX-5 turns into a highway-ready coupe. The power top adds less than 80 pounds to the car, and Mazda engineers managed that feat without sacrificing any trunk volume.

The biggest update across the board came for the 2009 model year, with a slight horsepower bump accompanied by a more aggressive nose. These later cars fetch a little more money, so we offer our standard Miata-buying advice: Buy the best one available for your budget and enjoy.

Care & Feeding

Flyin’ Miata specializes in Mazda’s MX-5 Miata, and the company’s Keith Tanner shared some practical advice:

Weakest area: The stock shocks, even the optional Bilsteins, are underdamped. That’s easily addressed. Do springs and sways at the same time to fully exploit the chassis.

The later the car, the better the stock suspension. The 2013–’15 Club is the car to get if you can swing it, as the car was well sorted at that point.

The engine got forged internals in 2009, so if you’re looking at boost these later ones are a better choice than the 2006–’08 cars.

I don’t have a problem with either the five- or six-speed, but the latter is a lot more common. Instead, I’d make sure the car has a limited-slip differential.

Some models have height adjustable seats.

There are no real dogs in the line, so you can choose your car based on the color, styling and history instead of hunting down a specific model.

First three things to do: Fix what’s broken, swap in good springs and shocks, get some good wheels and tires. Drop the top and enjoy.

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