How Revolutionary Was the Mazda Miata in 1989? Just Watch.

This wasn't the only affordable rear-wheel drive sports car of its day. But it was the best.

Mazda

It's hard to think about the original Mazda Miata without considering what it is today, nearly 30 years after its introduction. After all, it's the default choice today for a cheap, light, simple sports car, perfect for just about everything from daily driving to club racing. But obviously, the NA was once a new car, and it's valuable to day to consider what it went up against when new.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

As this old MotorWeek video reminds us, when the Miata arrived in 1989, you could buy a new Alfa Romeo Spider or a Toyota MR-2; the Pontiac Fiero had only just gone out of production, and Nissan had the 240SX. So you weren't lacking choice for rear-wheel drive sports cars in the day.

And yet, the Miata blew all of them away. "The Miata will make MR-2 and Fiero owners understand that it takes a lot more than two seats and a sunroof to make a true sports car," Motorweek's John Davis said.

A key to the NA's success was that it was designed from the outset as a sports car. It didn't borrow its chassis from any other car in the Mazda lineup, and while its 1.6-liter four-cylinder came from the 323 economy car, it got four-valve heads and dual-overhead cams for better, more responsive performance.

Mazda paid attention to the details on this car, and it showed. Davis summed up the car well in his rather prophetic ending to this review:

"By mi the fun of yesterday's roadsters with the technology of today, it marks a giant leap forward in the evolution of the sports car," he said. "And it will go down in automotive history as the car that saved the roadster from near-extinction."

Nearly 30 years after this review was aired, and with the Miata still in production and , we can't say he was wrong.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Cars