Editor’s note: The Class of ’22 is a collection of standout ’80s and ’90s cars that have been entered into the Hagerty Price Guide for the first time, in 2022. Ahead of RADwood, the show for the best enthusiast cars from the ’80s and ’90, we’re profiling a handful of our favourites. If you own, or owned one, tell us about it, in the Comments! James Mills
In North America, they have a saying about the Mazda MX-5: Miata is always the answer.
Of course, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but the basic premise is that if you’re a car enthusiast looking for a vehicle with which to express your passion, the MX-5 – or Miata, as it’s known over there – ticks innumerable boxes.
Light, fun, affordable, reliable, easy to work on, plentiful parts supply, not too thirsty; you really can suggest it on almost any basis, short of carrying wardrobes around. But while the pop-up headlight first-generation car (or ‘NA’ to use its chassis code) is becoming less accessible than it once was, the second-gen MX-5, the NB, is filling that gap – and now finds itself a place in the Hagerty Price Guide.
Mazda didn’t need to change much when it launched the NB MX-5, so it didn’t – under the skin, it’s very similar indeed to the original car. But it made improvements where they were needed, modernising the interior, adding chassis stiffening and updating the styling in line with the times.
The softer curves aren’t to everyone’s taste, and nor were the fixed headlights, though they actually fit the car’s remit quite well, since fixed units are lighter (and more aerodynamic) than the pop-ups.
And it’s still a child of the 1990s, with all the benefits that entails – it’s mechanically simple and interactive to drive, not over-encumbered with technology, and of course, it’ll fit right in at the upcoming RADwood show, for the coolest cars of the ’80s and ’90s.
Power options come from 1.6 and 1.8-litre four-cylinders, the latter occasionally receiving a limited-slip differential. The special 10th Anniversary Edition launched in 1999 added a six-speed gearbox too, and kicked off innumerable other special editions, while a 2001 facelift debuted variable valve timing in the 1.8, bumping power from 140bhp to 152bhp. The chassis, though, remained as great as ever.
“The first generation of the ubiquitous MX-5 has been a mainstay of the Hagerty Price Guide for years,” says John Mayhead, editor of the UK Hagerty Price Guide, “and it was felt that the time was right to add the later NB model.
“Price rises, as ever, caught our eye: until the end of 2021 values had been relatively flat, topping out at about £1500. Since then, we’ve seen a few sell for more than £3500 up to around the £5000-mark for a really good one. Like its older brother, it’s a surefire next-generation classic.”
While prices have risen, they’re still comparatively affordable today, and while not without their foibles – of which rust is the most destructive – few classics are as easy to live with, and even fewer are as fun to drive. Miata may not always be the answer, but it’s close.