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Auto Show:  2011 Chicago Auto Show

2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition - Chicago Auto Show

February 2011 author photo


February 14, 2011

There’s a feeling of a circle completing itself at the 2011 Chicago auto show. At this same event in 1989, the then-new Mazda Miata was introduced to the American public. With the imminent death of the British sports car and the tenuous hold in the American market maintained by Fiat and Alfa, there existed a real need for affordable fun in something other than a VW hatchback.

That need has been fulfilled by 900,000 Miata/MX-5 cars being sold so far. This figure surpasses the vehicle’s previous Guinness World Record of being the world’s best-selling two-seat sports car, which stood at 800,000.

Mazda has marked this moment with a limited run (750) of Special Edition MX-5 Miatas. This strategy has been employed by the company before, but the recipe resonates more strongly when the new SE is juxtaposed alongside one of the original 1990 Miatas on the Chicago show floor.

Painted in still-looking-fresh red, the low-mileage/low-VIN 1990 Miata is still graceful in its simplicity, still compelling in its bang-for-the-buck math. Back then, it sold for just over $13,000.

The current base model – at about $23,000 – is actually less expensive when adjusted for inflation. And while (possibly) lacking some of the original’s charm, the 2011 MX-5 Miata is most certainly the better car.

The Special Edition is based on a premium MX-5 Miata with the power-retractable hard top. It’s chock-full of standard equipment, including Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, satellite radio, dynamic stability control with TCS (traction control), and keyless entry/start. The chassis deploys Bilstein shocks (a well-respected third party supplier) and a limited-slip differential. Under the hood, the 167-horsepower, 2.0-liter four is unaltered, but that’s no bad thing.

Inside, chrome brightens the air vents and instrument cluster, while aluminum pedals add a racer-like visual – and texture – to those versions with the six-speed manual transmission. Mazda is also considering a chromed “necker” knob (for one-handed steering) for the car’s classic three-spoke wheel to go in those models with the six-speed automatic. Two colors are available: Sparkling Black Mica and Dolphin Gray Mica.

As compelling as the new Special Edition equipment list is, the MX-5/Miata has always been more than the sum of its parts. There’s a lot to be said for a simple, open-top, rear-drive two-seater.

DAVID BOLDT began his automotive career in BMW and Saab showrooms in the 1980s, and he moved to automotive journalism in 1993. David has written for a variety of regional and national publications, and prior to joining AutoTrader, he managed media relations for a Japanese OEM.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition - Chicago Auto Show - Autotrader