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Here's Why a 1994 Mazda Miata Is Worth $4,000

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author photo by Will Kinton April 2017

I recently had the opportunity to drive a 1994 Mazda Miata. It was a fantastic car to drive, and I had a great time driving through the back roads of Northern Virginia with the top down on an absolutely gorgeous day.

Yes, you heard right: Someone entrusted me with the keys to a 23-year-old $4,000 Mazda. That someone was my friend Michael Thompson, who writes for the car blog Right Foot Down. When he handed me the keys to one of the most flawless Miatas I've ever seen, I saw that the odometer was sitting at just over 110,000 miles. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a trusting individual.

And so now we must discuss the Miata.

The first-generation Miata (often referred to as the NA, in reference to the production code) is unlike almost any car on the road today. First, you don't realize just how small it is until you get in one. I knew the first-generation Miata wasn't a car for tall people, but at 6'0" I was just about at the limit. That being said, the Miata offers about 93 million miles of head room with the top down, so it works. The pedal box is also quite small, allowing only about a centimeter of room between the dead pedal and the clutch. But you get used to it -- I drove the car for about an hour and I didn't start to feel cramped.

You'll also feel small compared to other cars on the road. Subaru Outbacks look like F-250s on the highway, F-250s look like tractor-trailer trucks, and tractor-trailers look like the USS Nimitz.

The NA Miata isn't a fast car, but that doesn't really matter. The car I drove is a 1994, so it came with a 1.8-liter engine that produced 130 horsepower when new (The NA Miata was sold with a 116-hp 1.6-liter from its debut in 1990 until 1993). That isn't a ton, especially in the age where a 200-hp BRZ is considered to be woefully underpowered -- but when the car only weighs 2,100 pounds, it works. There's also the fact that you feel like you're going a lot faster than you actually are because the Miata is so small. At 55 mph, you're able to use much more of what the car has to offer than most other sports cars, so it's still a lot of fun. It also means you won't be tempted to speed all the time, which can be dangerous for your wallet -- especially in Virginia.

The real joy of the Miata, however, is in the corners. This little sports car takes curves like nothing else I've driven, and it's able to maintain speed effortlessly through the esses. Potholes are easily dodged, which is a good thing -- because with 14-inch wheels, they might as well be moon craters. The shifter is also as good as everyone says it is, which is why it's probably used in boutique sports cars all over the world.

The car I drove was completely stock, save for the radio -- although you wouldn't know it by looking at it. Michael sent the original radio to a man who overhauls the internals and adds a plug for your phone but keeps it looking stock. Apparently, there's a 6-month waiting list to get the work done, but I think it's worth it. Otherwise, this was a 23-year-old car -- and I kept forgetting that.

It's not that I was thinking it was a modern car -- far from it. There are no modern comforts or technology and no safety systems besides airbags for both the driver and the passenger. It doesn't even have anti-lock brakes. Rather, the feeling I got was that the first-generation Miata is almost timeless. It's driving pleasure at its most basic, primal level, without any real compromises. It's incredibly simple to work on, it's cheap to maintain, and on sunny beautiful days like the one we had, it is an absolute delight to be behind the wheel. Driving a first-generation Miata is definitely something every car enthusiast needs to experience, and I'm glad I had the opportunity.

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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.
Here's Why a 1994 Mazda Miata Is Worth $4,000 - Autotrader