During its introduction in 1989, the Mazda Miata was said to be a replacement for '60s British sports cars. With its front-engine, rear-drive configuration, tiny 6-cubic-foot trunk, and reputation for great handling, it recalled British two-seaters like the MGB and Triumph TR-4 that were popular in the '60s. Although similar in concept, the Miata differs from those cars with its 16 valves, electronic fuel injection and four-wheel disc brakes.
So what should buyers of a second-hand car look for? The Miata's battery, located in the trunk, should be a sealed type, not a conventional lead-acid automotive battery, which could cause corrosion. Check the area around the battery for rust, and also the jack well on the left-hand side.
As with any convertible, inspect the top for wear. Early Miatas have plastic rear windows, which can become scratched and discolored with age. Replacement tops cost at least $1,000 installed. If you don't like the idea of a fabric top, there's an optional hardtop, which requires two people to lift on and off.
The Miata's four-cylinder engine is similar to that of Mazda's 323 economy car. Its timing belt should be replaced every 60,000 miles. Change spark-plug wires every 30,000 miles. A rear suspension brace arrived for the '92 model year, and you can retrofit aftermarket braces to earlier cars.
Mazda offered a number of options such as power steering, power windows, cruise control, ABS brakes, alloy wheels, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Serious drivers will find the optional limited-slip differential offers improved traction for cornering. Besides the 5-speed manual, there's an optional 4-speed automatic.
The price range for used Miatas is broad, since their condition varies from cherished to abused. Some owners keep their cars stock, polishing them and changing the oil every 2,000 miles. More aggressive drivers hop up their roadsters with 15-inch wheels, turbo kits, and even Ford V8s. Buyers who want to keep their life simple will stick to stock models. The cars are tough, so don't be afraid to buy an example with 100,000 miles.

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