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CALIFORNIA STREAMIN'

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, May 19, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

CALIFORNIA STREAMIN'

By Contributing Editor B.T. JUSTICE

The scenery was akin to being in a picture post card taken by the Almighty. To my left were wild cliffs jutting down to a sandy beach, which was being enveloped by rolling white-capped waves. The waves came from the bluest ocean imaginable. The ocean seemed to be playing with the many watercraft thereon. Further out was a truly magnificent view of Catalina Island. To the right hills stretched into the heavens. Ahead, on the horizon appeared Malibu, with the beaches of Santa Monica and the South Bay in the foreground. Above me was the sky as blue as the ocean, with the sun seemingly floating therein. There wasn’t even a hint of marine layer and the sunrays bounced in all directions while it warmed the world.

What made this day even better was the realization that this was wintertime and the thermometer pointed to the 72-degree mark. Songs from Randy Newman, the Mommas and the Poppas and, of course, the Beach Boys resonated in my head. At this very moment most of the east coast was under several feet of ice and snow. I love LA. This was no ordinary day of sightseeing. Rather, I was cruising on one of the few routes to make The Best Drives in Southern California list and was doing so in one of the special cars to make my In Search of the California Car list. The smile pasted on my face grew wider and the adrenaline in my body pumped harder as I raced towards the apex of a 45-degree turn, down shifted into fifth, yes, fifth, exited the curve, punched the gas, and cruised through the next curve, and the next, and the next. I usually need to ride my Nighthawk to get this type of thrill. There are few things as exciting as riding a motorcycle, feeling the power of the engine, smelling the internal combustion, leaning into a curve, and watching the pavement come closer and closer, while the two wheels slide you through, followed by a gunning of the engine and accelerating with such speed that you experience G forces.

But this was no bike. Rather, I was driving a true sports car. At these speeds most vehicles would slide off the road and tumble down the cliffs to my left. And driving just about any other car at these speeds on this road would cause me anxiety rather than intense excitement. But no need for the Mazda people to worry, or for my mom to cry. I’m a superb driver :-) and the latest Mazda Miata Special Edition was having as much fun as I. The Miata seemingly begged to go faster. So faster we went. Yeah, this was all Zoom, Zoom. Surprisingly, the tires wouldn’t slide and the tail wouldn’t swing. That’s not because of a glitch in the Matrix. No Neo, with two seats, a sport suspension, and low profile tires, this roadster was made to be driven just like this. Unlike other auto journalists, I’m not one to kiss the ass of manufacturers (Yawn - Editor). It annoys the hell out of me to read most auto press articles. If the Pacer or Citation returned, I bet the press would sing their praises. But the 2003 Mazda Miata is darn near perfect.

Ok, I admit some bias as my toy chest includes a 1997 Miata STO - one of the final 1500 first-generation Miatas. But the first-generation model gets tagged as a chick car. Despite the fun factor, which it has a lot of, a guy needs a very resilient ego to drive a first-gen. While I thought I had one of those strong egos, I was mistaken; driving that car requires a big hat and very dark sunglasses. Which isn’t a good thing at night. It got so bad I ended up buying a full size, very big, very bad, metallic black Bronco. Analyze that, Sigmund. The new Miata can’t be described as a chick car. Rather, it is a sporty head-turner. In the week I test drove the Miata, a considerable number of people took the time to excitedly tell me that I had a great looking car. The compliments came as fast as the car went. Those commentators are correct. The Miata is stylish, sporty, and fun. No emasculation whatsoever. Rather, this car is an image enhancer. It became obvious the new Miata is the type of car people dream about owning. Fill the tank up, put the top down and have fun all day long. In addition to the great looks, the Miata has absolutely no performance anxiety. It goes from 0-to-60 like a teenager in heat, and feels the curves like a guy just out of prison. While no muscle car, nor an exotic, the Miata rocks. I’m still smiling.

Sidebar Comment: The Miata is stylish, sporty, fun, and a good value. The style is pleasing and it has just enough aggressive lines to look like a legitimate sports car. Although on closer inspection it seems that most of this is do to aggressive facia, which arguably look like an aftermarket job, albeit a very good one. The inside is also very handsome. The Miata has comfortable leather seats and a practical yet sporty display and dash. Mazda still needs to work on making the center console storage unit more secure for those of us that like to go topless. Speaking of the top, while it is not automatic, it is very easy to maneuver. Another minor complaint is that the Miata was a bit jerky in first and second gears, and shifting into sixth required placing the stick uncomfortably near the reverse position. Conversely, placing the car in reverse was often difficult. But this likely was due to my unfamiliarity with the gears rather than a problem with the vehicle. Now to the most important issue. The Miatas performance is impressive. Unlike gen 1, I never felt more power was needed. Rather, the Miata is peppy if not outright fast, and it can handle just about any driving situation. I would choose the Miata over just about any other vehicle for a drive on a curvy mountain road. Speaking of choice, the Miata is a great one for anybody that wants a terrifically fun toy that doubles as a car. While it is relatively expensive for just a toy, the Miata is a good value and can even be considered practical. Yes, practical. The Miata is relatively inexpensive compared to the competitors, has great gas mileage, contains a reasonable amount of storage space, and is really, really, really fun to drive.

MSRP $21,695 (base) $23,625 (Shinsen) $24,995 (LS) $26,550 (SE) Performance Data Number of Cylinders: 4 Engine Size: 1.8 liters Engine Type: Inline 4 Max Horsepower: 7000 rpm 142 hp Torque: 125 ft-lbs. at 5500 rpm Drive Type: RWD Turning Circle: 30.2 ft. Fuel Data EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway) Manual: 23 mpg / 28 mpg Automatic 22 mpg / 28 mpg

For more Mazda information www.mazda.com

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