2006 Miata MX-5 Long Term Test Report

Stormy rides into the sunset

Stormy rides into the sunset

After just over a year, it’s time for the revlimiter NC Miata, known as The Stormtrooper, to say goodbye. My aunt was looking for a fun car and took a shine to this little guy, so it’s time for Stormy to go to a new home. So this is a good time to write up my thoughts after about 18 months of NC ownership.

(this will be hard for me to write. fortunately, no one on the internet can see you cry or hear you stumble.)

Let me begin by saying I’ve never liked NCs (what third gen Miatas are called) and bought this car reluctantly. I didn’t need a fourth car. I just got Stormy in order to grow my parts lineup and make sure the NC folks had a decent gauge to go in their clusters.

A year with this car totally changed my opinion of NC Miatas.

The NC Interior

Stormy Cockpit

Stormy Cockpit

Passenger Compartment

Passenger Compartment

The interior is where I spent the most energy and did the most work, so I’ll start with it.

The NC interior is quite lovely. It’s modern, yet has a lot of retro throwback to the original NA flat (no-airbag) dashboard. It has a nice amount of room, yet it doesn’t feel too big. It’s really a wonderful place to spend time.

It’s not perfect. Some folks hate the door cupholders. I am not one of them, but it did take me a month or two to not bang my knee on them. As lame as this may sound, it’s WONDERFUL having four cupholders in a Miata. Driving the car with my daughter around town saw all four holders getting use many days.

Cupholders: A- (if only the door one didn’t stick out as much)

The leather seats are quite firm. QUITE firm. They don’t provide much in the way of bounce reduction. I’ve sampled a few other NCs in the past year and have found the cloth seats to be a lot softer.

You just feel every bump with the leather.

But they DO hold your butt in place. I never found myself wishing for a more grippy seat, but the rock hard leather did let every bump hit my tailbone.

NC Leather Seats: B- (good grip, bad for bumps)

Shifter

Shifter

Stormy’s stock clutch still had plenty of grip after 165k miles. The shifter is tight and precise, as a Miata shifter should be. The 6 speed is a joy. It took me a bit to get used to, but the super close ratio gearbox is one of the car’s best features.

NC 6 Speed: A+

Being a Grand Touring, Stormy had every feature that Mazda could throw at a car back in 2006, including traction control. It was… not bad. It wasn’t great. The TC on my 2008 Mazda 3 is almost never noticeable. In the NC… it was noticable, often killing any fun on even a very carefully taken corner. I kept it off much of the time.

Traction Control: C

ABS on the other hand is impressive in the NC. I’m pretty good at threshold braking, but the NC computer is just a little bit better. Never obtrusive or annoying. The ABS just steps in to slow the car when needed and leaves things alone the rest of the time.

ABS: A+

Stormy's Gauges

Stormy’s Gauges

The NC gauge cluster is… awful. This is coming from a gauge designer who is used to the total freedom of the NA and NB clusters. To have 95% of that freedom taken away by the myriad warning and idiot lights in the NC is painful.

The speedometer and tach allow for no range extension (no 9000 RPM tach possible in this car) and you can’t rotate the zero point to anything but the 6 o’clock stock position. There’s very little lit area behind each gauge since most of the non-scale area is used for warning lights. It’s very very confining and means I can’t do a lot of different designs.

But the cluster IS very pretty in the stock 6:00 configuration. Don’t let my above mini-rants color you away from the gauges. It’s a good cluster.

There’s enough possibility that I can do some nice alternate designs. The 5 gauge layout is very pleasing and the 5 individual lenses look great. It’s a pretty cluster. I just wish it was more open to redesigning like the NA and NB.

NC Gauges: C+/B-

Mid-zone HVAC

Mid-zone HVAC

My very very favorite feature of the NC interior is shown in the photo above – it has a single vent for each seat aimed sort of at your belly or knees.

It’s a sort of middle zone between the panel vents by your face and the floor vents by your feet. These vents are active in the top-down-hands and top-down-feet modes on the climate control switch.

Having a nice flow of warm air at your knees and belly on a cold winter morning is just heaven. It’s the world. I realize how lame this sounds but… those vents are amazing. I can’t sufficiently describe it. And the top can be up in order to enjoy these vents – Stormy rarely had his top down, in fact. It’s equally lovely with the A/C flowing. Those body level vents are just heaven.

I wish every car I owned had this feature. A+++

The NC Exterior and Suspension

Stormy's ass - red tail lights and all

Stormy’s ass – red tail lights and all

Moving to the outside, we find my least favorite features of the NC – the bodywork. I never liked it at all before owning an NC. The clear tail lights and high stance just made it look like a bar of soap to me.

But a bit of red paint and a new suspension… and it transforms into a Miata instantly!

To me, Stormy looks proper. Like any other Miata. He doesn’t look high, goofy, or too soap-like. A few small modifications really cleaned things up.

Bodywork: C- in stock form, B+ with a few tiny changes.

FD Wheels

FD Wheels

The 16″ FD wheels and chunky tires helped get Stormy looking right quite a lot as well. These are one of my favorite features. That Porsche Platinum paint just glowed. Even when dirty and covered in brake dust, it still looks pretty good.

Stormy’s Megan suspension wasn’t the best. However, it was a LOT better than the stock suspension. It gives a decent ride while being a couple inches lower than stock. If the car was graced with cloth seats from the factory, most of those bumps would have gone away…

Wheels and Suspension: A-, which is maybe better than A+ in this case.

Last Mod

Blacked out windshield frame.

Blacked out windshield frame.

Window frame 2

Window frame 2

Close up

Close up

This was a small project that I never got a chance to blog about. I tried to do it a few days ago, but the photos of me applying this vinyl are gone from all cameras and hard drives.

I really like the contrasting window frame look that many convertibles have. The S2000 has black vinyl over the frame from the factory. I believe some NDs have it as well? The NC Club edition had it.

I thought Stormy deserved it, so I ordered a huge roll of Oracal 970 Wrapping Vinyl in gloss black. It took me a couple of tries, but I got the whole frame wrapped without any wrinkles or holes. Maybe 3 hours total of work to get the frame wrapped, and about 30 minute total once I figured out what I was doing.

I wrapped the windshield about 6 months ago. It’s held up great since then. No signs of wear. The Oracal 970 should be good for 5 years or longer.

Overall NC Final Review

You say goodbye, I say hello!

You say goodbye, I say hello!

I can sum this up with one sentence.

The NC is a Miata.

It’s not bloated. It’s not boring. It’s not an abomination. It’s not the million insults that NA diehard owners have thrown at it. The NC is a wonderful car that’s full of soul and spirit. It’s a Miata.

Stormy is a Miata. And I’m going to miss him terribly.

This little car was maybe the scrappiest car I’ve ever built. I didn’t use the most expensive and rare parts, and he didn’t seem to mind. Stormy was a very joyful little driver. My daughter loved having rides and my wife loved driving him. This car had character, and left smiles on the faces of everyone who got to enjoy him.

The Stormtrooper was an wonderful car, roadster, convertible, and Miata. He wasn’t perfect, but what fun car is? Sometimes the imperfections make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

2006 Miata MX-5: A (a very good student)

I would not hesitate to suggest a 2006-15 MX-5 to anyone wanting a fun car. They’re getting incredibly inexpensive on the used market now. I can’t think of any reason to not suggest owning one of these, even if just for a few years. And if you’d like to read more about my time with the NC, hit the Stormtrooper category in this blog.

Thank you for the good times, Stormy. Mission complete. Well done, little Trooper.

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  • Bart says:

    What if auntie had taken a shine to Shakra. Would you have let her go?

  • Sorry to see Stormy go, but its going to a good home at least. I totally agree with your assessment of the NC Miata, with just a few “fixes” it’s a great Miata, as well as an overall great car.

  • Cameron says:

    I was excited to see you buy an NC! I love mine. It’s a very different experience from my supercharged NB, but still fantastic. The Grand Tourer of Miatas.

  • Dwight says:

    Great thought, Adam.

    I only have one “real” beef with the NC, but it’s serious enough that I can’t get around it.

    It’s the door sill height.

    Having those sills at shoulder level really disconnects me from the roadster experience. I know the safety benefits and the necessity of Mazda doing it for regs, but I can’t get around the bathtub seating position. FWIW, it’ also a major hangup for me with the S2K.

    Also (and this isn’t a legit beef but more subjective) — less chassis flex in the NC somehow makes the car less engaging to drive. The NA/NB flow over the road like a kayak on a the water, always letting you know what the car is doing. The NC is a great, even better out-of-the-box handler , but it moves over the road much more deliberately, like a canoe.

    I’d take a PRHT NC over an NA/NB on any road trip… except for one to The Dragon.

  • Randy says:

    Guess it’s time for a ND

  • Johnny Wholesome says:

    I was pretty stoked to read your opinions on this—I’ve had my nc2 for about a year now and it’s really won me over as well. I still like taking the NA out for a rip on the weekends in the twisties, but as a day-to-day ride the NC is exactly what you would hope it would be: a modern, reliable, comfortable Miata. Having a pure 1990 for twisty roads in the summer, and a PRHT 2009 for commuting the rest of the year is pretty much a perfect combo IMHO…

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