8 Best & Worst Mazda MX-5 Years (Stats & Examples)

The Mazda MX-5, known as the Miata, has captured the hearts of sports car enthusiasts worldwide since its debut in 1989. 

Over the years, Mazda has continuously refined and improved the MX-5, delivering a blend of performance and fun that has garnered a dedicated following. 

This article aims to provide an overview of some notable best and worst MX-5 years. 

The Best and Worst Years for Mazda MX-5 Are:

Mazda MX-5 models from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2010, and 2018 are regarded as being some of the best, most dependable, and sought-after model years. However, according to industry experts, if you’re looking for an MX-5, you should steer clear of models from 1999, 2016, and 2017.

What Mazda MX-5 Years Are the Most Reliable?

When it comes to choosing a sports car, reliability is a key consideration alongside performance and driving enjoyment. 

The Mazda MX-5, or Miata, has garnered a reputation for delivering thrilling open-top experiences, but it’s essential to explore which MX-5 model years have consistently exhibited exceptional reliability. 

While individual experiences may vary, this section aims to provide an insightful overview of some of the most reliable Mazda MX-5 years.

2001 – 2003 Mazda MX-5

Here are some factors that contribute to the reliability of the 2001-2003 MX-5:

Engine Performance: Features a robust and dependable 142-horsepower engine. With proper maintenance and regular servicing, these engines have shown a good track record for durability.

Solid Construction: Mazda has always been known for its commitment to build quality, and the 2001-2003 MX-5 Miatas are no exception, contributing to their overall reliability.

Minimal Technological Complexity: Compared to newer generations, the 2001-2003 MX-5 Miatas have a simpler design and fewer complex electronic systems. This simplicity can work in their favor in terms of reliability.

Well-Maintained Examples: As with any vehicle, the reliability of the 2001-2003 MX-5 Miatas heavily depends on how well they have been maintained by their previous owners. 

Overall, the relative simplicity of these earlier generations, compared to newer iterations, reduces the complexity of electronic systems, potentially minimizing the risk of component malfunctions.

Additionally, these model years have fewer recorded complaints than other models of their generation. 

2010 Mazda MX-5

The 2010 MX-5 Miata generated significant excitement in the market upon its release and is considered one of the greatest model years in the history of the badge.

It earned the title of the best ‘Compact Sporty Car’ according to J.D. Power, solidifying its position as a standout choice in its class. 

Car owners widely praised the 2010 MX-5 Miata for its fun factor, resulting in near-perfect reviews. Additionally, its commendable fuel economy makes it a viable option for everyday commuting, not just a weekend toy.

Although it may not have the most recent and advanced features, it still holds its own. The 2010 model was available in three different trims, each offering a well-rounded experience. 

Safety features such as anti-lock brakes and side-impact airbags are included, while higher-end trims may offer additional features like traction control and electronic stability. 

Overall, this model remains a solid vehicle known for its top-quality handling and responsiveness, deserving its spot on this list.

2018 Mazda MX-5

The 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata exemplifies pure sports car driving fun while maintaining an affordable price point. 

This model garnered strong reviews from both owners and auto critics, highlighting its appeal among driving enthusiasts. 

Notably, the 2018 MX-5 Miata has shown a track record of few reported problems according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, further emphasizing its reliability.

The combination of the engine’s power, responsive handling, and precise steering make the 2018 MX-5 Miata a joy to drive on winding roads or even during spirited daily commutes.

It’s important to note that the 2018 MX-5 Miata is part of the fourth generation, which saw a complete redesign in 2016. 

While the initial redesign brought significant improvements to the model, the 2018 model year is regarded as particularly reliable within this generation. 

Therefore, whether you’re seeking thrilling weekend drives or daily commuting excitement, the 2018 MX-5 Miata delivers a rewarding and dependable sports car experience.

What Mazda MX-5 Years Should You Avoid?

It’s essential to be aware that not all Mazda MX-5 model years may meet the same standards of performance and dependability. 

Though opinions may vary, certain MX-5 years have garnered a reputation for potential issues or shortcomings. 

Below, we will explore Mazda MX-5 model years that are often suggested to be avoided or cautiously approached.

1999 Mazda MX-5

The 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a model year that has been associated with several reported issues, earning it the reputation as one of the more problematic MX-5 models. 

According to data from CarProblemZoo.com, the 1999 MX-5 Miata accumulated a significant number of complaints, with a total of 92 reported issues.

One of the most widespread problems reported by owners of the 1999 MX-5 Miata was related to the disc brakes. 

Specifically, there were complaints of a delay of 3 to 4 seconds after applying the brake pedal before the brakes would engage, particularly when driving in rainy conditions. 

Additionally, owners of the 1999 MX-5 Miata reported incidents of car stalling and sudden loss of power while driving. These occurrences can be particularly worrisome, potentially leading to unexpected and hazardous situations on the road.

Furthermore, the BP engine used in the first two years of the second-gen Miata was known to have high oil consumption.

The absence of an oil level sensor in these vehicles meant that owners had to consistently monitor the oil level using the dipstick to prevent engine damage.

2016 Mazda MX-5

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a model year that has been associated with various reported issues, indicating potential reliability concerns. 

Among the common complaints, owners noted metal clanking noises when going over speed bumps and problems with the blind spot monitoring system.

However, the most significant problem reported by owners pertained to the powertrain.

According to owner experiences, the 2016 MX-5 Miata was prone to:

  • Sudden deceleration
  • Loss of power
  • Refusal to shift into selected gears
  • Whining noises during normal driving conditions

These issues are alarming, as they can impact both the performance and safety of the vehicle, raising concerns about reliability.

2017 Mazda MX-5

The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata, despite being a decent model overall, had its share of reliability issues, earning it a place on this list. 

Notably, the 2017 model year experienced problems with:

  • Clutch
  • Windshield
  • A significant recall related to the powertrain

One of the major concerns was a recall issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding the powertrain. 

This recall addressed the issue of sudden and unexpected downshifting, increasing the risk of the vehicle losing control and potentially causing an accident. 

Additionally, the 2017 Miata suffered from a problematic flywheel, leading to jerky clutch engagement and disengagement, even at lower mileage levels. 

The windshield was also reported to be of low quality, prone to chipping easily.

If considering a used 2017 MX-5 Miata, it is advisable to thoroughly inspect the vehicle and potentially seek professional assistance to assess the condition of these affected components.

Additionally, it is essential to check if any recalls have been addressed and perform a comprehensive test drive to ensure the car performs as expected.

What Are Some Typical Problems With the Mazda MX-5 Models?

The Mazda MX-5 has a long history of being an entertaining and economical roadster. 

While the MX-5 is generally dependable, it does have a few prevalent issues that owners and prospective buyers should be informed of.

Let’s look at some of the most common issues that have been documented with various Mazda MX-5 models:

  • Paint Issues (Early Models)
  • Convertible Top Degradation
  • Leaky Clutch Slave Cylinder
  • Check Engine Light Problems
  • Noisy Valve Lash Adjusters
  • Faulty Valve-Cover Gaskets.
  • Rough Engine Idle
  • Rusting Bodies
  • Misfiring Under Load

Please read our article about common issues with Mazda MX-5 vehicles for a more in-depth analysis. 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, while the Mazda MX-5 may have a few common issues, they are not deal-breakers if you are aware of what to look for when purchasing an MX-5, whether new or used. 

By considering the specific model year and being attentive to any potential problems, you can enjoy the spirited driving experience that the MX-5 is known for while minimizing the impact of these reported issues.

Back to best/worst years across all Mazda models.

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.