2001 Mazda Miata SE new car reviews

The Mazda Miata is a great car, no two ways about it. Its handling and response are near the top of the charts, while wind-in-the-hair convertible fun is just a flip of two latches away. You can also see six or seven of them on the way to work in the morning. Mazda has created the performance, look and feel of the classic sports car, but without the exotic allure or the puddle of oil in your driveway. Call it a sports car for the masses.

If the basic Miata is too ubiquitous for you, Mazda has been producing Special Edition models along the way that set the sportster apart from the crowd. This year's Special Edition comes in a smooth British Racing Green color with a tan top and tan leather interior. Add wood dash accents, shift and hand brake knobs, and a beautiful Nardi wood-rimmed steering wheel, and you've got the recipe for an instant classic.

The Special Edition is not just about looks, however, as Mazda has also equipped this model with a six-speed transmission and a set of polished 16-inch alloy wheels. Coupled with a Torsen differential and Bilstein shock absorbers, the Special Edition is a delight to carve through turns.

Unfortunately, all of the added amenities, appearance items and leather interior add some pounds to the car, but not enough to really dull its reflexes. The Special Edition isn't as crisp as other models, but we know that some Miata owners like a little comfort with their sun.

It is noticeable, however, that the upgraded engine for 2001 hasn't improved enough to make up for the added paunch. The response of the 1.8-liter, 16-valve engine is a little muted; one has to really stir through the six-speed gearbox to get the best acceleration possible. Good thing the shifty parts work so well.

Priced at $26,195 (plus dealer markup), the Miata Special Edition is not the inexpensive car it once was, but it still allows a nearly obscene amount of fun behind the wheel. The Miata Special Edition has evolved from a Lotus Elan knock-off (not a bad thing) to some sort of Jaguar knock-off (also not a bad thing). At least Mazda is copying the feel of Britain's better creations.

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