LOOKS . Too Cool
PERFORMANCE . Accessible
HANDLING . Super Snug
AMBIANCE . Pure Sports
COMFORT . Tight Cabin
STEREO . Nothin' Special
GADGET FACTOR . 60's revisited
HEADS TURNED . Young at Heart
EMOTION . Pure Joy
CACHET . Individualist


Sticker . $18,545. R Model
$22,475. M Model.
Power . 128 horsepower
0 to 60 . 8 to 9 sec..R Model
9 to 10 sec M Model
Test Mileage . 22.1 R, 21.6 M mpg.
Seating . 2
Trunk . 3.6 cubic feet
Parking . Piece O' Cake


The Miata has always been a super fun car & the last available true sports car. Two seats and a quick flip top with all the zip and kicks that could possibly be fitted into a cute package have made the Miata the world's best selling convertible. Now that most of the people who wanted one have already bought it, Mazda has worked hard to freshen the model mix with two special edition packages that broaden the appeal in search of more buyers. The R edition takes a more sporting turn with stripes, spoilers, sport suspension, Torsen limited slip and minimal gimmickry to lighten the load. The M edition goes the luxo-flash route with leather, chrome mags, real walnut accents, power assists and a CD stereo complete with headrest mounted speakers. Thus we come to this tale of two sisters with very different personalities -"R" the racy one who is all fun and "M" the dressy one who trades on her looks.

Miata R rings my bell with a resounding clang! The 1.8 litre motor, new for 94, has a lot more squirt and a much broader powerband. This Miata really scoots. Manual steering and a tight suspension package creates a very direct experience with the twisty bits that is unmatched. A fast, instant, reactive road dog that consistently delights the motoring enthusiast.

Miata M is a different cup of tea. The added weight of power steering, windows, bits and ABS might not seem like much, but when combined with a plushier ride and softer shocks the total package has a much less aggressive feel. Turn-in is less crisp and body roll dictates a more modest pace at any given confidence threshold. A nice riding cruiser, but not so inclined to vigorous thrashing; still too much a sports car to carry the luxury mantle.

Looking at the big picture we see that the M is indeed flashier with deep iridescent paint and contrasting tan top & leather. The snazzy wood shift knob was nice enough that some jerk broke the window to steal it. The R looks cooler in blue with bold stripes and a dark tweed interior that provoked no such unwanted attention. So you decide - come hither style or stealthiness.

On the final call there is the significant matter of over $4000. difference in the price tags. For me it's R all the way and don't expect me to come home soon. For the less intense, more interested in first
impressions, the M might just do it better.