Certified Benz & Beemer Compares 2002 Ford Thunderbird VS 2002 Mazda Miata Near Scottsdale, AZ

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2002 Ford Thunderbird

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VS

2002 Mazda Miata

Safety Comparison

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Over 85% of child safety seats are not correctly used, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This misuse can be caused by incompatibilities with vehicle seatbelts and puts children at increased injury risk. The Thunderbird has a universal (Isofix) mounting system to easily latch in any new, compatible child safety seat without using the vehicle’s seatbelts. The Miata doesn’t offer Isofix mounts; they aren’t required in all new vehicles until the 2003 model year.

The Thunderbird has standard front seat tall, head-protecting side-impact airbags which act as a forgiving barrier between the passengers and the door. Combined with high-strength steel door beams this system increases protection from broadside collisions. The Miata doesn’t offer side-impact airbags.

The Thunderbird has standard four wheel antilock disc brakes for quicker stops and controlled steering ability, especially under poor traction conditions. Antilock brakes cost extra on the Mazda Miata.

Both the Thunderbird and the Miata have standard driver and passenger side airbags and front seatbelt pretensioners.

The Ford Thunderbird weighs 1328 to 1476 pounds more than the Mazda Miata. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts. Lighter cars are also affected more by crosswinds.

Warranty Comparison

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There are over 5 times as many Ford dealers as there are Mazda dealers, which makes it much easier to get service under the Thunderbird’s warranty.

Reliability Comparison

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The camshafts in the Thunderbird’s engine are driven by a hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs. The Miata’s camshafts are driven by a rubber belt which eventually needs to be replaced. If the Miata’s cam drive belt breaks the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

The Miata’s redline is at 7500 RPM, which causes more engine wear, and a greater chance of a catastrophic engine failure. The Thunderbird has a 6500 RPM redline.

The Thunderbird has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The Miata doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the car’s engine.

Engine Comparison

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The Thunderbird’s 3.9 DOHC V8 produces 110 more horsepower (252 vs. 142) and 142 lbs.-ft. more torque (267 vs. 125) than the Miata’s 1.8 DOHC 4 cyl.

For more instantaneous acceleration and better engine flexibility in any gear, the Thunderbird’s engine produces its peak torque and horsepower at lower RPM’s than the Miata:

Horsepower

Torque

Thunderbird 3.9 DOHC V8

6100 RPM

4300 RPM

Miata 1.8 DOHC 4 cyl.

7000 RPM

5500 RPM

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

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The Thunderbird has 5.3 gallons more fuel capacity than the Miata (18 vs. 12.7 gallons), for longer range between fill ups.

Brakes and Stopping Comparison

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For better stopping power the Thunderbird’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Miata:

Thunderbird

Miata

Miata LS

Front Rotors

11.81 inches

10 inches

10.6 inches

Rear Rotors

11.34 inches

9.9 inches

10.9 inches

The Thunderbird’s brakes have 42% more swept area (the area covered by the brake pads) than the Miata (468 vs. 330 square inches), so the Thunderbird has more braking power available.

The Thunderbird’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Miata are solid, not vented.

The Thunderbird with its standard antilock brakes stops shorter than the Miata with antilock brakes:

Thunderbird

Miata

70 to 0 MPH

172 feet

178 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

123 feet

131 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels Comparison

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For better traction, the Thunderbird has larger tires than the Miata (235/50R17 vs. 195/50R15). The Thunderbird’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Miata (235/50R17 vs. 205/45R16).

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Thunderbird has standard 17 inch wheels. Smaller 15 inch wheels are standard on the Miata. The Miata’s largest wheels are only 16 inches.

The Ford Thunderbird’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Mazda Miata only has 4 wheel lugs per wheel.

Suspension and Handling Comparison

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For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Thunderbird’s wheelbase is 1 foot, 6 inches longer than on the Miata (107.2 vs. 89.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Thunderbird is 4.8 inches wider in the front and 3.5 inches wider in the rear than on the Miata.

The Thunderbird goes through Motor Trend’s slalom faster than the Miata (61.9 vs. 61.06 MPH).

Passenger Space Comparison

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The Thunderbird has 8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Miata (54 vs. 46).

The Thunderbird has .1 inches more front headroom, .9 inches more front legroom and 7.6 inches more front shoulder room than the Miata.

Cargo Capacity Comparison

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The Thunderbird has a much larger trunk with its top up than the Miata (6.7 vs. 5.1 cubic feet).

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