The spirit of the Miata comes from the small British "midget cars" of the 1960's and 1970's. My favorites from this class of cars includes the Triumph Spitfire and MG Midget. The idea is for the car to be lightweight and have few expensive items standard to keep the price low, but at the same time have a high level of fun for the driver with decent acceleration and good cornering ability.
There have been three generations of the Miata. The first sold for $13,800, which would be about $22,500 in modern numbers when adjusted for inflation. In Japan, Mazda was trying to introduce a new brand name, so in that country the car was originally sold as the Eunos Roadster. These cars had I4 engines and 4 speed automatic or 5 speed manual transmissions.
They second generation started in 1998. The Miata still had the I4 engine, but now a turbocharged version was offered as part the Mazdaspeed package. There was a limited edition model made for the 1999 10th anniversary.
2005 saw the end of the second generation models. The 2006 Miata was the first of the third generation. The new model looks more like the RX-8 sports car also made by Mazda. Global sales of the Miata are quickly approaching 1 million.
These cars are out there on the used car market. You can find some great deals and plenty of aftermarket parts for modding on eBay. These are great cars for teens looking for a fun car that isn't so sporty that they are likely to drive too dangerously with it, and also a great car for kids at heart who want a car with better response and more nimble cornering than their SUV or minivan.