Clutch Problems in 1st [Mazda Miata 1990]

I have driven a 1990 Mazda Miata for a little over a year now. I acquired it used; I don’t know much about its history before I’ve had it. It is the only manual that I’ve ever driven. Recently, the car has begun to hesitate from a dead stop when I let out the clutch - RPMs go up, and it takes a second for the car to go. This does not happen in other gears (although when I shift into fifth it feels like maybe there isn’t as much oomph as there could be when I let out the clutch). I heard that you can test the clutch by cruising at low RPMs in say, third gear, then downshifting, and if the RPMs don’t immediately spike, there’s definitely an issue. I ran the test and she passed no problem. Clutch fluid levels are fine, so I don’t suspect a leak. Could this be some other transmission problem? Maybe I just need a clutch adjustment?

My clutch test has always been: 60 MPH on the expressway and floor it. If RPM’s jump, bad clutch. (RPM should slowly rise with speed.)

Yep. Do insightful’s test (go slower for your Miata - it’s light. Try 45, 5th gear, floor it).

Sounds to me like you’re gonna need a new clutch.

Your 24 year old car needs a clutch. Not a surprise, especially since it’s your first standard shift car.

The “moderate speed, highest gear, floor it” test (described here by others) is the best one I’ve found.

Thanks for the tips! I went up to 45, floored it, and didn’t notice anything unusual. Just that 1st gear when starting from a dead stop.

Maybe the car is too light for this test. Put the parking brake on while stopped, put it in high gear and let out on the clutch slowly. If it doesn’t stall immediately, the clutch is worn. Any delay past the engagement point means it is slipping.

Letting the clutch out against the parking brake only tells you the clutch still works for parking lot duty, but when you find yourself on a steep hill with no power to go up and no room to hang a uturn, you leave the car where it is. Go to a quiet residential street with no other cars around and drive in first gear with the engine spinning at its peak torque speed. Then floor the gas while easing on the brake with your left foot. The engine should slow down with the car