That’s right, we love the Miata – and we’re totally cool with it.
Alright, get it out of your system right now. Make all the Miata jokes you like because, if you’ve ever been behind the wheel of this two-passenger drop-top, you know who’s going to get the last laugh. Every time I get reacquainted with the Mazda Miata I instantly fall back in love with its intoxicating mix of sharp handling and incredibly precise manual gearbox (one of the best ever!). The engine routinely surprises me since, with so much thought given to the Miata’s other fine attributes, I’ll sometimes forget that it’s not exactly pokey in a straight line. The 167-bph 2.0-liter inline-four offers a good amount of grunt, a definite step above an economy car, but still far from challenging the likes of Mustangs and WRXs.
Back to the steering and that aforementioned gearbox. Both are incredible, and you find yourself giving the steering wheel a wiggle and shifting up or down through the H-gate because, well, it’s just so much fun. A six-speed automatic is available if you’re not comfy with the manual, but if there is ever a time to learn how to shift for yourself, this gearbox is it.
Less thrilling is the overall head and legroom that, at least for me, isn’t an issue — at 5’9 there’s still some room to spare. Yet for anyone over six feet, you’d better keep the top down permanently and the seat back as far as possible. Each generation of Miata has been a tad less cozy than the one before it, but this remains one of the tightest cabins out there. [The next Miata -- due in one or two years time and being developed in cooperation with Alfa Romeo -- promises another step forwards in terms of cabin comfort.]
As you’ve guessed, luggage room is pretty lousy with only 5.3 cubic feet available. Oh well, all the more reason to pack lightly for a weekend trip and skip the outlet malls on the way back home. The Miata is about driving, not making runs to IKEA. On the streets of New York City it proved the perfect weapon, scything through traffic and squirting down city streets with the top down and engine burbling. And yes, I’ll admit it, my ego was somewhat soothed by the (relatively) butch spec of my test car. The red paintjob and large black-painted alloy wheels and black power retractable hardtop gave the wee Mazda some real visual sting.
Despite being due for replacement in the next year or two, more than a few passersby asked if my hard-top model was a brand new version of the Miata. Purists might prefer the soft-top and, frankly, choosing to fold the roof yourself saves you money – the Miata PRHT in Touring trim starts at $27,540 (not including destination), or roughly $4-grand more than the base model. Then again, there’s a lot to be said for the extra sound insulation, security, and convenience of the powered hardtop. Fuel economy is only okay for a four-cylinder, the Miata returns 22/28 mpg during city and highway driving. For comparison, the 201 bhp Hyundai Veloster Turbo manages 38 mpg on the highway — though it’s strictly a coupe, albeit one with a quirky 3-door format.
The Miata demands some sacrifices but, so long as you physically fit into the car, it remains one of the automotive world’s best performance bargains.