The Mazda MX-5 Miata is just one of those cars that leaves a mark on anyone who drives it.
All of your AutoGuide.com editors have been lucky enough to pilot a few MX-5 Miatas in their careers, so we asked them: What’s Your Favorite Mazda MX-5 Miata Memory? Here’s what they said:
Jodi Lai, Managing Editor
Jodi Lai Mazda MX-5 Miata Convertible Winter
Brutally cold Canadian winters have never stopped me from driving convertibles with the top down. I was reviewing an NC MX-5 equipped with amazing winter tires in March of 2014. By this time, spring is supposed to be coming close, but this year was unusually frigid. It was -27 degrees C (-17 degrees F) in the middle of a Polar Vortex cold snap, and I drove around with the top down, heaters blasting and heated seats cranked up high, because the only way the top is up when I’m driving a convertible is when it’s raining. No exceptions.
People thought I was nuts, but when bundled up with a parka, fluffy hat, scarf and gloves, it wasn’t even as cold as you’d imagine. People on the streets gave me thumbs up and police officers followed me for a bit to make sure I wasn’t crazy, but passers by seemed to be delighted by this strange sight and were generally cheering me on. The best part of this whole thing was seeing people smile and do double-takes whenever the Miata drove by, and that’s something I’ll never forget.
So is driving a light, rear-wheel drive convertible sports car in the winter a dumb idea? Not one bit. (Just make sure you have proper winter tires!)
Jonathan Yarkony, Editor in Chief
Mazdaspeed MX-5 memory
For my honeymoon in Maui, I wanted to get a convertible, but also something small and nimble, and as luck would have it, there was a rental agency that dealt in exotics and less typical rental vehicles, and they happened to have a Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata. The 2004 Mazdaspeed was the only factory turbocharged Miata, adding just enough horsepower to go along with that delectable chassis, so it really brought out the best in the car without overpowering its small, nimble, engaging character.
The choice was perfect, as Maui is home to the Hana Highway, a long stretch of winding coastal road that hugs the edge of the volcano overlooking the ocean. It’s a spectacular road to drive, with the Miata’s small size, punchy turbo and manual transmission a perfect match for the narrow roads, tight curves and continuous elevation changes. With the backdrop of Maui’s gorgeous scenery and attractions, we repeatedly found reasons to hit the road and experience that beautiful pairing of road and car.
Jason Siu, News Editor
My first experience driving the Mazda MX-5 Miata didn’t even allow me to take advantage of what the car is designed to do. My cousin-in-law needed his Miata picked up from the shop and driven back to their home, and while I owned a manual car all my life, I had spent the vast majority of my time driving on the flat and open roads of Florida and southern California. The problem was, I was tasked with driving the Miata back from downtown San Francisco and I quickly learned going up and down those hilly roads isn’t very easy with a manual. So instead of enjoying open country roads and twisty turns, I was trying to make sure the Miata didn’t have to turn back around to the shop to get a new clutch.
Sami Haj-Assaad, Features Editor
My MX-5 story, like many others from Miata owners, involves a bit of friendly competition. In 2014, Mazda set up a navigational rally and my main role was to be the navigator and note taker for our team. However, one portion of the event was on a race track, and I was asked to take the wheel on an unfamiliar course.
I had only three laps to learn and set a best time, and competitive spirit got the best of me. During my third lap, I misjudged the elevation change on the track, which turned into a sideways meeting between the MX-5’s passenger side rear quarter panel, and the tire wall. It wasn’t a huge hit, as no air bags were deployed, but my ego did take quite the beating. It’s also quite a reality check to realize you just had an accident in a droptop with your friend and colleague riding shotgun.
Fortunately, my driving partner wasn’t hurt and we could ziptie and duct tape the car together and continue on our way. In fact, we used the setback to motivate ourselves to work harder through the rally. In the end, we came up in first place, which was quite the consolation price for denting this tough little roadster.
Craig Cole, Associate Editor
My favorite Mazda MX-5 memory is one of juvenile immaturity, which is arguably what this sports car is all about, making its owner laugh out loud like a carefree kid. A purist’s dream, the Miata has provided an unparalleled driving experience since the day it launched more than a quarter-century ago.
Late last year when we were shooting our Car of the Year comparison test at Willow Springs racetrack in Southern California, I slipped away between takes to have a little fun in my favorite Mazda. While none of my usually vigilant colleagues were watching, I pulled into an empty parking lot and switched the traction control off. Only the oil-barrels-turned-trash-cans would bear witness to my hooliganism.
I wanted a ride and only bareback would sate my hunger. Dabbing the accelerator gently, I gave her a few revs, slipped the nub-like shifter into first and swiftly let the clutch out. Her rear tires spun and so did I, all three of us howling, albeit for different reasons.
The car responded with unabashed enthusiasm, sliding ass-end first in whichever direction I desired, controlled by the accelerator pedal and a bit of opposite lock, as easy to maneuver as a shopping cart but immeasurably more entertaining. A small huff of smoke and a few black marks were all that remained of my brief but liberating break from adulthood.
Stephen Elmer, News Editor
Watching as the tachometer climbed to 8,200 rpm, I waited for the perfect moment to throw it up into third gear to make sure I was putting all of those ponies into the pavement, pushing forward like an unstoppable force. No, of course this wan’t in a Miata, but in a new Mustang GT350. It was at the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s (AJAC) annual Test Fest, where auto writers from around the country gather to test the latest new vehicles, that I first sampled the new MX-5. And I’ll never forget it. After returning the GT350 to its parking space, still buzzing from the fumes I had inhaled straight out of the 5.2-liter V8, I was ready for something a little calmer, to make sure I didn’t go into sensory overload. I reached straight for the keys to the new 2016 MX-5. Only two corners into a twisty road and I had already decided that the MX-5 was just as much fun as the Stang, just in an entirely different way. This car never wants to harm you. The control you have over it is total, and even when it does decide to be mischievous, it’s in such an innocent way that it could be called cute when the back end breaks loose. The GT350 is that kind of serious fun you have when you know that a gruesome scene could develop in a matter of seconds, while the MX-5 is pure innocent puppy-loving fun. You don’t need high horsepower or a sky-high redline to have a blast behind the wheel and the MX-5 proves it. No doubt that a car like the GT350 thrills in a way the MX-5 cannot, but the MX-5 has its own special sauce which no other manufacturer has been able to replicate. And that’s what makes it so special.