Why the Mazda Miata Rocks

2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata | Autoblog Unplugged

A couple weekends ago, a convertible was rented. But it wasn’t just any convertible. Avis kindly blessed yours truly with a beautiful gray 2015 Mazda Miata Club hardtop convertible (with dark rims!). The Miata is a car that’s always been on the “To Drive” list, so when the chance was given, it was grabbed. Stoked is an understatement. It was either the MX-5 or a drop top Beetle – they ran out of Mustangs and Camaros. Yeah, kind of a no-brainer.

The smiling Miata will make you smile. Trust me.

The first thing you notice is how small the Miata is. It’s tiny. And it’s very low to the ground; you really sit INTO it. Oh, but is it FUN! This car is the definition of a purist vehicle. It was made for one thing: to give the driver and a lucky passenger the most smiles per mile possible. And I smiled. A lot.

It’s not the fastest sports car on the block, but that’s not the point. The Miata proves that you don’t have to have tons of horsepower to have tons of fun. Its 2.0-liter inline four makes a modest 158 horses in the automatic and 167 horses in the manual (more reason to drive stick). But since the Miata is so light – the automatic (sadly) transmission rental tips the scales at a mere 2619 pounds, 2593 in the manual (even more reason to drive stick) – it has more than ample motivation. Sliding the tranny into Sport (manual) mode and blasting away from on-ramp green lights was sheer joy, with a nice rumble emanating from its dual exhaust pipes.

But where the Miata really shines is in its handling prowess. For one, it has good ol’ hydraulic power assist steering. What does that mean? Totally responsive and controllable steering – you simply place the car exactly where you want it. And there’s plenty of well-weighted steering feel, to boot. It’s a far cry from many of today’s cars’ overly light, numb, and artificial-feeling electric steering systems. The Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S twins and Volkswagen GTI come very close with impressive electro-mechanical steering systems, but are just not quite as good as the Miata’s old school steering setup.

Mix the sensational steering with rear wheel drive, 51/49 weight distribution front /rear, a composed and bantam chassis, and excellent suspension work, and you have a wonderful sports car that doesn’t fail to disappoint. Even dropping the hardtop is an amusing exercise: from the inside, you simply hold down a release button and unlatch the top, then hold the retract button for about 15 or so seconds. Voila – the Miata just increased its fun factor exponentially. There is simply no other feeling than cruising around with the top and windows down. Fast or slow, it doesn’t matter.

Downsides? Like the car, the trunk is pretty small. There’s room for two overnight bags, at best. And the paddle shifters are odd: there’s two pairs of them, with an upshift and downshift on either side. A single pair is much preferred, with the downshift paddle to the left and the upshift on the right (please fix this, Mazda!). Because of this, the floor shifter was usually employed. But that’s about it.

So the Miata is not the most practical sports car. (Is there such a thing?) After all, it’s a two-seater with a tiny boot. Unless you consider “fun” practical. Rest assured, it has that covered. But it can be argued that most of the time, we commute alone. So it’s feasible, right? It also gets 21/28 mpg city/highway. That’s livable.

After driving the Miata for over 300 miles, I want one. Enough said. 🙂

(And you better believe that a review of the all-new 2016 Miata is coming. Stay tuned!)

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