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I think that by now just about everyone knows the Miata, a car conceived to evoke British sports cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s but with modern reliability. Although the Miata has grown since its first incarnation in 1989 it is still a small, nimble two-seater.
Some younger guys I work with derided the Miata as a “girl’s car.” Hardly. I’d say it’s a unisex car or an asexual car.
There is much to like in a small car that maybe isn’t the fastest or quickest car out there. The feeling of speed is often as rewarding as the actual speed, and in many cases more rewarding. The Miata does 0-60 mph in around 5.7 seconds, gets through the quarter mile in 14.4 seconds at 95 mph. These are not slow times. They just aren’t supersonic times.
All of this performance comes from a 2.0-liter, DOHC, 4-valve per cylinder, 4-cylinder engine rated at 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. There are definitely more powerful four-cylinder engines out there but the Miata is not supposed to be an acceleration and top speed car; it is a well-balanced sports car.
The engine sounds a little rough or raspy at lower RPMs but get it into its power band and it sings.
The manual transmission, a six-speed, was a little stiff when cold, and I’m talking California cold not “Oh my gosh it’s cold”. If you live where it snows in the winter check with your dealer for an appropriate gear oil.
The Miata is 154.1” long on a wheelbase of 90.9”, and it weighs a scant 2,339 lbs. with a manual transmission. For a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car the weight distribution is close to neutral at 52% front and 48% rear. The Grand Touring model I drove as well as the Club are shod with huge 205/45R17 high performance summer tires mounted on attractive aluminum wheels (the Sport version makes do with 195/50R16 tires).
I’ve read criticism that the Miata’s ride is harsh. Yes it can be but overall I thought it was firm not harsh. Isn’t firm what you want in a sports car?
Handling is like the proverbial go-kart. If you’re used to family sedan steering you’ll be in for a surprise. Sneeze and you might change lanes if you’re not careful. There is good feedback through the steering wheel even though the rack and pinion steering uses an electric assist.
Because the test car was a Grand Touring model it had some “luxury” touches like heated seats. If you’re hard core you’ll skip the Grand Touring but if you like some (not much but some) luxury, enough to make everyday commuting more enjoyable go with the Grand Touring. One feature that I found almost impossible to use was the cup holders. I admit that I often drink coffee in my cars and I’m long past holding the cup between my legs. The Miata makes it next to impossible to reach a cup when you are driving – the cup holders are between the two seat backs. I found it was best to use them as a place to hold my coffee until I got where I was going. Small problem, besides who can drink coffee when they’re doing some spirited driving?
For me the real problem with the Miata isn’t getting in or out, or the cup holder position. No it’s that a Miata would not suit me all the time. It’s a great, fun car but in my life I need more and I can’t afford two new cars. Maybe I should keep my eyes open for a good used one. But then I’d need to get two; a manual transmission for me and an automatic transmission for my wife.
2019 Miatas start at $25,730 for a Sport, go up to $29,520 for a Club, and $30,780 for a Grand Touring. So if you’ve got a hankering for a fun car, one that won’t break the bank, gets decent fuel economy (34 mpg on the highway), and you like the wind in your hair (and if you don’t there’s always the folding hardtop RF) head on down to your nearest Mazda dealer.