To preface this, I am an owners of a Mazda Miata. A 27 year old, 100 horsepower (maybe), Base model sports roadster straight out of Hiroshima Japan. And if you are an owner as well you know the praise this car has gotten since its inception in 1989. An absolutely luxury-less tin can on wheels. Crank windows, manual transmission, and a total of two speakers that will never drown out the sound of that puttering 1.6L four cylinder. Mine even came with optional air conditioning and power steering (Gasp!) A chassis that in stock form is so weak that you become accustomed to the rattles and shakes that plague this classic sports car. A car that in any environment besides a windy road that is adequately paved will feel like it WILL fall apart at the seams.
If you defined this as a sports car you would have to compare it to the likes of the Honda S2000 and the Toyota MR2, which in many respects are much better cars. Even as the NB, NC, and ND generations exist, they still lack in many ways the basic amenities of a sports car. If you’ve ever ridden or driven a S2000 you know that it IS what the Miata should have strived to be. When it came out the NB was still on the road with the same 1.8L heart that came out in the 1994 Miata to surpass the aging 1.6L. Albeit with some updates such as VVT. Which still couldn’t hold a candle to the F20 and F22 that was under the hood of the Honda. Not to mention the manual in the S2000 that was lightyears ahead in general feel and usability with its mated powerplant. The MR2 had on its side the exoticness of the Mid-Engined layout which it shared with the higher tiered sports cars like Ferrari and Lamborghini. And to go off of that, another car that could be comparable to the Miata of the time was the Porsche Boxster which was made by the same company that brought us what many consider to be the best sports car of all time, the 911. I know what you are saying right now though, price. Yes, when taken into account the Miata was much easier to afford and was accessible to everyone. But these are sports cars, they are not meant to be cheap or cut corners to appease lower budgets. They were meant to be sporty and fast, while giving you amenities that buyers would want when not driving it hard in the corners.
So where does this leave us? The Toyota Corolla of sports cars? Yes, the Mazda Miata IS the Toyota Corolla of sports cars. Over a Million made, dead reliable, easy to maintain, cheap to purchase and repair, and a lack of prestige over anything else in its class. A car that is good, but not amazing. And why is that a bad thing? I know that I may have made this all sound like a bad thing. But I LOVE these cars.
The reason I am critical is that I’ve seen many people claim that the Miata is the best sports car ever made, including myself. I have seen people defend the Miata against the likes of the other sports cars mentioned and the argument is an uphill battle. It has no advantage over those cars in any “sports car” way. Its advantages are in fields that would describe a really nice appliance of a vehicle. A Porsche Boxster is not inherently reliable, cheap, or easy to maintain. It is good at being a sports car, which is all it has to be good at. And it’s better at that than a Mazda Miata.
The Miata, as good as it is, is not better than other sports cars. What it is good at, is being a MIATA. Yes, it may sound strange, but the Miata is the best Miata. I’d argue that everyone who has interest in cars has heard of the Miata and has most likely known someone who owned one, if not owned one themselves. It is such a common starting point for those who dream of those Porsches or Ferraris but only had a few grand saved up in High-School or during college. It is the compromise for what we had posters of as children. The Miata is its own class of vehicle, it doesn’t deserve to be a full-blown sports car because of this.
Nothing is quite like a Miata, and other cars fail at being really good Miatas.
When you look at it this way you realize that a Porsche Boxster or Honda S2000 are among the most terrible Miatas. They don’t exhibit the same playfulness, the same flaws, or the same compromises that make the Miata so damn good. A Porsche Boxster is akin to a swim suit model (maybe not a great one, but one nonetheless), it looks pretty damn good, but it wants nothing but the nicest stuff. It won’t settle for Applebee’s on a Wednesday afternoon, or a walk on a beach in Ocean City, or watching a movie at the Cinemark down the road. It wants to eat at that Hibachi place downtown before hitting up the VIP section at the nightclub, it wants to walk the beach in Key West, and it wants to watch movies at your own private movie theater while sipping wine and eating a $45 steak. A Miata is that cute girl who would love to just be with you and spend time with you. The girl who knows she’s flawed but hopes you don’t mind, and will laugh at all your jokes (even the bad ones). The girl who won’t let you down or find another person who will appease all of her needs. It’s not the girl we all lusted for, but it’s the one we actually love.
THIS is why we all really love the Miata, not because it’s a sports car but because it is a Miata. As cheesy as it is, it is the truth. It’s a car that I believe everyone should drive atleast once. It’ll give the taste of a sports car without spoiling the expectations of what a sports car should be. It is among the best driving experiences you can have. This is why us Miata owners need to refrain from calling it what it isn’t, and start calling it what it is without feeling embarrassed or hesitating. It is the best Miata, because it is a Miata.