Friday, March 13, 2015

A Shout Out To The Mazda Miata

Above and below: The Gen 4 (2016) Miata remains state-of-the-art for a small-bore high-production roadster.

The previous post about the new Fiat 124 Spider, and the recent Top Gear piece on  the new Mazda Miata, remind me to give it a shout out.  Richard Hammond said the new Miata is still great fun.  Duh.  He made a point James May has made several times: that a rear-drive car with 50/50 balance on narrow tires is a hoot.  He also said that it weighs 200 lbs. less than the previous generation and remains the same size as the original Miata.  That's quite an accomplishment in an era of crush zones, door beams, and airbags.

The Miata anchored the low end of my "bang for the buck" spreadsheet in the aughts, when I was thinking about new cars to buy.  I couldn't find a better low-cost benchmark car until the Gen 8 Honda Civic Si came out.  At the time, I knew a guy who loved his Gen 3 MazdaSpeed (turbo) Miata.  He said it had a lot of grunt.  (It was, however, too expensive to anchor the low-price end of the spreadsheet.)  For that matter, back-in-the-day, I thought the Gen 1 Miata was a much better car than its closest competitor, the Toyota MR 2.  I drove a Miata only once.  City streets didn't allow me to push its envelope.  But the ergonomics, controls, and steering lived up to their rave press notices.

I'll be the first to admit that the Miata isn't a great road trip car.  But it's no accident that a Tail of the Dragon "local" bought a used one to build into his new slayer--on the recommendation of another local. Killboy's new FR-S might be a better platform: it has the rigidity of a coupe.  But then you can't put your coupe's top down.

So the Miata is still going strong after almost 20 years (and donating a platform to the new Fiat Spider). It has an undeserved reputation in the U.S. for being "a girl's car."  Were British and Italian roadsters of the '50's and '60's girls' cars?  Is one of the best affordable slayer platforms a girl's car?  The Miata has always been macho enough for me...  See, for example, Spec. Miata, where "rubbin' is racin'" and corner workers dread the carnage.  Come to think of it, two of the better club racers I know are women.  Neither is dumb enough to sign up for the rebuild costs of the Spec. Miata class.  Maybe women are smarter than men.   ;-)

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