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Steven Cole Smith
Steven Cole Smith Contributor
10/28/20 7:56 a.m.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata: It’s really the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it? 

Those of us who were around in 1989 knew that Mazda had delivered something truly special in the 1990 Miata–and yes, we know Mazda might prefer that we call them MX-5s, but “Miata” is jus…

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nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
10/28/20 9:14 a.m.

Great story, bro yes

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
10/28/20 9:27 a.m.

Super good story. I like it. 

350z247
350z247 New Reader
10/28/20 2:49 p.m.

"Name another model that has been in production for 25 years that doesn’t have a substandard offering in the mix."

That's because they are the "substandard offering", excluding the lone Mazdaspeed. Miatas are entry level sports cars with great bones; proof that cheap doesn't have to mean bad. However, they just can't compare to higher market cars; all that research and devolvement money does actually count for something. While the Miata wasn't as comparatively slow in the malaise years of the 90s, the lap time delta to the Americans, Germans, and slightly more expensive Japanese rivals has grown larger with each subsequent generation.

Kent Krueger
Kent Krueger None
10/28/20 4:56 p.m.

Miata manual transmissions have been textbook-good since the first 1990 model rolled off the boat, but you just couldn’t ask for more than this ND delivered. 

From what I can tell this article was written back in 2016, before the ND1 transmission problems were known. Those of us with pre-2019 MX5s refer to them as glass transmissions. It's not if it will break...but when. Mazda and the Global MX5 competitors got so tired of breaking transmissions that now a SADAV sequential is required. Sigh. Enthusiasts like myself are left out in the cold by Mazda.

thatsnowinnebago (Forum Supporter)
thatsnowinnebago (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
10/28/20 5:55 p.m.
350z247 said:

"Name another model that has been in production for 25 years that doesn’t have a substandard offering in the mix."

That's because they are the "substandard offering", excluding the lone Mazdaspeed. Miatas are entry level sports cars with great bones; proof that cheap doesn't have to mean bad. However, they just can't compare to higher market cars; all that research and devolvement money does actually count for something. While the Miata wasn't as comparatively slow in the malaise years of the 90s, the lap time delta to the Americans, Germans, and slightly more expensive Japanese rivals has grown larger with each subsequent generation.

Breaking News: more expensive car is faster

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Reader
10/28/20 6:27 p.m.
thatsnowinnebago (Forum Supporter) said:
350z247 said:

"Name another model that has been in production for 25 years that doesn’t have a substandard offering in the mix."

That's because they are the "substandard offering", excluding the lone Mazdaspeed. Miatas are entry level sports cars with great bones; proof that cheap doesn't have to mean bad. However, they just can't compare to higher market cars; all that research and devolvement money does actually count for something. While the Miata wasn't as comparatively slow in the malaise years of the 90s, the lap time delta to the Americans, Germans, and slightly more expensive Japanese rivals has grown larger with each subsequent generation.

Breaking News: more expensive car is faster

Not just more expensive to buy, but more expensive to run.  A big part of the appeal of a Miata racecar is the low cost of consumables.  You can get a turbo I4 Camaro 1LE for around the cost of an ND Club, but expect to pay about double for everything that the car uses up. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
10/28/20 8:24 p.m.

350z247 does bring up an interesting point; for some people Miata lap times are such that for some people will spend the extra bit of cash to get something that turns faster lap times.

My take is and has been this; I driven some really cool cars on track, almost every Porsche ever made from 356 to GT3RS, raced prepped Vipers and some pretty rapid single seat race cars and anytime someone offers me a chance to drive a Miata I jump on it. They are the most fun car ever.

350z247
350z247 New Reader
10/28/20 10:11 p.m.

In reply to ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) :

That specific example isn't worth it as the I4 in the Camaro is hardly inspiring, but there are other examples of cars that are worth the added costs. I could buy a used E92 M3 for 10K less than the top of the line ND. Sure, I'll spend more in consumables, but I'd rather pay more for a car I'm excited to drive than settle for the bare minimum. That said, I can't afford to run a 458 GT3 no matter how badly I want to; so, we all settle to some extent.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
10/28/20 10:53 p.m.

In reply to 350z247 :

You are correct we all settle to.some degree BUT

 If I hit the mega-super-bucks-jumbo lotto tomorrow I will but a vintage Formula Super Vee or Formula Atlantic or SCCA P1 car and you guessed a Miata track day car. 

Miatas are fun as he'll to hoon around in because your traveling at relatively low speeds so you can get away with so much in them. We've owned two Miatas and I never considered them as settling. 

APEowner
APEowner Dork
10/29/20 9:46 a.m.

I own three race cars. 

 

A 650 HP Camaro

A Crossle 32F Formula Ford (pardon the mess in the shop)

 

And a Spec. Miata

 

 

The Miata is the slowest of the three but it's also the one that gets raced the most and I wouldn't say that any one of them is more or less fun to drive than the other.  The Miata is without question the cheapest and most reliable. 

350z247
350z247 New Reader
10/29/20 11:31 a.m.

Within reason, "cheap" is not a characteristic I put a lot of emphasis on. Racing and track driving is expensive no matter what; the little bit extra required for a bit more theater is more than worth it for me. I want my cars to feel special, and the B series engine just doesn't do it for me.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/29/20 11:41 a.m.

The article doesn't give the initial production date, but based on the "25 year" comment, the people name-checked and the fact that GCC 5 is featured (it's been crushed) - I'm going to say this is from 2015. The ND is now faster :)

350z247 lucky for you, Mazda hasn't used that engine for 15 years. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/29/20 11:45 a.m.
350z247 said:

"Name another model that has been in production for 25 years that doesn’t have a substandard offering in the mix."

That's because they are the "substandard offering", excluding the lone Mazdaspeed. Miatas are entry level sports cars with great bones; proof that cheap doesn't have to mean bad. However, they just can't compare to higher market cars; all that research and devolvement money does actually count for something. While the Miata wasn't as comparatively slow in the malaise years of the 90s, the lap time delta to the Americans, Germans, and slightly more expensive Japanese rivals has grown larger with each subsequent generation.

I would argue that the Mazdaspeed is actually one of the less successfully engineered variants. Unless it's not substandard because it has TURBO! 

And the "malaise era" is the 70's, not the 90's.

 

Heh - https://fastestlaps.com/tracks/willow-springs-streets-of-willow. 350Z Nismo S-tune: 1:33.87. ND Miata: 1:29.9.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
10/29/20 12:35 p.m.

To clarify what I consider fun.

Fun means; stress free and spontaneousness. There's loads of that to be had in a Miata especially at a track day. When your not worried about lap times a Miata is one of the most chuckable cars ever. The fact that they need little upkeep in comparison to faster cars adds up to low stress ownership. That's why I say they are the most fun car ever.

I think what 350Z247 is referring to is exhilaration......a NA Miata may not be exhilarating but it is fun. 

350z247
350z247 New Reader
10/29/20 4:49 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

1. The 90s were still a very dark time for American cars; we didn't start making good cars again until the mid 00's.

2. I hate turbos, especially on track cars, but the Mazdaspeed would be considered a higher trim level compared to a base model (if a bit of an oddball).

3. As far as I am concerned, Mazda has never put an inspiring engine in a Miata; a K-swap would be a different story. However, most of my favorite engines are already in a better chassis than a Miata and wouldn't fit anyways.

4. A Nismo S-tune is hardly the pinnacle of the 350Z line; those were early hop-up packages. The later HR engined proper Nismos were much quicker cars. Plus, my username is 4 years old; the car I drove in college and the cars I buy with a career are two different things. A 981 Cayman S is 3 seconds a lap faster at a 1:27.0...worth it.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/29/20 5:27 p.m.

The 90's felt a lot like today, but of course I'm not limiting myself to American cars.

The Mazdaspeed had about the same trim as a non-turbo LS. Not sure why that makes it less substandard unless red seats are part of the needed spec.

It's true, Mazda's never had a world-class engine in the car although the 2019+ engine is pretty darn good. But what it lacks in soul it makes up for in anvil-like durability and the ability to just keep pounding around a track all day long.

It would be a sad day if a 300 hp, $65k (new MSRP in 2016) Cayman S was slower than a 150 hp $25k Miata (MSRP for a 2016 Miata). 

Brett_Murphy (Ex-Patrón)
Brett_Murphy (Ex-Patrón) MegaDork
10/29/20 5:42 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

It would be a sad day if a 300 hp, $65k (new MSRP in 2016) Cayman S was slower than a 150 hp $25k Miata (MSRP for a 2016 Miata). 

No, that would be the best day ever, but I love giant slayers. I'd also imagine the marketing team at Mazda would be ecstatic. 

APEowner
APEowner Dork
10/29/20 5:51 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

It's true, Mazda's never had a world-class engine in the car although the 2019+ engine is pretty darn good. But what it lacks in soul it makes up for in anvil-like durability and the ability to just keep pounding around a track all day long.

 

I don't often say this because it sounds like a criticism and I really don't mean it as one but none of the components in a Miata are really world-class (at least in an NA which is all I really have experience with.)  What makes the Miata so impressive to me is that they're great cars made from fairly average components. They just work and work well.  I guess the suspension is above average if struts are considered the baseline but still, it works better than is seems like it would from reading a spec. sheet.

350z247
350z247 New Reader
10/29/20 6:06 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

My point is better cars cost more money, and to me, they are worth that extra money. I can't take it with me, but I can enjoy it. I want to open the door to the garage and feel like I did as a kid on Christmas morning; a Miata will never do that for me. They're an excellent option for a lot of people, but I feel the phrase "the answer is always Miata" is a bit overused.

Plus, let's be honest, not all of that $40K price delta went towards performance: fit and finish, leather, creature comforts, Porsche tax, ect...

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/29/20 6:14 p.m.
APEowner said:
Keith Tanner said:

It's true, Mazda's never had a world-class engine in the car although the 2019+ engine is pretty darn good. But what it lacks in soul it makes up for in anvil-like durability and the ability to just keep pounding around a track all day long.

 

I don't often say this because it sounds like a criticism and I really don't mean it as one but none of the components in a Miata are really world-class (at least in an NA which is all I really have experience with.)  What makes the Miata so impressive to me is that they're great cars made from fairly average components. They just work and work well.  I guess the suspension is above average if struts are considered the baseline but still, it works better than is seems like it would from reading a spec. sheet.

The amazing thing about the Miata is that for most of its life, it has not shared a platform with anything else. A company the size of Mazda built a dedicated platform for a low volume sports car. Currently, it is the only car in their line with a longitudinal engine or RWD. There are an amazing number of unique parts on it. It makes no financial sense. It's never been up to the minute until the ND platform, it's always been built out of dated components. But they work. Mazda let their engineers do what they needed to do.

They could have built a Capri, which looks really similar on paper if you ignore the RWD/FWD aspect. That was one of the proposals on the table back in the 80s.

I know exactly what it's like to open the door to the garage and feel like a kid on Christmas morning when there's "only" a Miata inside. Probably because it's where I cut my teeth, and even today I can remember the rush of my first car. It's not all about the cost, it's about the joy. Spend what you need to spend for your joy, I guess.

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
10/29/20 6:16 p.m.

I don’t think the answer is ALWAYS a Miata, but it’s often the answer. 

I was shocked at how much better the Miata was at a lot of things coming from being a BMW M lover. Better steering, better gearbox, less problems, and more fun to drive in a lot of ways. Also fraction of a cost for entry and maintenance.

But I don’t want to convince you actually, the fewer people that like the Miata the better in my opinion. Keeps costs down. 

BlindPirate
BlindPirate Reader
10/29/20 7:18 p.m.

The NC wasn't going to be faster than the ND but it seems like the NC could have had a faster time, easier to drive with a better setup

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) UberDork
10/29/20 8:03 p.m.
350z247 said:

1. The 90s were still a very dark time for American cars; we didn't start making good cars again until the mid 00's.

I dunno, comparing to the same-era competition the percentage of decent American-brand cars seems to me to be about the same now as it was the 90s.  There are workhorse trucks, a couple special Mustangs and Corvettes and, well, that's pretty much about it.  "malaise" definitely means the 70s and early 80s -- after the smog rules had clamped down on high power carbureted engines, but before EFI had come along to rescue us.

As for Miatas, I drove my NB on track for 20 years in a bunch of different configurations.  Nothing wrong with them, but personally I'm done with driving non-caged cars on track and I just don't fit in Miatas with cages.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
10/29/20 10:59 p.m.

Every time I drove my Miata I felt like a kid on Christmas, because it wad just plain fun. I never worried about it might need some pricey repair, there is a lot of freedom in that.

Further if I damaged a Cayman or Vette at the track I'd be very upset. If I crash a Miata, while I won't be happy I can replace it pretty easily.

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