Long-term Review: Starting a life with the Mazda Miata

This Mazda MX-5 Miata is my only car, but it’s not that simple.

I woke up yesterday and wafted my Volvo C30 150 miles south to trade it for a 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club in Soul Red with the Brembo/BBS package. In English, I traded a car for what a lot of people think of as a tent for people with no kids.

By grabbing a Miata instead of a Toyota Camry, or even a hot hatch, I’m voting with my wallet—to breath life back into the small car market. Apart from the Miata/’Fiata, the world is my oyster if I only want to pick two of the following: Small, light, rear-drive, new, inexpensive, convertible, non-pretentious, three pedals. So what happened?

 

First, let’s bench race the Mazda Miata.

Mazda is a fairly young company in some ways. After being sold off from Ford, Mazda is left in a place that is a touch like BMW was in the late 1960s: not much cash, something slightly less than a bomb-proof reputation, and a handful of relatively affordable cars that offer the driver more than whatever the segment leader might be. Mazda’s styling has been on the awesome side of experimental.

On paper, the Club trim level comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox, Bilstein shocks, and a limited slip differential. 60 miles per hour happens in just under six seconds and the top speed is less than most station wagons. Mazda was obsessive about weight savings, and that’s part of what makes this car so special in today’s market of safety, and emissions regulations and anticipated levels of equipment. 2,300 lbs is a virtually unobtainable statistic for new cars available in the US today.

I’m making this sacrifice for science.

When I’m not shooting and writing about cars, I work in an office. I live in a sparsely populated area; my 20-mile commute includes an elevation change with many low-speed S-curves. The small-car culture here thrives and hosts the largest British car event on the continent. The state agency of transportation maintains publicly available interactive maps that track the quality of the pavement, the last time it was swept for debris, and if there’s even a drop of snow, where each state plow is.

All of the above is true, but there’s a snag: I’m living the same place I’ve lived and driven daily for over a decade: Vermont.

By the way, I’m an avid backcountry skier, hiker, and photographer. Now, every box has been ticked—landing me in crossover territory. Over the next year, I’ll wear this car, collect data on the joys, the monetary costs, and the sacrifices to advise you, the reader, of the slurry of brilliance and idiocy that befalls a year-round Miata driver in the rustbelt.

One day in, what’s it like?

This is a momentum car, that, like the ‘Subota is not set up out of the box to rip your face off in the corners—it’s meant to put a smile on your face instead. Which it does. Given the wind noise, 50 mph feels like a million, and the exhaust note and intake noise are genuinely satisfying in a number of ways. The car feels quite a bit faster than it really is—something many modern enthusiast-level road cars fail at. I’m thinking and feeling a bit more through corners that my C30 would have me snoring through at the same speed. I no longer feel like a passenger.

Yesterday brought endless sunshine and and 85 degrees, and today, the roads are flooding—still, I’m pretty compelled by this experiment. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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-By: Sawyer Sutton

© All images copyright Sawyer Sutton/egmCarTech


HELLA H83115051 H1 100w Standard Halogen Bulb picture
HELLA H83115051 H1 100w Standard Halogen Bulb
2005 Mazdaspeed Miata picture
2005 Mazdaspeed Miata
MAZDA OEM 2008 MX-5 Miata Retractable Top-Top Assembly NE52R1610W19 picture
MAZDA OEM 2008 MX-5 Miata Retractable Top-Top Assembly NE52R1610W19
MAZDA OEM 07-08 MX-5 Miata Retractable Top-Top Assembly NE52R1610W77 picture
MAZDA OEM 07-08 MX-5 Miata Retractable Top-Top Assembly NE52R1610W77
MAZDA OEM 07-08 MX-5 Miata Retractable Top-Top Assembly NE52R1610W91 picture
MAZDA OEM 07-08 MX-5 Miata Retractable Top-Top Assembly NE52R1610W91

Sawyer Sutton

Sawyer Sutton is a long-time Vermonter and lover of cars, big machinery, and photography. These are his words on cars as Senior Editor of egmCarTech.

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