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Thread: 2008 Mazda Miata

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    2008 Mazda Miata

    Is the Miata the perfect sports car?

    If longevity is the standard, the case is compelling. This car has been around in more or less the same basic form (with tweaks over the years) since 1989. That is going on 20 years - and almost a million cars sold worldwide during that time. That's stupendous, even unprecedented staying power for a type of car that is by definition not a "practical" choice.

    The VW Beetle and Ford Model T were, after all, basic transportation - and mass market.

    But the Miata is a fun car; a two-seat rear-wheel-drive roadster.... a toy.

    When you review the list of similar cars that have come - and gone - since 1989, the seemingly bottomless popularity of Mazda's inexpensive little roadster says even more about the basic brilliance of the concept.

    And there's no sign of things cooling off anytime soon. Indeed, even in a world of $5 per gallon fuel, the easy to buy, easy on gas - and easy to drive every single day Miata should have no trouble bringing yet another generation of buyers into the fold.


    Today, bread and butter family sedans like the Toyota Camry have as much as 270 hp, so the Miata's 166 hp, 2.0 liter DOHC four doesn't sound all that impressive. But what matters isn't so much power as power to weight ratio. The Camry may have an extra 100 horses under its hood - but it's also pulling an extra 1,000 pounds (or more). The base Miata roadster, meanwhile, has a curb weight of 2,445 lbs., so that 166 hp feels more exuberant than a lot more engine in a much heavier vehicle.

    And "heavier vehicles" includes more direct competitors, like the Saturn Sky and its corporate twin, the Pontiac Solstice. These two roadsters have slightly larger, slightly stronger engines - 2.4 liters, 173 hp. However, the Sky bellies up to the freight scales at nearly 3,000 lbs. - a hefty 500 pounds more than the Miata.

    That clips any performance advantage the GM roadsters might have had over the Miata. (Caveat: The high performance GXP version of the Solstice and the Sky Red Line are a matter for a separate comparison.)

    There's also the fact that the GM twins come with five-speed gearboxes vs. the standard six-speed manual in the Miata - and their engines don't like high-RPMs, either. The GM four redlines at 5,800 rpm - while the Miata's four can run to 6,700 RPM before tickling the rev limiter.

    Which do you suppose is the more enjoyable sports car powerplant?

    Final insult: The GM roadsters are both more expensive. Not by a little bit, either. The base Miata SV carries an MSRP of $20,585. The base Solstice starts at $22,165; the Sky (admittedly, a higher trimmed model - but still) starts out at $25,525.

    The GM twins are striking cars - visually. But you're also struck by their high curb weight (for a compact roadster, 3,000 pounds is ridiculous), uninspiring engines, lack of a standard six-speed gearbox at a time when six speeds are a given in this class - etc.

    I won't even get into the GM twins compromised interior layouts and terrible ergonomics. (Well, not right away, anyhow.)

    Numbers-wise, the Miata is capable of reaching 60 in about 7.3-7.5 seconds, depending on how quick you are with your gear changes. The Solstice/Sky twins are about 2-3 tenths slower, in the 7.7 range. But they key difference is not in the numbers; it's in the feel.

    I'll get to that shortly... .


    The Miata is a fantastic sports car - maybe the closest to the ideal of weight, balance and eagerness to be driven at anywhere near this price there has ever been. But it is also a great everyday car - something few, if any, serious roadsters ever achieve.

    As far as that intangible and subjective thing called feel: The Miata's suspension (standard version; sport package models are firmer) has a lot more give than, say, a Honda S2000 - but it's more tight and connected to the road than the Sky or Solstice. It wants to corner - but it's not so single minded about it that you dread less than perfect asphalt or rides that last longer than 30 minutes at a time.

    It doesn't need huge (and expensive) tires to achieve high levels of lateral grip, either.

    The standard SV comes with 16 inch rims and tires - 17s being optional. The 17s are nice but hardly necessary to have a great time going up and down your favorite mountain road.

    Pretty cheap to replace, too!

    The Miata's "just right" proportions and steering that's neither too light nor too heavy make point and click directional changes almost subconscious.

    You just get in - and drive.


    Though there have been evolutionary changes through three generations since the original 1989 Miata, it remains faithful to the classic British sports car ideal - just much better built.

    There's a new Special Edition package for 2008 that comes in Icy Blue paint and gets loaded to the roof with all the equipment and features you'd get in a Grand Touring (heated leather seats, up-rated Bose premium audio rig, fancier cloth top and silver interior trim pieces) plus electronic stability control, a limited slip rear differential and remote keyless entry.

    Some buyers may like the idea of the Miata's newly optional electric top - but it really isn't necessary. Raising and lowering the standard manual top is so easy a caveman could do it. And besides, it adds weight and expense - and complexity - to the car. If you are physically challenged, ok. But otherwise, it's not necessary to enjoy the car.

    The Miata's interior layout is one of its strongest cards. It's cozy, but very comfortable and vastly superior to the cheap-looking and user-unfriendly design of the Solstice and Sky - which are maimed by grotesque flaws such as unreachable power window switches tucked so far back on the door panels that you literally cannot get to them without reaching over and using your right hand to work them and cupholders that are placed so far back on the center console that you cannot touch your drinks without using you left hand to cross over yourself while rotating your torso in the same direction.

    Whew! And that's just the beginning. Seriously. Compare the Miata to its two closest rivals and you'll agree it's no contest on this score.

    And utility? Well, it's a two-seat roadster. There isn't much of a trunk. Were you expecting one? (Though it's roomy enough, at 5.3 cubic feet, to make road trips feasible.) And of course there aren't any back seats. It's rear-wheel-drive, too. Not a snow car. But that is true of any similar roadster on the market - and the Miata is less expensive, easier on fuel and a much better everyday driver than just about any of them.

    That is is pretty "useful" in my book.


    Miata made its name by reproducing the MG Experience - without the Brit car Balkiness, including electrical gremlins, oil leaks and premature rust-through issues. It is a superb car that just goes and goes and goes and goes. It's routine to see ten year old examples still in use as daily drivers (and weekend SCCA cars).

    You will absolutely get your money's worth - and then some.

    A few critics moan and bitch about the lack of standard electronic safety nannery such as electronic stability control - which isn't available on the lower cost, base model (you have to step up to the Grand Touring or SE models to get it). But that is part of what makes the Miata what it is - affordable, simple fun. If Mazda put all that electronic stuff into the car across the range, it'd be $25k instead of $20k - and a lot less bang for your buck. Besides, the car does come standard with ABS brakes as well as side-impact air bags. If that's not enough of a saaaaaaafety envelope for you, maybe you don't want really want a car like this anyhow.


    Few cars, now or past, are as likely to put you in a good mood - and make you feel good about driving. Yesterday's cars were a pain in the ass because they often did not work; today's cars can drive you up the wall not because they don't work well - but because they work you over. Laden with excessive, often suffocating layers of over-teched unwanted flapdoodle ranging from "mouse inputs" that make changing the radio station an ordeal to electronic Hildebeasts that won't permit a tire to chirp or a back end to break loose without frantically intervening in the name of saaaaaaaaafety.

    Thank god, the Miata is free of this junk - mostly. Or at least, as free of it as our nanny state will allow. You open the door, you get in and turn the key - and off you go.

    That's it.

    As a driver's car, it is superior in every way to the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. Those two have a high eye-candy factor- but their engines are sump pumps in comparison and their handling/response to your inputs almost oafish. Add terrible visibility - and god-awful ergonomics. Forget about it. They are like high-maintenance girlfriends. Great to look at but you get sick of them after awhile.

    The Miata's the one you'll want to marry.

    The Honda S2000's a sweet ride - but it is and always has been closer to a full-boogie race car than a street-duty sports car. Big Fun to drive all out - but buzzy and not so fun at anything less. It's also a lot more expensive. So is anything else that is comparable in terms of the "true roadster experience" - from BMW's Z4 ($36,400 to start) to the Porsche Boxster ($45,800) to the Lotus Elise ($46,270).

    The Miata may not be as quick in a drag race, but it equals or even surpasses them as the embodiment of the classic sport roadster.

    And unlike those near exotics, you can park a Miata on the street without worry. It won't cripple your finances for the next ten years, either - and your wife won't think you're trying to make a point about your penis.


    A good time never goes out of style.


  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Feb 2007

    Re: 2008 Mazda Miata

    Just posted this article on the main page with pictures:

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