Everyday Driver does car reviews for the masses; enthusiasts will prefer The Smoking Tire, but not everyone wants to know what it’s like to flog the snot out of a tuned Audi R8. Those of us with modest incomes want reviews of cars we can actually afford, instead of just cars we salivate over. I’ve owned Mazda Miatas or MX-5s for years, and I have to say this is a pretty accurate (and well filmed) review of Mazda’s latest generation. While Everyday Driver got most things right, there are a few key points I’d disagree with. Read on for the video and my rebuttal.
When I bought my current MX-5 in 2006, I had every intention of buying an S2000. I drove the Honda on three separate occasions, each time trying to convince myself it was the car for me. It wasn’t, for one key reason: the Honda makes nearly all of its power at top end. This is fine on the racetrack, where you can wind the car out to redline in every gear, but it’s less than ideal for the real world of rush hour commutes and driving residential streets. Despite nearly a sixty horsepower advantage, the S2000 felt slower than the MX 5 in normal driving, and the Honda’s lack of torque made stop-and-go driving in traffic a chore. As a weekend only car, the S2000 would have been fine. As a daily driver, I preferred the MX-5.
That said, I agree that the S2000 has a significantly better suspension out of the box. I tested the handling limits of the S2000, but couldn’t find them at 2.5 times the posted limit on a highway onramp. Unless you’re looking to lose your license, you’ll never come near the handling limit of the S2000 on a public road. Straight off the showroom floor, the Mazda has more modest limits. Much of this comes from the MX-5s SUV-like ride height, necessary to meet pedestrian impact standards. Change the shocks, swap the springs for Mazdaspeed coils and stiffen the sway bars, and the current MX-5 is an entirely different beast. In fact, I’d say it’s nearly as capable as the S2000 in corners with these few simple changes.
As for power, if the MX-5 disappoints then you really don’t understand the car. Sure, more power would be nice, but I’ve never felt that the current generation is underpowered. You don’t even need to add a blower to get more power, as simply changing the exhaust from the engine back, adding a cold air intake and reflashing the ECU will get you modest gains. If that’s still not good enough, Flyin’ Miata will sell you a very well prepared second generation Miata with an LS3 motor under the hood. If that’s still not enough power for you, see a therapist.
As for the track day thing, it’s not quite as easy as Everyday Driver makes it out to be. Most organizations (NASA, SCCA, etc.) have very specific rules about rollover protection in convertibles. The factory hoops in the MX-5 don’t meet their standards, and neither do most of the other non-braced bars on the market. There are a few that currently look promising, but I’m not convinced they’ll be NASA approved just yet, and I’m not going to spend $600 to $800 on a roll bar that isn’t track-approved. I promise an evaluation of roll protection in the MX-5 later this year.
So what’s the bottom line? The MX-5 really is the Swiss Army Knife of sports cars, and it’s one of the few that can be driven at 100% each and every time you climb behind the wheel. If you love driving and you haven’t tried one, go visit your Mazda dealer. The whole chick-car stigma goes right out the window after your first trip to redline and your first rev-matched downshift. Like the Italian roadsters of old, the MX-5 has a personality that’s lacking in a lot of modern cars.