The answer, as another website once said, is always Miata. And who am I to disagree with that? There are few things a gearhead can ask of a car that a Miata, from any of the now four generations, cannot do.
Look, I’ll get my prejudices out of the way right here at the top: I love these cars. Miatas are, all things taken into account, one of the best cars a car enthusiasts can own. I’m on my second one at the moment, a 1994 R-Package that I acquired from a friend that won ProSolo Nationals with the thing. Twice.
Yes, I grew up in a British sports car family. Yes, that has colored my opinion of what is “acceptable” in a car and what is not. I often say a Miata is the best British car I’ve ever owned, and I’m only half joking. They, and I mean all four generations of them, turn in like Emma Peel’s Élan and are forgiving like my brother’s TR4A (poor guy owned three of them in high school and college). They go, turn, and stop just like you ask them to.
They grip like a simian and can stop on a dime and give you nine cents change.
And, the cherry on top, is they are cheap. The cost of entry for a new one is low, and used ones are laughably affordable. Maintenance? Are you crazy? They cost next to nothing to run, and they run forever. Yes, they have their downsides. The trunk is the size of a lunchbox. Yes, they need more power, but I know guys that got AC Cobras that are whining about more top end. So deal. Keep that right foot planted and steer the thing.
It usually works.
The new 2017 MX-5 Miata soft top is arriving at dealers nationwide this month, and, as usual, they’re cheap like the budgie. The Miata keeps its $24,915 base MSRP, which is about . . . no wait, that’s less than a minivan, isn’t it? If it is, you have no excuses to not buy one.
Safety & Security
Mazda points out how the new Miata has more standard safety equipment for 2017.
Sadly, this is the usual safety geegaws that do for you what you should be doing for yourself. For 2017, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert are standard equipment for MX-5 Club models. Before, you could only get these on the MX-5 Grand Touring, but who am I to complain?
Having this stuff in the car, and shoot, almost every new car these days, most likely keeps the lawyers at bay, and it does help if you’re a completely inattentive boob.
With trim level choices, you get three: the entry-level MX-5 Sport, the leather-lined MX-5 Grand Touring, or the more performance focused MX-5 Club.
The most interesting of the triplets, to me anyway (and unsurprisingly) is the MX-5 Club. It’s the spiritual successor to the all-conquering, “light makes right” R-Packages of 1994/95. The 2017 Club is highlighted by red stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and shifter. There’s a limited-slip differential and a shock tower brace in models equipped with the six-speed SKYACTIV-MT manual transmission (which is the one you want).
There is also a front aerodynamic body extension and spoiler, and a Bilstein suspension set up. For all you AutoX cone-killers out there, this is the one you want.
If you want more, you can also spec the Club model with a Brembo/BBS Package. This gets you side still extensions, lightweight, forged BBS wheels, and front Brembo brakes with red-painted calipers. The MX-5 Club also comes with a nine-speaker Bose audio system with headrest-mounted speakers, and MAZDA CONNECT, which makes phone, satellite radio, audio, and infotainment controls accessible through the seven-inch touchscreen and commander control knob interface. Sadly this cannot be deleted. Then again, I’m not a big car stereo guy, since my right foot is playing a very enthralling tune, especially in a car like this.
The 2017 MX-5 Sport is much more basic, with stuff like black cloth seats, bright-finish 16-inch wheels, and one USB port. However, Bluetooth phone pairing, a six-speaker audio system, leather-wrapped shifter and handbrake, cruise control, power mirrors and windows, and LED headlights are among the list of niceties. The MX-5 Grand Touring is the more comfort oriented of the three, with leather seating surfaces with three-stage heating, automatic climate control, and navigation.
There are a host of other features too for the Grand Touring: automatic headlights, High Beam Control with Adaptive Front-lighting System, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. There is additional sound damping stuff wadded into the cloth headliner. Nice touch.
An Advanced Keyless Entry doohickey is standard on all models with an automatic; it’s a $130 option on Sport and Club models equipped with a manual transmission. Which brings us to the best and most important feature on Mazda’s Miata: the transmission.
I am not one of those neo-luddite nutcases that dislike semi-auto gearboxes. I find them to be fantastic technology that does not detract from the driving experience one iota. Miatas, however, are not available with a semi-auto box. They do have an automatic transmission with stepper paddles, and it’s not all that bad. But c’mon! Their manual gearbox is probably the best out there, and one of the best ever made. Period.
The only thing I’ve driven with better gear selections are Formula Fords and other cars of that ilk. And yeah, I mean the shifter on a Miata is as good as Ferrari gated shifters from the 60s. No joke. The throws are super short, positive, and well oiled, like the bolt on a sniper rifle. Clack-snik-BANG, clack-snik-BANG, clack-snik-BANG, and you’re on the freeway.
By almost any measurement, the 2017 Miatas are seriously, seriously worth considering. The Miata MSRP ranges from $24,915 for the MX-5 Sport with the six-speed manual, to $34,925 for the MX-5 RF Launch Edition with the six-speed automatic. I’d be getting one, by hook or by crook right now, but I still have the R-Package. And I’m not giving that thing up any time soon.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.