It’s 5am and I’m wide-awake. I usually don’t enjoy getting up this early, but today there is a little red roadster in my garage that I am quite smitten with. A one hour commute lies between me and my office and I’m looking forward to each and every mile ahead.
This week I am driving the 2017 Mazda Miata Club, with the optional Brembo package, which is the most track ready trim of the 2017 ND Miata. Today our race will take place on the scared back roads and crowded two-lane highways of eastern Pennsylvania.
As I begin my first commute in the Miata, I notice the intelligently designed cabin and the superb drivetrain. The clutch pedal is light and the engine is responsive. It includes Mazda’s standard navigation screen, which is easy to use and very well laid out. The 9 speaker Bose sound system in the Club trim is a welcome companion for long highway driving and easily quells the extra wind noise from the rag top. There is a lack of storage space for loose items like sunglasses and cell phones and the available space is far too small to hold more than some loose change. There is a glove box located between the seats where you can put some items and there are compartments located behind each seat. But this car doesn’t make it easy for you to bring stuff with you. Besides, any extra baggage will just ruin the power to weight ratio.
The Miata’s greatest strength is its svelte curb weight of only 2,400lbs, but to build this featherweight roadster required the omission of some creature comforts. The rag top and short gearing that makes it fantastic on back roads are not as much fun on highways. The engine drones while following the flow of traffic and the soft top makes you question if the windows are closed. These small inconveniences on the highway are completely justified once I drive through back roads on the second leg of my commute. The light clutch and smooth shifter make rowing through the gears a pleasure, which is helpful since this car requires a fair amount of shifting.
After proving to be a viable but comprised commuter car throughout the week, I took the Miata to its natural habitat: out on some curvy back roads in the Poconos. The Miata is the perfect tool for carving through the tight hairpins of these windy mountain roads. The tight chassis and forgiving Bilstein suspension allowed it to conquer even the roughest mountain pass with ease. The short gearing and playful engine require constant monitoring of engine speed to remain in the peaky power band and promote quick shifting during acceleration. The suspension has a good amount of give since the Miata was designed from the ground up to be a sports car.
As my drive through the Poconos continues, I’m grateful for the rag top that makes highway driving so loud. I easily fold the top down to a world of colorful autumn leaves and crisp mountain air. Thanks to the Miata’s heater, rolled up windows, and unseasonably warm weather, this early November morning turned out to be perfect roadster weather. Another bonus of having the top down is the aural pleasure of the Miata’s exhaust note, it’s no V8 but the little four cylinder is happy to sing along at high RPM’s doing its best Ferrari impression.
In addition to the beautiful driving experience, the ND Miata is by far my favorite Miata to look at. I would compare it to an angry minnow because of its angular head lights and bulging fenders. These features are a clear break from the curvy body of the original Miata, making this one exude a more masculine vibe. The rear end is reminiscent of an old Ferrari and the side profile shows off its perfect sports car proportions, with a long hood and stubby tail. The optional BBS wheels and black side skirts only add to the car’s aggressive nature and look especially good when paired with the Soul Red paint.
The Miata is incredibly fun to drive even at legal speeds. You’ll rarely find yourself in danger with the law. Manufacturers can make a car fun to drive at speed but it’s very difficult to make them engaging at low speeds. The Miata is the epitome of driving a slow car fast, allowing you to experience the car’s performance at legal speeds, which makes it more enjoyable on a daily basis. In a car this small and loud your perception of speed allows you to enjoy the sensation of high speeds without losing your license.
Instead of reaching for a 400 horsepower muscle car as your first real performance car choosing the Mazda Miata will teach you how to drive in a more manageable package. Buying something like a Mustang GT as your first sports car is like deciding you like guns and buying a Desert Eagle as your first handgun. It may sound like a great idea, but you may wind up crashing into a crowd at your next cars and coffee event, and we don’t need any more of that. Instead, the Miata features all the dynamics of a sports car, without the dangerous amount of horsepower. You can easily master the power and then focus on your own driving ability and have a blast while learning.
The Miata is always criticized for being a girl’s car for its lack of horsepower and tiny stature. This stereotype alienates it from many potential customers who are afraid of the unwarranted stigma. The quest to appear manly has lead men to do far too many foolish things, but ignoring the Miata could be one of the worst offenses. Choosing to ignore one of the best driver’s cars on the road to preserve ego misses the whole point of buying an enthusiasts car.
The greatest travesty of the Mazda Miata is sharing the roads with people who can’t be bothered with your enthusiasm. This Miata makes every trip exciting and long commutes a joy. It may be loud and a bit rough over the roads of the northeast, but it makes up for that with an engaging driving experience. I’ve never arrived at work more alert and happy than while driving this Miata because it’s difficult not to feel happy after spending time with it. This car will do everything in its power to make your drive a joy. That’s what a sports car should be all about.