In short, the new Miata was kind of fun but definitely nowhere near as good as an NA Miata.

Over the weekend, I thought I would see what all the fuss is about for the ND ‘MX-5' and at the same time test drive the new updated and upgraded BRZ/86.

First up was the Subaru dealership. My visit lasted 5 minutes. I walked around to see if there was the exact car I wanted, WR Blue-like every BRZ should be-manual. There wasn’t any in that configuration, but there were a TON of automatic BRZs. There was actually only one manual BRZ on the lot and it was the series Yellow. I track down a salesman and tell him my situation, but he was busy helping another customer and referred me to the manager. I then tell this manager I’m interested in buying a BRZ and wanted to test drive in order to cross shop with the new Miata.

He then comes up with the dumbest response I’ve ever heard. “Are you gonna buy the car?” After giving him my best ‘Da fuck I look like?’ look, I followed up with the obvious “uhhhhm I would like to see if I like the car before I plop 30 GRAND on it?” He responds with “we don’t do test drives for BRZ and WRX.” Well, color me shocked. The two cars on your lot that would get the MOST benefit from test drives, and you refuse test drives. And then he says “if you buy it, then you can test drive”. Holy. Shit. What does that even mean? If I buy the car, then I can ‘test’ drive it? I immediately left and said “Ah that makes perfect sense!”

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Same story with Toyota dealership but I expected the idiocy this time around so it lasted exactly 1 minute. Went around lot, saw bunch of automatic 86's—seriously, who is buying these?—saw only one manual, in some special edition orange color, probably called series Orange or something equally meaningless. Salesman came over and said you like the car? I said, well I am looking to buy one but would need to test drive it to see how it feels. He apparently had no idea what that meant, and said “You like the car, you buy?”. I really didn’t have time to go through this again, so I just left.

Seriously Subaru and Toyota, if you’re going to sell a driver’s car, train your dealership employees so that they at least know the potential buyers of these vehicles don’t just walk in, fall in love with the shiny paint and new Android Auto infotainment and pick up BRZ/86's like your toaster XV Crosstreks, and RAV4s.

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On to Mazda. Awesome experience. I got a car guy salesman! I told him I have an NA Miata but would like to test drive the new one to see if I would consider replacing it or trading in my Veloster. I got to sit in the RF, and tested out the power top. Sadly, the RF doesn’t feel like an open top because so much of your rear view is blocked and there is a giant bar over your head. It felt more like a panoramic sunroof. It looked great, but definitely not for someone looking for true top down, Miata-life experience.

I then moved on to the car I really wanted, the Club with Brembo/BBS package. Got in, put the top down, and was greeted by open air, 270 degree view. Ah, this was much better. There was much to like, the direct shift feel—still had the good old vibration coming through that would communicate what was going on with the engine and transmission—the growling exhaust note, the progressive brake feel and extremely light clutch.

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There was however, much to disappoint. The electric steering felt completely dead, especially compared to the NA Miata, and even compared to my Veloster, felt just as electric and synthetic. The engine had no willingness or an extra 10% it was tucking away to offer at high RPM. It felt like once you were past 4k RPM, it was going to be the same mediocre power from there on. I’m definitely no power junkie but an engine should make its power correlate with the growing noise and speed of its components. You don’t even need an extremely peaky powerband to achieve that, but it’s just about making me feel like I need to put in the work to get the most out of the engine.

Anyway, it is a worthy successor and the ND Miata is the one to get if you want a new car, have the cash, and want the modern look and tech. But it just doesn’t have the same raw sensory feedback overload only a hydraulic steering, cable throttle, 90's Miata can give you at road legal, puttering around town speeds.

In the end, it just wasn’t good enough to trade in my Veloster or part with my NA. The good news is now I appreciate my Veloster way more. It compared surprisingly favorably to the ND Miata in terms of fun and I seem to have the best of both worlds with these two cars.