Lotus Elan, Alfa Spider or Triumph TR6: whatever flavor of roadster you want, Miata is always the answer. And the ND with the smaller engine plays the game of oldschool spider almost to perfection. Almost.
You must really like the MX-5 / Miata to come here reading about it, because Mazda are milking this car for every last drop: the press coverage is insane. Every single car hack, and their mothers are getting test cars. This is the coin Mazda pays for journo goodwill, and oh boy does it work: the Hiroshima company generally gets great, or at the very least forgiving reviews on all their models, not just the roadster. Of course that’s no problem, as their products are good, but it’s worth noting.
So there’s really not much new for me to write about this car, even if the one I drove for a week had the 1.5 motor, not available on the US market. This means there are no Brembo brakes, no Bilstein shock absorbers, and no LSD, while power tops out at 130 HP. On paper it seems you Americans aren’t missing out on much, but I have to say: add the LSD, and this car’s the closest to the perfect roadster the world has ever seen.
The Miata has it’s flaws and shortcomings. Even though this new one is the most comfortable yet, it still won’t fit everyone. It comes equipped with a lot of gizmos, but you still can’t put your phone anywhere it won’t fall out of, when accelerating briskly. And of course there’s the power issue: 130 HP is puny, even hot hatches in the same price bracket are out accelerating it. The Renault Clio RS gets 200 HP, damn it.
None of that shit matters though. None. The only real problem with the Miata 1.5, the only thing keeping it from being the roadster to end all roadsters, is the EPAS. There’s nothing wrong with the steering, it’s well weighted, quick and precise. But I jumped into my AW11, drove the same roads, and realized just how much information you miss in the ND. A true roadster should come without PAS, and the electric power steering system is the only point when the concessions it makes towards 2016 hinder the Miata on the quest for true greatness. Because this isn’t really a 2016 car. It just masquerades as such.
Lot of car writers will tell you the story how the Miata was born on the ruins of the old-school spiders. The thing they miss however, is that this isn’t a reinterpretation. No, this is a roadster made exactly to the standards set to roadsters back in the 1960s, just without the frequent repairs and leaking soft-top. It’s not like an MGB, it is an MGB - the gearshift for instance is basically the same, lovely mechanical and a bit heavy. The driving position is the same too, low and cramped. The noise the two engines make is similar, as is the fact they both put the small 4pot behind the front axle, creating a front-mid design on a footprint others would only dare to use for space-efficient FF city cars.
This also means the Miata isn’t for everyone. Not everyone want to, or in deed can live with a two-seater sports car, and even among those who do, not everyone want their two-seater sports car to be slow and uncomfortable. However, the true allure of roadsters has always been that you don’t have to pay much for it, and all of that will go into the mechanical bits, not the other, less important stuff. The easy access to an unrivaled motoring experience. Like driving 10/10th on public roads, with the electric nanny switched off, and still not killing yourself or others. To do this in a BMW Z4 or a Porsche Boxter takes a lot more money, and a lot more driving skill. And therefore neither of those is a true roadster, because they aren’t readily accessible. This car, the Miata 1.5 is. And I love it.
Don’t believe me? Yamamoto san, the guy heading the ND development drives a 1.5 with an LSD. ‘nuff said.