Everyone should ride a Miata at least once
I don’t like long journeys. I tell myself that I do because I believe I should. After all, if you love to drive, shouldn’t you have great endurance for it? A four-hour trip – like the one I recently took from and to Wayne County Airport in Detroit to near Traverse City, Michigan for the Empire Hill Climb – is on that line of being unbearably long for me where my lower back is starting to hurt and I would like to be anywhere but between two places.
There was one edifying element to this trip, however: I had a news Miata for that, and I had never driven a Miata before. In fact, there were two positives, as the weather in Michigan turned out to be sublime throughout that particular weekend. Temperature constantly in the 70s, shining sun. If I was in another car there would be almost no point in mentioning all of this, but these things suddenly become important when you are sitting in a Miata.
I have never been a supporter of power, I have no use for it. I haven’t driven anything with so much to give either, which is how I keep myself from pining for cars I can’t afford. The Miata, I quickly understood, was made for me.
My particular Miata was an RF – Retractable Fastback is what that apparently means. It’s the one that looks a little weird, but in exchange for that weirdness, the roof is mechanically operated and goes up and down with the extended grip of a switch.
This roof is the most complicated thing about the Miata RF. The rest is very pretty, very elegant – it was the Grand Touring trim after all, with the light-toned leather seats – but ultimately very simple. There are no pockets to keep things in the cabin, except for a small lockable compartment between the seats; the Miata just isn’t big enough for that. I had to be very careful about where I put things in a way I’ve never had to, only driving fixed-roof cars all my life.
The trunk is surprisingly spacious, despite being located right next to where the roof goes.. But once you’ve packed all of your things, and provided the sun is still in the sky and clearly visible as it should be, you magically stop thinking about anything else. The Miata sneaks up on your behavior like that.
In the area of small, lightweight rear-drive sports cars, the new Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ are the closest I’ve driven to the Miata. I had a blast with both. On any given route, the Toyobarus and Miata are just as fun – that is, a lot – although they each have their advantages. For the covered contingent, that’s all the extra horsepower and torque you get. (This is less of a problem for the more recent ND Miatas since they got a big power bump two years ago.) In the meantime, I appreciated the roadster’s slightly heavier electric power steering. That, and the incomparable feeling of having nothing on your head.
I am not a professional pilot and have had two hours of track in 28 years. Other than the ’97 Ram 1500 that I inherited from my brother when I got my learner’s license, I hadn’t driven a rear-wheel drive car until last August. I can’t get the most out of the Miata even though there isn’t much. But the Miata doesn’t matter, and that’s what I like.
I got to the cars through video games before you even know how to read. The best analogy I can make about the accessibility of the Miata is that it’s like the automotive and bodily equivalent of one of those classic arcade racers I grew up with, like Daytona United States Where Rally Séga. The beauty of these games was that you didn’t have to be good to enjoy them, but once you were, they felt like an extension of your nervous system. Easy to learn, but you could spend a lifetime mastering them. The Miata looks like a car I could grow up with. And while I do this growing up, I would always have the best time of my life. It is a rare thing.
I miss that. I miss the sound. I miss the perfectly weighted and tactile short shots of his shifting which unfortunately marred my muscle memory and convinced me that something is loosening or slacking on my Party streetthe transmission. I miss that intangible feeling of freedom that only a nimble little convertible offers – the kind of car that makes you feel like you can be done. the as easily as fair here, and nothing will stop you. I don’t miss the cacophony of cabin noise when I had the roof on the freeway, or Mazda’s stupid decision to force humans with their index fingers to use a rotary dial to navigate Apple CarPlay when the car is running. ‘is not at a standstill. In the grand scheme of everything although, these reproaches to feel insignificant.
On the morning of my long trip back from Traverse City to Detroit, my colleague Rory drove us into the Miata around the corner for coffee. Rory said he thinks the Miata is in the top three or four cars currently on sale. I had no basis to agree or disagree with him, since I probably drove a tenth of what he has. Still, I guess if I already share this idea and claim it after a much larger sample size, there must be something to it.
A few hours later, I embark down the state. In retrospect, I would have liked to have done this trip in a week, as opposed to two weeks ago, so the leaves would have been the right color. I also wish that two-thirds of my route wasn’t straight-line highway driving and that I wasn’t on my way to an airport, my least favorite place of all in the world. But the truth is, when I was in the Miata, I didn’t dwell on these things too much. Everyone deserves to have this experience.