What is it about the Miata that makes us fall in love?
It doesn’t make sense, really. The Mazda Miata MX 5 is a tiny little car that doesn’t seem like a good fit for anyone with any height or size. But, people who own them LOVE them. And it’s not limited to a certain age, location or body type. This lightweight durable little sports car has been capturing the hearts of its owners since it was introduced by Mazda at the Chicago Auto Show in 1989.
In my family, owning a Miata is almost a rite of passage. My parents have owned a couple, my brother owned one and I took on a “hand-me-down” Miata from my parents that I drove until it had well over 250,000 miles.
So what’s the attraction?
I know what I loved about my Miata—it was a fun little sports car. It was also dependable and—like I said, I drove it until it had over 250,000 miles racked up. Plus it was a stick shift and I’ve always felt that driving a stick is a true driving experience—you become one with the car. I’m only 5’2” so the smaller size of the Miata never bothered me. I did (briefly) date a large man who had to unfold himself every time he got out of my car. But, that amusing scene just added to the entertainment value for me.
Miata love started with my parents
My parents bought their first Miata after my mother fell off the back of my father’s motorcycle. (No one ever accused my family of being normal.) Here’s my mother’s comments about their Miata. ”We brought it because it is reasonable and very dependable. When I decided riding a motorcycle was not for me, Daddy got a Miata. He said I probably wouldn’t fall out of it—you never know. Also, when it gets too hot or rains, we can put the top up and be comfortable. They are really fun to drive in the mountains.”
And you can bet my parents will be out exploring in their Miata along the mountain parkways near their home in Chattanooga, Tennessee especially in autumn when the leaves are at their most brilliant.
It didn’t stop with my parents, could it be genetic?
My brother also bought a Miata. His story is a practical one…he’s sensible that way. “I had only the one Miata. I always loved little roadsters like the MGs when I was in high school, but they weren’t known for their dependability. In the late 90’s I was looking for a car and Miatas had been out since 1990. I could pick up a used one for not much money. The one I bought was used as a summer car for a couple in Chicago so the mileage was very low and being in a cold weather climate they also had a removable hardtop. That worked for me as I used it year around.”
He’s left his Miata days behind in favor of a Mercedes sedan that is better suited for driving around his real estate clients in Chicago. But he and his husband will hijack my parent’s Miata for a mountain drive every time they visit Chattanooga.
It’s not just my family
Other friends have weighed in on their experiences with Miatas. My friend, Shannon, once dated a guy who owned a Miata. When she sat her soft drink on top of the car, he flipped out. Needless to say their relationship didn’t last—but his relationship with his Miata remained strong.
A surprising thing I learned in my “Miata love” research was the number of senior citizens who love their Miatas. People are driving these little babies well into their 80s—and that’s just cool.
So what is it about these little roadsters that captures the hearts of its owners?
Modeled after the legendary British roadsters like MGs and Triumphs with rear-wheel drive, the Mazda Miata has become the most popular roadster of all time. When it was introduced onto the market in 1990, it had very little competition, but some would say this little sports car revived the industry for two-seater convertibles all on its own.
It’s actually a part of the MX-5 Miata’s mantra, what the Japanese automaker refers to as Jinba Ittai, which translates roughly in English as “rider (jin) and horse (ba) as one body (ittai). With a Miata, the driver and car operate in perfect harmony—just like a horse and its rider.
With the first generation of the MX-5, the phrase was developed into five specific core design requirements:
- A compact car as light as possible while meeting global safety requirements
- A cockpit that comfortably accommodate two full-stature occupants with no wasted space
- A basic layout would continue with the original’s front-midship rear-drive configuration with the engine positioned ahead of the driver but behind the front axle for 50:50 weight distribution
- All four wheels would be attached by wishbone or multi-link suspension systems to maximize tire performance, road grip, and dynamic stability
- A power-plant frame providing a solid connection between the engine and rear-mounted differential to sharpen throttle response.
Now in its fourth generation, the Mazda Miata MX 5 continues to be the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car in history.
The price is right, too
We all love the idea of driving a luxury exotic sports car, but most of us don’t have the budget for a Ferrari or Lamborghini. The Mazda Miata MX-5 brings us a lightweight sports car that’s fun to drive, dependable and affordable with a starting price of just $24,915. What’s not to love about that?