Okay, so I'm not going to pretend like I've been immersed with the MX-5 or Miata experience since the beginning of time. I have never driven any MX-5 from any generation. It's honestly never been on my list of cars to drive. I know many people that have said only the best things about the MX-5 from the very first model up to today's current offering. Having been born in 1988, it was inevitable that I would have at the very least, heard about the Miata. I know that in the West, it's known as a hairdresser's car or a sports car for girls. Of course, people in the East are quick to dispute that, since here, it's a bit of a cult car. To many that reside in the East, it was the purest sports car that money could buy. It was a reality more than a fuzzy scarlet dream.
"It's almost as if a Jaguar F-Type banged an Aston Martin DB9 at midnight and gave birth to A baby, then dropped it off at Mazda's orphanage center."
Here in the Philippines, a lot of Miata owners are real and genuine car guys. These are the people that can talk to you all day about modifications they've made that have completely altered the character of the car, and they can go on and talk to you about what their MX-5 ate for brunch last Sunday. So when the lady gave me the keys to the latest all-new MX-5, I started my pilgrimage to what has possibly been one of the most talked about and most revered driver's car of all time.
The first impression I had upon seeing it in the flesh was that it was really tiny. A little bit of fear beset me as I questioned if I'd even fit in the car. Other than that, it's a genuine head turner in my book. I've read some pieces on this car stating that they're not quite sure about the styling of this current generation MX-5. On the other hand, this is the only MX-5 from any generation that I seem to like. I love how the weird smiling face has been wiped off by an angry snarling nose. The 'Kodo' design has come to play perfectly on this roadster. Mazda, from a design point of view, are on their zenith. They easily make the most beautiful cars this side of the East, and this roadster is no exception. It's almost as if a Jaguar F-Type banged an Aston Martin DB9 at midnight and gave birth to a baby, then dropped it off at Mazda's orphanage center. Believe me, this one is a looker.
"It is just the most effective and simple top down mechanism I've ever experienced."
After about ten minutes of ogling at the beautiful lines of the car, I decide to hop in. It's quite tight inside. It'll tend to bring out the claustrophobic person in you. Upon adjusting the seat and the steering wheel to my preference, the claustrophobia washed away slowly. Let me insert also that the steering column can only be tilted, and is without any telescopic adjustments. It's part of Mazda's efforts to save as much weight wherever possible. Don't worry though, once you've played with the seat adjustments enough, you'll soon find yourself in one of the best driving positions from any car out there. Soon you'll be able to appreciate the sea of black leather and red stitching, and the body colored panels that swim through the car's interior. Ahead of you will lay a perfect instrument panel with a giant tachometer at the center and through the windshield will be the humps of the front fenders on a perfectly chiseled supermodel's face - very reminiscent of a Ferrari 458 Italia from the driver's seat.
After minutes of being stationary, I finally brought the car out to the city. Within a meter or two of moving forward, you can instantly tell that this car is an athlete. It's lean, energetic, and ready to run. It has an eagerness to it, that is only tamed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Sat in Friday night rush hour traffic, I couldn't figure out the personality of the MX-5 yet, so I decided to fidget with all the equipment that comes with the car, which it surprisingly has plenty of. Considering that Mazda has gone to great lengths to shave off a gram here and there, they haven't forgotten that it's still going to be a car that'll be used by the people of today. So in this car, you'll find one of the best infotainment systems in the business with the same beautiful screen that graces the Mazda3 and Mazda6.
"It shifts beautifully, and it rev matches deliciously on the downshifts."
It has also been blessed with a stupendously precise Bose audio system with 9 speakers that I couldn't seem to find. Oddly, the car comes with a DVD player. How it works, I have no clue. I didn't bother. I finally arrived in my house, drained by the chaotic traffic and ready to hit the sack. I was not even able to really acquaint myself with the car. I promised myself that tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow came and my iPhone's alarm set a nuclear warning at 4:30am, and by 5:00am I was right in front of the gorgeous MX-5. I got in the car to press the start button and fired up the engine before dawn, and just like that, the thick Saturday morning air was filled with the bassy and impatient chunter of a 2-liter engine. I lit a cigarette and just watched the car in its misty state as the engine worked its way to its optimal temperature. Why don't people ever talk about this bit? It's your intimate conversational time before you create unforgettable memories on the road together. Done with my cigarette, I hop in and head out.
By 5:30, I was already in Sta. Rosa and partially in-love with the MX-5. I would be lying if I told you that I wasn't missing a 6-speed manual gearbox. However, the automatic transmission is somewhat of a hero. It shifts beautifully, and it rev matches deliciously on the downshifts. It matches the character of the car so well, and there's an intangible delicacy when you race through the gears. I decided to pull over and drop the top as dawn was fast approaching. I was in awe that it took me no more than 5 seconds to drop the top. It is just the most effective and simple top down mechanism I've ever experienced.
"If the previous generation Miatas are half of what this is, then I would completely understand why so many people are under its spell."
So with the top down, I finally headed for the twisty roads of Tagaytay. With the traction control off, I aimed to unravel if the computers were hiding anything nasty, and found nothing. It is just the most involving thing to drive. The steering is lovely and precise. The body rolls through the corners with so much finesse, and when it decides to oversteer and whip its tail out, the chassis manages to correct and gather itself cleanly. It is mind-blowingly good. By this time, the sun was peeking out, and there were hardly any cars in sight. It was just me, with the wind on my face, the sky as my roof, and a piece of motoring folklore in my hands. If the previous generation Miatas are half of what this is, then I would completely understand why so many people are under its spell.
"It is measured in smiles per hour."
I have never been one for roadsters and convertibles, but now I also see the allure in it. There is nothing quite like going through a set of corners exposed to nature and hearing the sonorous exhaust note flirt with the redline. It is desperately romantic and is utterly a life-affirming moment. Mazda makes you feel like they have purposely built the MX-5 around you, the driver. It is almost as if everything in the car is set to trigger a rush of emotions. It's quick, but not the wide-eyed kind of quick that would make you wrap your car around a tree. For this country, it is absolutely perfect. I honestly have nothing negative to say. Maybe some added insulation from wind noise on the soft top would be nice, but I'm splitting hairs here. There isn't a single thing I'd change in the car, both aesthetically and mechanically. It is packaged to absolute perfection.
"It was just me, with the wind on my face, the sky as my roof, and a piece of motoring folklore in my hands."
Now, I can't really mention the MX-5 without mentioning the Toyota 86. For many years, the MX-5 held the crown as the affordable driver's car, but the 86 has convincingly stolen that and has been the undisputed benchmark in that category. The Toyota 86 has 200 horsepower, and the 2-liter Miata only has 160 horses, but it is also a whopping 200 kilograms lighter. This makes their power to weight ratio almost identical. You might ask which is better.
If it is going to be your track car or if you plan to drift and powerslide your way to the office, then get the 86. It is the better car to go sideways in, and it is most probably a purer experience on a race track. However, if you want to heighten your senses, feel alive, and fall madly and deeply in love - there isn't even a fight between the two. You need to have the MX-5. It is measured in smiles per hour.