Mazda Miata test drive

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Finally I got to actually drive the Miata for a week.
I was really curious to compare it to the Solstice Turbo I drove a few months ago.
The model I had was a “Special edition”.
That comes only in a blue/silver color with a very dark brown interior leather.


The Miata has always been quite a good looking car to me. And I would say the current one is the best looking of all.
But even though it is the largest ever, it is still a very small car. It really shows when you walk up to it: it is just so low and tiny.
The design is modern and tasteful at the same time.
But to me, not as modern, striking and good looking as the Solstice.
But again, I understand this is just a matter of taste.

Well, of course, it seats pretty low, like any other cars in this class. But once inside, it’s actually OK. Not great, but OK.
The flat dashboard across in front of you makes the interior feel smaller than the Solstice.
It does have “super small car” feel when you’re inside. Again, more so than the Pontiac where the dashboard is design to angle away from the driver. Not as flat as the Mazda.
I was told by many readers how much better the interior would be, compared to the Solstice.
And I was quite disappointed.
Just like in the Pontiac, I couldn’t find any area, besides the door armrests, where any kind of soft plastic was used.
Sure, the cup holders are in the console. And the little compartment between the seats is lockable. But still no map pockets and hard plastics everywhere.
Plus, I actually like the dashboard design in the Solstice much better. And the radio in the Pontiac accept my iPod.
Although the Mazda will next year.
The major difference is the trunk. The Miata does have one. And a pretty useful one. Large enough for this kind of car.


I was surprised of how hard the ride was. My car had the 17 inch wheels. I’m not sure if it had some kind of sport suspension option, but it was one of the hardest riding cars I’ve ever driven.
And on our bad L.A roads, I got tired of it, really quick. The car is low and handles great, there is no reason for such a punishing ride.
Plus it made the car weird to drive past 65. It just didn’t feel stable. Not a car I would want to drive fast.

On the otehr hand, the Solstice had a near perfect ride: firm yet still very comfortable.
I just would drive the Miata on a long trip. The noise inside with the top up doesn’t help either.
You really need to crank up the radio. A lot.

Just like the ride, I thought the steering was too hard for this kind of car. It made the Z feel like a Lexus.
there is just no reason for it. I like a firm, or even very firm steering, but this is just too much.
And again, the Solstice steering was near perfect.

The 2.0 Liter engine had plenty of power. Pretty much all the time. Again, it didn’t sound as refined as I was told it would be.
But it did get the job done…

The 6 speed manual is smooth and very easy to use. This one is quite a bit better than the one used in the Solstice.
But I only averaged a bit over 23MPG in my week of driving. Which included about 35% freeway.
Not bad bust not great.
I did a bit more highway driving with the Solstice and got an average of 27MPG. With a 260hp engine.

Well, I have to admit I was disappointed by the Mazda Miata.
It does feel like you are driving a very tiny car, all the time. It’s cute, but it’s really not something I would take on a long drive across the state. The hard ride and the noise would drive me crazy. (Something I really do not need right now…)

And yes, I have to say, I still like the Solstice much better. I think it looks fantastic, but also drives much better.
While still being sporty.
Sure, there is no trunk.
The interior is a bit cheap. But I thought the interior of the Mazda wasn’t great either. And looked much more generic.
So nothing on earth is perfect.
Compromise is what we need to learn to live with. Or not.

I’m sure I will be getting lots of hate from Miata owners and lovers for this.
But hey, this is just what I think.

Conversation 13 comments

  1. Did I just read a blog entry in which a GM product was preferred to a Japanese icon? Interesting review, Vince! I really expected that the Miata would trounce the Solstice. You gave me something to think about.

  2. Vince,

    Thank you for the write up. While I disagree with you on the driving dynamics, I do feel you bring up some valid points. The interior finishes are a bit cheap. There are also too many colors and textures. The good news is that this will all be addressed next year (2009) with everything from softer plastics and new controls to revised storage.

    I think that the car is tuned very well. Steering is very good if a bit LIGHT at higher speeds. Handling is very predictable with gradual transfer from under to oversteer easily modulated with the throttle.

    You are the only auto writer I have ever read like the Solstice more than the MX-5. The Solstice is tuned softer to appeal to the a-typical american buyer. It is also a lot heavier and a bit larger as well. Fit and finish is terrible on the Pontiac. SImply look at the way the top fits when up and I dare anyone to argue the point.

  3. hate comin your way from a former Miata owner Mr Burlapp!!

    My first car was a (03) Miata and it was obviously my daily driver – I never felt it was too harsh in any way and thought just about everything was perfect about the car… except its a bit low on power (always has been)

    but as you said… each to their own

  4. “And I would say the current one is the best looking of all.”

    I have to disagree. Before it came out, I had been hoping that the Miata Mk3 would look closer to the lovely Ibuki concept from 2003, and I was very disappointed by the styling of the production car. It just took a couple of subtle cues from the Ibuki and the rest was just very continuistic. Which I suppose is commercially safe, but a bit boring after almost 20 years.

  5. I have to agree that despite some great reviews from car magazines, when I see it I am not impressed at all. It is a design of way in the past and time to try something more attractive and muscular. Just because it is a sports car, it does not have to look and feel so small. It looks meek at best, kind of girly!

  6. I drove the Mazda MX-5 (or Miata) in Germany some time ago, and it was the best drive I ever had, and I had many. I love sitting just a bit over the street and it’s handling is just superb as it’s steering and gearshift. I love the looks inside and outside and the color combo you drove looks outstanding. By the way, I drove over 220 km/h and it felt very safe 🙂 I just love it. Pontiac and Saturn/Opel are beautiful cars, too, but I would prefer the iconic Mazda…and it’s one of the most reliable cars.

  7. I sat inside the current gen Miata and was amazed by how cramped the interior was, I’m 5″11 and average fit and my knees touched the dashboard. My friend’s MR2 had more interior room than this and it handles like its glued to the road.

  8. I agree that the Mazda Miata is a bit unpolished compared to a lot of the other roadsters available. Its not gentle or subtle. But to leave it at that is to not recognize that thats also part of its charm. Its not a car to pamper you… just to give you an unfiltered driving experience. I feel that the Acura Integra was also that kind of go-kart all-about-fun kind of car, and has its spirit deleted by the polishing it got when it became the RSX. So, no hate from this Mazda owner. Just a different perspective.

  9. I wonder if your Miata had run flat tires as those have very stiff sidewalls and make for a “rough” ride. If not, then maybe the tires did not have the proper amount of air because even the Mazda optional suspension package is not harsh by any means. In fact, most owners find the stock suspension better than what comes with the suspension package and really only opt for it because of the inclusion of the limited slip differential for only $500. Anyway, you like the Solstice better and that is fine as well all have different opinions and it is nice to at least have the choices in the first place.

  10. i have one, its an average car, it loses its appeal fast. too much money for a toy i drive 25 times a year, don’t bother.

  11. I’ve driven both cars, Soltice (non-turbo) and MX-5 back to back at the same time over the same road. For me the Mazda is a much better car – better handling, more driver feedback, better build quality, smoother engine and gearshift. The Soltice is a Cruiser, the MX-5 a sports car. Vince is a cruiser car kind of guy.

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