In January we took a trip to Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. I was told there are amazing roads and the preliminary research confirmed that, so I decided that a Miata is a perfect choice to rent. I haven’t driven any version of it before, and it’s another one of the sports car benchmarks that I feel I need to experience to broaden my horizons.
We picked the car up a day after we landed. The photos don’t show how tiny the car really is. This latest version has a lot more aggressive frontend and stance which really suits it. The previous generations always looked too soft to me but I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in this one.
It was amazing how I felt completely at home after just 5 minutes in the car. Everything is where it should be. The steering wheel, the gearbox, the pedals. You just get in and drive.
Engine & Gearbox
This was the base 1.5, 130 HP model. And it was… slow. Very slow. There is absolutely no way I would buy the car with this engine. Anything above 70 kmh and you feel like you’re squeezing everything from the car – while barely being able to overtake someone. And forget about overtaking anyone uphill. The new 2.0, 184 HP would probably fit the car perfectly.
The gearbox is fantastic. Nice, short throw and a good mechanical feeling when shifting. The ratios are close so that you have lots of work/fun driving through the corners.
The underpowered engine means the car doesn’t feel at home on the highway. While my GT86 feels good above 130 kmh+, the Miata feels best only up to 100 kmh. Above that, there’s a lot of wind noise, and overtaking often means shifting two gears down.
But, once you turn for the hills and the twisties… well, there is nothing better. The engine doesn’t feel underpowered, because it has just enough grunt between 40 and 80 kmh. Even the exhaust sound is pretty good with the roof down. The driving position and pedals are absolutely perfect. Heel & toe is incredibly easy at any speed and a lot of that can be attributed to the bottom-mounted pedal.
The roads on Tenerife were made for this car and it was an absolute joy exploring the island.
Even though the car had almost bald tires at the back, it still gripped unbelievably well.
The Miata is a proper toy. It’s lots of fun, really easy to drive, especially at low speed. Even a drive in the city with the roof down is a fun experience. The roof mechanism is amazing – you can put the roof up or down with one hand in less than 5 seconds.
All of that fun comes with a price though. The car’s practicality is horrendous. There is no glovebox. Almost no storage anywhere. The trunk is a joke. It would be fine for a weekend trip, but a week-long trip would require actual planning with the luggage.
Overall, I drove over 2000 km in almost two weeks on Tenerife. I got a good feeling for the car and it was an amazing experience.
I’d love to have it at home, though I’d probably decide on the bigger engine and the RF (hardtop) version for more day-to-day practicality. But it would be an option only as a second car, and I want to experience more cars first, especially something bigger than a four-cylinder. 🙂