“What car should I buy?” It’s a question consumers ask themselves every day, but what would associate online editor Duncan Brady drive? Keep reading for the answer, and see other editors’ picks here.
I don’t like big cars. Bigger cars go through expensive consumables like tires, brakes, and suspension components more quickly. Bigger cars use more fuel and chuck more pollutants into the air. A bigger car is harder to park, it’s more cumbersome in the corners, and most importantly, I just don’t need one. My grocery runs rarely fill more than a single reusable bag, and I don’t know a soul in this part of the country so I barely need a passenger seat, let alone four doors and a rear bench. I arrived in Los Angeles just five weeks ago and what I was most excited about (other than a sweet writing gig) was a chance to explore the fabled canyon roads that surround this city. I want to do so in a car that’s adjustable and communicative and will help me become a better driver. I want lightness, simplicity, and a manual transmission. I want a Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Sure, in the same price bracket I could have a Subaru BRZ or a Toyota 86, but I loathe the cheap interior of those cars and the flat-four engine note doesn’t excite me. A Volkswagen GTI might be a better daily driver, but it’s bigger and heavier than I need, plus its front-wheel-drive chassis lacks the potential for rotation that I crave in a performance car. Perhaps the Ford Fiesta ST would be a good fit, but that interior is even more Playskool than the Toyobaru twins and I don’t want to reward the folks at the Blue Oval for not giving us the new Euro-only three-cylinder FiST. No, the answer is, and may always be, Miata.
Specifically, give me a 2019 Miata Club with the six-speed manual and a soft top. The Miata RF’s power-folding hard top and fastback roof line are tempting, but I’ll pass on the extra weight and save my cash for tires and track time. Besides, the manually operated top is crazy easy to use and it goes down in seconds at any speed. The Club gets me Bilstein shocks, locking diff, better tires, and blind spot monitoring, all for a month’s rent over $30,000.
Mazda’s little roadster would be my perfect canyon companion. The Miata’s quick steering and short wheelbase (only 90.6 inches!) make for a car eager to change direction, and its cornering limits are low enough to explore at legal speeds. At 6’1″ I fit snugly in the MX-5’s tight cabin with little room to spare, but it’s a nice place to sit and comfortable enough for a long journey. For 2019, Mazda’s 2.0-liter longitudinal four-cylinder sees a healthy 26-hp bump to 181 horses and it now spins to a higher 7,500-rpm redline. That power output would be underwhelming in a car like the Chevrolet Camaro, but keep in mind that the Mazda is some 1,500 pounds lighter than the porky pony car.
Plus, I’ll take sensation of speed over extra miles per hour any day; I’m not chasing any lap times. Carrying higher speeds on public roads only adds danger to the equation, nothing more.
I would buy a Miata, this Miata, because driving is fun for me. I used to drive hours out of my way to find a road where I could drive intentionally, and pick my line through a series of corners. It’s fun for me to brake for a corner with the ball of my right foot, hit the clutch with my left foot, and boot the throttle with my right heel so I can lob up the revs, downshift, and catch them up high in a lower gear to power out of said corner. The Miata is no faster than it needs to be, no heavier than it needs to be, no more complicated than it needs to be. It’s just right, and it’s my perfect car.
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