I recently test drove a Mazda MX-5. (It's known as a Eunos Roadster if you're from Japan, or a Miata if you're from America.) Specifically, I drove a 2008 Grand Touring, low miles, 6MT, limited slip, white body with black cloth top and black leather interior.
AND I ABSOLUTELY ADORE THIS CAR.
Seriously, this breathtaking machine is the kind you hear about in fairytales, the stuff you always think is too awesome to truly exist. Well, at least until you encounter it in the flesh. Or the metal in this case.
This car isn't drop-dead gorgeous. Far from it. Compared to greats such as the Ferrari F40, Pagani Zonda, and Lamborghini Countach, you could even say she's a tad homely, like the girl in school who isn't quite smokin' hot. To me, however, that's what makes the appearance come together. She doesn't need to rely on the car industry's equivalent of makeup, that being ridiculous, overdone swooping curves and aggressive angles that could slice pedestrians' legs off. Her natural beauty is all there. This particular example was white with black top, a color combination made in heaven specifically for Miss Miata here to wear with pride and grace. In white, this car is pure, showing off her spectacularly crafted lines and curves as they are and letting beauty fall in the eye of the beholder - but that black top beckons "come hither" to those deserving of her true nature. (More on that later.) The Miata looks unlike all the rest of the cars on the road in that she doesn't feel the need to wear what's fashionable at the moment, but still manages to win us over with well-preserved and well-made perfection.
However, let's put skin-deep attraction aside and take a look at the heart and soul: the drivetrain. The engine is a four-cylinder, much like the engines of Miatas past, but it displaces two liters this time around. Yeah, it's not powerful, with only 170 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque to work with, and it's far from the meatiest sounding engine, but the magic of this car is that it doesn't need insane massive batshit crazy amounts of power to be fun. The clutch pedal has just the right amount of springiness and stiffness to it, and the clutch disk itself eagerly grabs in a manner befitting the general demeanor of this car (again, more on that later). The six-speed manual gearbox the aforementioned clutch belongs to is even better, however. First through fourth gears have triple-cone synchronizers that feel like they outright suck the shifter into position during every gear shift. The action of moving this shifter is akin to a well-oiled bolt-action rifle, and provides such unmistakable feedback that even the most unfamiliar hands will instantly know which gear they're in with certainty. The final component of the drivetrain, after the driveshaft but before the axles to the rear wheels, is the differential. I don't know how Mazda engineers designed this diff, but it just plain works. It's a torque-sensing unit (which means it locks the rear wheels together more firmly the more power you give it), and it does a damn good job of making sure the power goes where the traction is, while still letting the tires spin at different speeds going around corners.
Things get even better when you step inside and plant yourself into the nicely furnished leather seats. Power adjustment is a fairly standard thing, and its presence didn't really affect my impression, but it's nice to have even for the one time I'm setting the seat up for myself. (I'm not letting anyone else drive her around. She's MINE!) These seats may not be fuzzy, but they evoke a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, like you sit down and the car suddenly gives you a nice, huge glomp as if to say, "I missed you!" The steering wheel is fantastic. It's nice and thick and grabbable, not so much to be out of reach of smaller hands but it's certainly thick enough that I can wear gloves and still get a sure grip. The shifter handle is just as good as the shifter it's shifting, and if you were paying attention earlier on, I adore the transmission in this car. It's the perfect grip for the motions the arm and wrist have to make to move the shift lever through the gates from gear to gear, and does so without callousing your hand to boot! This shifter, these pedals, and this steering wheel move smooth as butter and feel fantastic from a tactile point of view. The rest of the interior, however? To say the rest of the interior falls miles short is an understatement. Granted, you don't buy a car like this for the stereo, but it's just your standard meh stereo. The plastics in this interior feel cheap and run of the mill. I wouldn't be surprised if they got the plastic from recycled Tic-Tac containers. It's disappointing when the rest of the car is so ahead of anything else out there on the road today, but in the end, it's still built to a price like this.
But then I start the car, and the little gripes I have about the interior simply melt away. This clutch plain grabs, I cannot stress this enough. This is my first time driving this car and I've already given it a well-practiced flick into first gear. Driving it around the block, running it through the gears, it drives pretty nicely. It soaks up the bumps, tracks dead straight and behaves like a hot knife through butter. However, as much of a sweetheart Miss Miata here is, to appreciate the work the Mazda engineers put into her build, you have to drive this car, and drive it hard. The first time you take a fast corner, you notice the tremendous capability of the Miata! She's small, and with that, she's lightweight, so the 170 horsepower actually isn't that underpowered, especially for the skinny street tires they fitted. This thing grips if you know what you're doing, slides if you don't (or maybe you do, Drift Hero), and this sweetie just plain works. You have to be patient and learn how to properly control the car, but an expert can put that Miata right where he wants to. That's the true beauty of this car. She's easy to learn, but hard to master, and perfectly willing to teach you if you just spend the time to practice.
To sum it all up, I'll say it again: I absolutely, positively, glowingly adore this car. It fits like a glove. I in fact wish I could have afforded the Miata right then and there, so I could continue this relationship. Frankly, that's the real reason I wanted to put this review of a car I recently drove on paper. I felt a budding relationship, a sort of bond between Miss Miata here and I. I miss this car already. That's the part of being a car guy that I feel people who aren't car guys don't get, really...