I wrote yesterday about how I finally sold my MG, and how conflicted it made me inside.
Here’s the other side of the story.
I have now owned a Miata for about two months and have driven it just over 1200 miles during that time. I have no regrets.
I loved driving my MG. It was (and is) a brilliant little sports car. It handles itself well, looks good, and has loads and loads of character. Despite the reputation that follows cars made in England, it has been pretty good to me. Sure, you have to be hyper-aware of everything in the car, or you’ll regret not proactively fixing that thing that started making a tiny little noise or smell, but once you learned what the car was saying to you, there is an understanding.
The Miata may talk to me too, but in 1200 miles I haven’t yet felt the need to listen in the same way. The joy of driving is similar in this car, but more simple. I need only enjoy the drive; I don’t need to concern myself with all the smells, sounds, and feelings that the car gives off as I drive. With the Mazda, I listen to the note of the exhaust for the pleasure of it, it’s not conveying any deeper meaning. I feel the vibrations of the road to enhance the experience of driving alone. The smells are of the surrounding fields, there’s no feedback from the slightly rich smell of unburned hydrocarbons, hot oil, or coolant.
15 years of habits are hard to break. I am still listening for new noises, sniffing for new smells, and sussing out where those vibrations originated. Once you learn how an old car talks, I’m not sure you ever really stop listening. But the newer car just isn’t saying anything. There’s nothing to report.
The MG and the Miata do not provide the same experience behind the wheel. But they are remarkably similar. Both cars are best driven using momentum conservation techniques. They don’t have the power to rapidly accelerate, so it’s better to maintain speed in the corners. They both reward you for doing that, and they both induce grins on demand.
I can’t say the Miata handles better (or worse) than the old girl that until yesterday shared a garage. I can say that the Miata is more comfortable on the same road. There’s a suppleness to her ride that makes a long drive a little less tiring. The silly extra features like cruise control and air conditioning aren’t so silly once I started using them (ok, air conditioning is still pretty silly). I appreciate how the car comes to life at the turn of the key, without fiddling with the choke. I love the extra power that that eager little motor provides. 140hp isn’t a lot in the era of the 180hp Toyota Camry, but it’s a lot more than the 75 the MG (optimistically) provided. The power is well packaged too—the little Mazda just loves to rev. Where the MG started to lose her breath around 4000 RPM, the Miata is just getting starting.
And when you finish thrashing her after a nice drive and it’s time to put more dead dinosaurs into the tank, I discover that I’m getting an average of 27.5 mpg. Again, I can’t claim that is some wonderfully great mileage, but considering that I’m hooning the hell out of this car, it’s pretty damned good.
When I first saw a Miata in a stable of British cars at the Bishop’s orchard in Garfield, Washington, I asked what they thought of it. The response was simple. “It’s what a British roadster would be, if the British had continued to build them.” I thought I understood what they meant at the time.
Now, I really do.