The Mazda Miata (also known as the MX-5 in some parts of the world, such as the Japanese Domestic Market) is the most successful sports car of all time, at least in terms of sales figures.
You can’t argue with the success of the Miata/MX-5, nor can you argue with its enduring popularity.
Over four generations and more than 30 years, millions of people worldwide have enjoyed the superb blend of handling, just enough power, and top-down fun that the Miata brings to the table.
As just about anyone who has driven one of these cars will tell you, the Miata is always the answer if you want an affordable, fun sports car.
But is the Miata a girl’s car?
Depending on where you live in the world, there is a “negative” connotation/association between the Miata/MX-5 and being a girl’s car (or sometimes it is also called a “hairdresser’s car”).
In this edition of Car Facts, we are going to dig a bit deeper into the Miata and determine whether or not it is a girly car, as some people like to claim.
Table of Contents
Why Do People Think The Miata/MX-5 Is A Girl’s Car?
Fundamentally, the Miata/MX-5 isn’t a girl’s car. It is a car that anybody can enjoy for its many appealing characteristics.
However, there are a few reasons why the Miata has developed its certain “reputation”.
Here is why some people consider the Miata a girl’s car:
- Rounded styling – The Miata, with perhaps the exception of the current generation, is quite a rounded and “soft” looking car. For example, compare the NA Miata with the Toyota MR2 of the same era (SW20 generation) which is more angular and masculine looking. Styling is obviously a subjective matter, but the Miata doesn’t have the most manly look, simply based on its shape and angles. From some angles, it is a cute and friendly looking car, especially the NA with its pop up headlights. It’s important to bear in mind that the Miata’s styling is meant to hark back to the two seat sports cars/roadsters of old, but coming at the tail end of the “Angular 80s” it is possible to see how some perceive the Miata as looking feminine.
- Lower performance – The Miata has never set the world on fire in terms of performance. While the handling characteristics are superb, it isn’t a particularly quick car, at least not the earlier cars. “Manly” sports cars tend to focus on outright performance – think muscle cars and the like – whereas the Miata is more gentle in the way it drives. That is not to say that you can’t hustle the Miata hard, especially if you know how to drive properly. Furthermore, anyone who has driven one and knows about cars will tell you that you simply will not care about the supposed lack of power; you’ll be having too much fun. That being said, it’s somewhat understandable that the relative lack of power/performance of the Miata has led some to believe it is more of a girl’s car, because of its softer performance credentials. Let them think what they like, they are missing out big time!
- Convertible – Convertibles/soft tops tend to have a bit of a reputation for being preferred by females. It’s also hard to deny that convertible versions of other hard-top cars (such as the old VW Golf convertible) look more feminine. However, sports cars are for everybody – although in a country like New Zealand women might have a better time than men in the summer, as the hot summer sun makes short work of burning receding hairlines! One other thing to note is that in the 1990s, there weren’t amazing choices for someone wanting an affordable, soft-top roadster or sports car. Therefore, the female convertible buying market segment at the time was somewhat pushed towards the Miata/MX-5 anyway … as it was the logical choice over something like a convertible Mustang or Chrysler le Baron!
Perhaps the most critical component of the Miata’s perception as a girl’s/woman’s car is “selection bias” (for lack of a better term).
When the Miata was released, many female car buyers who were on the market for an attractive, affordable sports car decided to pick one up. It’s hard to blame them … at the time there were few alternative options, with cars like the MG-F not being released in all markets.
This, in turn, led to the development of the Miata’s perception as a girl’s car, but also meant that other female buyers were perhaps more likely to buy one themselves (as they saw people of a similar demographic driving a car – in some respects this is a bit like the automotive equivalent of organisation’s pushing for more diversity representation, with a belief that this, in turn, will attract more people from the previously under-represented demographic to their product/offer/brand)
Basically, the Miata’s initial popularity with female buyers led to more female buyers wanting to get their own Miata, and off the back of this the stereotypes started to emerge, in conjunction with some of the other reasons given above like the rounded styling, relatively weak straight line performance, and the inherent convertible nature of the car.
When I was first getting into cars back in the early 2000s, the stereotype for Miata/MX-5 owners was definitely more noticeable than it is today. Over time, it seems to have eroded, perhaps due to the number of people modifying their Miatas, racing them, or otherwise getting interested in JDM car culture. However, some elements of the stereotype have stuck over time.
Cars Are Fundamentally Genderless – But There Is A Catch
Simply put, cars are “genderless”. On this point alone, the Miata is therefore not a girl’s car – anybody can buy and drive one.
Cars are inanimate objects – they are tools to get us from A to B (and hopefully have some fun in the process … the Miata/MX-5 scores very highly here).
What this means is that cars are not inherently built for a specific gender – anybody can drive any car.
However, there is a catch.
Car manufacturers invest substantial time, money and effort into the marketing of their vehicles. This includes the process of determining who the “target customer” is for each car in the lineup.
During this market research and analysis process, a manufacturer might identify that certain characteristics would appeal to a certain group of people, and then this insight is used in the development process and marketing collateral for the car.
Mazda themselves deployed female-oriented advertising at various points for the Miata. Excuse the terrible resolution/image size, but you can see here an example of an ad that appeals primarily to the female buyer (for a limited edition Miata from 1997):
The first “action shot” of the Miata on a TV commercial from 1989 also features a female driver:
It’s clear from some of Mazda’s past advertising collateral that they saw distinct opportunity in going after the female car buying demographic, which does go someway to explaining why many perceive the car to be a “girl’s car”.
This is no different to how some manufacturers will show family scenes of mum, dad and the kids heading off in a new SUV or wagon – the manufacturer is trying to create an association between that model of car and the type of buyer they have in mind.
One other thing to note is that there is a bit of “self-selection” bias when it comes to cars and their buying demographics. As the Miata gained a reputation as being more of a feminine car, it’s possible that other female buyers sought out these cars and continued the trend (if you see people of a similar demographic to yourself buying something, then you might be more inclined to follow the herd).
However, none of this means that the Miata/MX-5 is inherently a girl’s car. It is a car for everybody, end of story.
Conclusion – Is The Miata A Girl’s Car?
No, the Miata is not a girl’s car. Nor is it a hairdresser’s car, or anything like that.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, cars are fundamentally genderless. Anybody can buy any car, and the car is a very subjective item – what one person likes might be hated by the next person.
With specific regards to the Miata, it is a superb sports car that happens to be owned and driven by a diverse swathe of the motoring population.
While something like a Dodge Viper or Toyota Supra is more stereotypically a “man’s car”, the Miata is definitely a car for everybody.
A lot of the stereotyping of the Miata/MX-5 comes from its softer, more rounded appearance, relative lack of “aggression” (i.e. it isn’t loud, shouty or particularly fast) and the fact that many perceive convertibles to be more feminine.
These are all subjective measurements, and have led to the development of a stereotype over time. However, you should not let that put you off buying a Miata/MX-5, as you’ll be missing out on one of the greatest cars of all time.
Some people might give you a hard time if you’re a guy buying what they believe to be a girl’s car … but the joke is on them as they are missing out on one of the finest examples of automotive engineering ever to grace the roads.
You do see plenty of women driving Miatas – and maybe there are some who have purchased one because they believe it is a girly car and they are after that in their choice of car, which is totally fine – but anybody can buy and drive a Miata … and considering how good these cars are, we recommend that everybody on the market for a two seat sports car should consider one.
No matter who you are, the Miata beckons as perhaps the best all-round choice for an affordable, fun sports car.
Interested in buying your own Miata/MX-5? Go here to read our Miata buyer’s guide and model history to learn more about how you can find, inspect and purchase the best possible example of this legendary sports car.
What do you think about the Miata? Do you like these cars? Have you owned one? Do you think it’s a girl’s car (or maybe you think it’s the manliest car out there!)
If so, feel free to leave a comment below and share your experience.