One of the most popular and beloved sports cars in the whole world is the Mazda Miata.
Millions of these cars have been sold across multiple generations, and it’s a car that is loved by so many different people in countries across the world. If you’re ever asked for an affordable sports car, then people will often tell you that “Miata Is Always The Answer” (or M.I.A.T.A)
But why is this the case? How did this car become so popular in the first place, and what do people love so much about the Mazda Miata?
In this edition of Car Facts, we’re going to be looking at why the Mazda Miata is such a popular car, and exploring the reasons behind its place in the automotive world as being one of the most enduring success stories in the sports car segment.
Before we begin, if you’re thinking of buying a Mazda Miata (also called MX-5) then make sure you read our buyer’s guide and model history here.
Now, let’s look at the four biggest reasons why the Miata is such a success story:
The Miata Is Great To Drive
The first reason why the Miata is such a popular car and loved by so many is because it is genuinely great to drive.
The Miata has never been about raw power or even having the best handling in its class. Supercars, tuned performance cars etc will all blow the Miata away in a straight line or around a race track (especially if you’re comparing the original model, which is definitely a bit slow in terms of acceleration by today’s standards).
But guess what?
If you’re the person behind the wheel of a Miata, you won’t care that the guy next to you at the traffic lights is driving a Ferrari – because you’ll be having just as much fun as him, if not more.
Even a stock standard, low spec Miata is a joy to drive (provided it is all in good working condition in terms of engine, brakes, suspension etc).
In fact, Mazda’s sports car gem is proof that you don’t always need more power to have more fun.
While there is something undeniably appealing about getting behind the wheel of a crazy powerful car like a Toyota Supra or Nissan Skyline GT-R, you’ll quickly find that you need to do higher speeds and generally drive in an anti-social manner (for the road) in order to have maximum fun. However, because these cars are so pricey now you might not want to take your JDM performance monster or other “fast car” to the track either.
That’s where the Miata shines.
This is a car you can drive at 70, 80, 90% of its capability all of the time and not really be doing anything too stupid for the road (especially if you’re driving an older example – the newer generations are definitely a bit faster, although the trade-off is superior safety equipment and collision avoidance systems).
Your fire-breathing car might look like the most fun on paper, but in the real world with speed limits, traffic and cops around every corner, the Miata is going to be just as much fun – if not more.
You’ll quickly discover that you don’t need to be driving crazy fast in order to have a great time. Instead, you’ll get to relish in the delight of a winning combination of just enough power, tight handling, and the excitement of top-down motoring.
There is a reason most people who drive a Miata fall in love with these cars … they are simply some of the best driving cars out there for the money (or any money, for that example).
Compare something like the Honda S2000, which is no doubt a more impressive car from a technical and performance perspective. Prices on these are getting very high now, and so you have to ask yourself if paying several times more money is worth the difference. While the S2000 might be quicker, you’re not going to have just 20% of the fun in your Miata – you get 90% of the fun for 10% of the price (ok the math might not be perfect there, but you get the point)
They Are Affordable Cars
Another reason for the enduring popularity of the Miata/MX- 5 is affordability.
Being a car enthusiast on a modest budget can be a tiring exercise. Every YouTuber seems to drive around in modded supercars, and every Instagram influencer has enough spare cash to daily drive a mint condition Honda NSX or Mitsubishi Evo, or some other kind of “dream car”.
But for us mere financial mortals, finding something interesting to drive that is both affordable to purchase and affordable to run is not an easy task.
That is where the Miata also shows its strength.
Although prices on “modern classics” like the Miata are definitely climbing, these are still affordable cars. Even a brand new one is quite affordable by modern performance car standards, and depending on where you live and what the state of your local car market is like, you might be able to pick up a used example from low four figures. While prices definitely aren’t as low as they have been in the past, this is still an attainable car for the average person.
It’s not just the purchase price of the Miata/MX-5 that makes it affordable, it’s also an affordable option in terms of running costs.
Miatas tend to be reliable cars with simple maintenance requirements, and parts are not particularly expensive. Because there were so many of these cars sold across the various generations, parts availability is strong and there are also plenty of aftermarket options if required. This means that even if something does break, you should be able to source a replacement for a reasonable cost, rather than having to remortgage the house.
Basically, if you want a fun car that drives great, and which can be purchased and maintained for a realistic budget (making it the ideal first sports car or weekend toy) then there is little better on the market than the Miata.
Owners Clubs & Communities
Another reason for the Miata’s enduring popularity is that when you buy one of these great vehicles, you are not just buying a car but also joining a community.
Many cars and brands have owner clubs or meet up groups, but you’ll find that the Miata/MX-5 community is one of the strongest and most active.
Just about anywhere you go where the Miata/MX-5 is a common sight on the roads, you will find a community or group (either online or offline) that you can join to connect and make friendships with other roadster enthusiasts.
The Miata community is also known for being welcoming – at least that has been our experience – and it’s not hard to see why this is part of the reason for the popularity of these cars.
Therefore, if you want a car that also comes with many social opportunities, the Miata could be a great option!
The final reason why the Miata is such a popular car is that it makes a great basis for modification.
Whether you want to just tweak the brakes and suspension to improve handling, or if you want to do something crazy like drop a V8 in it, chances are someone has already done the modification you’re thinking of and there will be a way to make it happen.
While it’s entirely possible to go overboard (like Drivetribe with their V10 MX-5 project) there are plenty of simple mods you can do easily yourself, and for reasonable money.
Mods aren’t just limited to performance either; there’s lots you can do in terms of improving the comfort and ambiance of the interior, making your headlights and brake lights better and more effective, installing additional safety equipment like roll bars etc.
Generally speaking, extracting more performance out of a naturally-aspirate engine is harder than a forced induction engine, so if you’re interested in making your Miata more powerful then you might want to look to jump straight to turbocharging via a bolt-on option. However, there is still a lot you can do in terms of exhaust systems, intakes and the like.
We aren’t experts in terms of MX-5/Miata modification, but there are many great resources online – so whatever you want to do, we recommend Googling for an answer first and you’re almost certain to find something helpful.
The main point here is that because the Miata provides such a superb platform for affordable modification, many people love the car for this reason alone. The large number of cars “in the wild” combined with easy modification potential make this a popular choice for anyone looking to make their mark on a car.
Conclusion – What Makes The Miata/MX-5 Such An Enduring Success Story?
Make no mistake about it, the Mazda Miata is the most popular and best-selling sports car in the history of cars.
But why is the Miata such a popular choice?
To recap, we believe there are four key reasons why:
- It’s a great car to drive. In any generation, across any spec, you WILL have fun driving it and get out with a smile on your face (if you don’t, then you need professional help). You might not be in the quickest or best handling car, but trust us when we say that won’t matter one bit. The formula is a simple one, but an effective one and ultimately it’s the great driving nature of the Miata/MX-5 that has made it such a popular and legendary car.
- You don’t need to be rich to buy and own one. The Miata is an affordable car to purchase, maintain and run. While prices are definitely on the up – largely because all used car prices are climbing at the moment, especially classics – this is still an extremely attainable car. Just make sure you consult our comprehensive buyer’s guide before you do buy, in order to find the best car possible for your budget.
- There are lots of owner clubs and other communities. You aren’t just buying a car, you’re joining a family of like-minded enthusiasts. Miata ownership can be a great way to find new friends and connections.
- Good modification potential. Whether you want to change the look and feel or completely overhaul the performance of your Miata, there is lots you can do from a modification perspective. The other good news is that if you can think of it, someone else has probably already done it and posted instructions online.
There are other reasons for the Miata’s popularity, but we feel those mentioned above are some of the most compelling.
What other reasons do you think there are for the Miata’s continued success? Maybe you don’t like them and want to tell the world why. Leave a comment below to get the discussion started!