If you have been following my (sort of) weekly writeups, you might have read my last article Chronicles of the Miata Life where I mentioned you wouldn’t be reading yet again why the MX5 is such a good car.
Well, I was wrong. Today I’m writing about it!
And there is a reason for that too. Last week at a meet with some friends, I was yet again pointed out over nine thousand reasons why the MX5 sucks. As I’ve mentioned before, that’s part of the #miatalife, but still, I ended up leaving that meet with the wrong impression about a number of people. Could I be so blind that there are cars much more interesting out there than the MX5? Should I follow their teachings and trade it in for a remapped VW Golf TDI to do some street racing? Trade in the welded diff for the welded steering wheel?
We have to go through a little of back story to find that out…
Meet my Punto.
This trustworthy piece of machinery has been a project of love and passion for quite a few years. If you have read it’s story (it’s in my garage), it was a family afair turned into a no-shortcuts automotive thrill.
The car has undergone a fully custom swap with the same engine that equips the newer Abarth versions of the Punto and 500, and it is now being completely restored, after the 15 years of abuse have taken their toll on the bodywork.
No expenses are spared on this car. I love it to bits and wouldn’t want it any other way!
Why do I own two MX5s then?
The Punto makes a great commuter, and it’s definitely a wonder to drive. But let me get this straight from the beginning: It’s no racecar. And being the car that it is, a small engined FWD hatchback, it may be as fun as you make it and as fast as you want it, but it does not compare with an MX5.
I have it on good authority that most people (at least over here, where car culture is stagnant) have never tried an RWD in their lives. The ones that have, have most likely tried crappy RWDs, such as heavy, diesel powered Mercedes-Benz or BMW cars. There are very very few cars that compare to the MX5 in several other determining factors, such as light weight, and it’s distribution, paired with short gear ratios and limited slip differentials.
Many people will get their kicks from what they have known throughout their lives. To most car enthusiasts out there (out here in particular), they have never known anything outside the big power figures, and diesel powered FWD heavyweight cars, and seeing who can race the nearest highway in the least time and most smoke possible.
And who can really blame them? I often refer to Maslow’s Law at work, and it applies here too: “It is tempting, when the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat all problems like nails”. When you know nothing outside the reality of the smoking FWD hatchbacks, it’s very easy to just assume there is nothing better.
Fortunately for me, I’ve been to both sides of this argument: I’ve driven my trusty Punto for years, and I still own MX5s. If they were any worse, I would not have them as I would not have any need for them. So why are they so good?
For one, and this is the key factor, the driving dynamics of the car are impressive. No MX5 owner will ever care if the car is slow, or if the other guy’s car is faster or more powerful. It’s not what the car is about: Driving an MX5 is about the pure joy of driving. Ask any MX5 owner, or anybody who’s had a chance to drive it (except Chris Harris of course): Has anyone ever felt miserable behind the wheel of an MX5? Short answer: No.
Secondly, the car is highly tunable. You may keep hearing those comments from the guy who owns some other car with his 1200kg and 175bhp how your MX5 is so much slower than their car. But when you think about it, it’s not true. Weight plays a big part there, and when you start cranking up the power figures, the rise in weight is not that noticeable. I’m sure there are many cars on the road that can be proud of meeting the 250bhp mark, but how many of those car reach 250bhp per tonne? That’s how much the MX5 weighs. Even with no power, it will still benefit from it’s great agility, but 250bhp per tonne is pretty standard for a mildly tuned MX5.
Skip the tuning part and just go out with an MX5 on a rainy day. I often find myself driving in absolute fear in some FWD commuter whenever it rains. But when you have an MX5 (or most RWDs for that matter), rain equals fun!
So, while the guy with the FWD hatchback on steroids will be complaining and living his miserable rainy commute to work, you’ll be having a crap load of fun. Even when you have a base version MX5, with an open diff and barely any power, it is still enough to put a huge grin on your face!
This is why I drive a fully stock MX5 on semi-slicks everyday to work. Epic fun is always achieved.
Finally, there’s the impression it makes on people. Because MX5s are widely regarded as unpractical, nobody wants to have them here. That makes them sort of an oddity on the road. You will get all kinds of different reactions from people, from the disgruntled guy who doesn’t like your noisy exhaust and stops to tell you off for speeding just for the sake of it, to the small children on the sidewalk shouting “Dad, dad, look at that awesome Mazda!”. It definitely does not go unnoticed.
So, to all the people who choose to have a biased opinion and hate the MX5 for no good reason, instead of trying one for themselves, sorry to say, you really don’t have a clue about what you are missing. Also, I get what most people say about MX5 owners being so blindfolded about their little cars, but then again, they say good things because the car makes them happy. Few things will make you this happy for what it costs!
And I’ve said it before, if a car does not make you happy at all times, then it’s a waste of your time and money.