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Is the Mazda Miata Really That Great?

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author photo by Eric Brandt August 2017

The Mazda Miata is the roadster darling of the car enthusiast community. They say "Miata" stands for "Miata is Always the Answer," and some even go so far as to say they make great winter cars. Everyone seems to love the little things for their balance, affordability, and enjoyable driving experience. Everyone also knows they're underpowered -- but the consensus is that their lack of horsepower is forgivable due to the sheer joy the Miata brings to whoever is lucky enough to be behind the wheel of the beloved sports car.

I, however, have never been one of those lucky people. I've been enthusiastic about cars my whole life, but I have never driven or even sat in a Mazda Miata. Since I don't know what I'm missing, I want to know: Is the Mazda Miata really that great? Has it been romanticized to the point where nobody is willing to criticize it? Or does it really live up to the hype?

Here's what I know about the MX-5 based on my years of reading people's opinions about cars on the internet. The NA is the most beloved Miata because it's the original and the most analog -- and because it has pop-up headlights. The NB is a lot like the NA, but worse because it doesn't have pop-up headlights. The NC is by far the least loved MX-5. It's bigger, uglier and it has less of the charm of its predecessors, in part because of the addition of nannies like traction control. My understanding is that the NC is a great car, but not a great Miata. Then there's the current ND MX-5, which has received more positive critical reviews than the Lord of the Rings films.

So, good people of Oversteer, please enlighten me. Where do I begin my journey of understanding what's so great about the internet's favorite sports car? NA and NB models are obtainable for the price of a coffee table -- so would it be worth it to buy one to drive for the rest of the summer, just so I can understand the joy a Miata can offer? If so, what should I look out for? If you've been bottling up a negative opinion about the MX-5, now is your chance to get it out there for the rest of the internet car community to make fun of. As a guy with no frame of reference, I want as wide of a range of opinions as possible, here.

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Is the Mazda Miata Really That Great? - Autotrader