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Thoughts on the Miata - What makes a car fun to drive?  

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NottaMiata
(@nottamiata)
Reputable Member

Some preliminaries:

I am not terribly experienced with a wide number of cars.

I just drove what was probably a poor example of a Miata NC. I found it to be an awful experience and made ugly comnents about it. But I cannot argue with the incredible level of popularity and loyalty it engenders.

I've been in a private conversation with another member who says it's fun to drive and "forgiving". That's just a fact, its what they said.

I felt cramped and like I was driving from the trunk, and the handling was tight, yet disconnected. It wasn't fun. To me.

So, the topic here, I guess, is what is it about the Miata, or really any car that makes it fun? I am exploring it because I never really considered this before. Apparently, what I like is feeling completely connected to the car, obviously having the ergonomics fit me just right (thank you Mr. T, but I am a little creeped out that at some point you broke into my house and measured me while I slept in order to design the Spyder, just for me), and giving tons of feedback to me when I drive. I am even starting to enjoy a bit of tramlining. Just a little...

But even this confuses me, because I have heard people complain that the Spyder's steering felt disconnected when they tried it. Really? What are they driving, then?

Did I simply luck into a nice one? Which, of course, some people migjt say is a piece of **** like i did about that Miata (that one was a bit rough, to be fair: rusty wiper arms, had an accident on the carfax too, but I tried to factor all that in and imagine how a better example would be). My struts are dead, for Pete's sake, but it still feels great. And I assure you I am not an adrenaline freak. So how is an arguably poor Spyder like The Frog still so "awesome" then?

I realize its subjective, but still an interesting topic, IMO. What makes a car fun to drive?

This topic was modified 2 months ago 2 times by NottaMiata

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Posted : August 13, 2019 7:08 pm
Dev
 Dev
(@dev)
Dev, The one and only. Moderator

I want to continue our conversation from Email. 

 You asked me if I have ever driven a 1987 VW GTI and the answer is yes. I can tell you that it was a worse car then my 1984 VW GTI because it weighed more and was more refined.   The 84 GTI had a few things going for it which was a very short ratio transmission, manual steering and was the same weight as our Spyders. Even though it was front wheel drive it still had a nimble feel about it and would oversteer which I have done by accident by pushing it too hard in my youth. 

Regarding the Miata, its not for everyone.  Some people like the WRX and they are popular for a reason but for me I found them to be boring. 

I wouldn't dwell on the Miata if you don't like it.  For me I found it to be a very rewarding drive that I was able to drive with confidence. The Spyder on the other hand wasn't always like that as it can bite you if you don't respect it.  I had to spend a small fortune, a lot of time and energy to get the Spyder to where I can pound it hard to where I can enjoy it on an emotional level that is satisfying.     The only other car that gave me a better feeling than a Miata is the FD RX7 even though it weighed a little more it had the it factor as a real sports car where the others of its contemporary caliber were not.   

 The Miata on the other hand is just great for any driver out of the box.  I thought the NC was the best one out of the NA and NB that I have test driven. It just felt right in my hands where I can feel the road and my slight throttle inputs made sense. I was able to kick out the rear and power out of a turn with myself and the owner laughing out loud how easy it is to have fun.  

 The Miata is easily one of the best cars available at any price.  

Regarding making ugly comments about a car I don't see a problem with it.  Cars don't have feelings.  Unfortunately people have feelings about people not liking their choices which is stupid and what is wrong with car enthusiasts these days.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post was modified 2 months ago 2 times by Dev
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Posted : August 14, 2019 11:52 am
WilcoMR-S
(@wilcomr-s)
Trusted Member

I had a 90 with a 1.8l turbo engine, cage and wide fender flares. I loved the car but got a great offer on it and sold it.

It was fun to drive but didn't enjoy it as much as the Spyder.

 

I have also owned Subaru's here and in Japan and some I liked (GC8 or STI Forester) and others I didn't. I opted to own a GTI-R over a Subaru if it was an option.

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Posted : August 14, 2019 12:56 pm
Dev
 Dev
(@dev)
Dev, The one and only. Moderator
Posted by: @wilcomr-s

I had a 90 with a 1.8l turbo engine, cage and wide fender flares. I loved the car but got a great offer on it and sold it.

It was fun to drive but didn't enjoy it as much as the Spyder.

 

I have also owned Subaru's here and in Japan and some I liked (GC8 or STI Forester) and others I didn't. I opted to own a GTI-R over a Subaru if it was an option.

Did you have a 90s GTI or a 90s Miata?

 

 

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Posted : August 14, 2019 1:39 pm
NottaMiata
(@nottamiata)
Reputable Member

I am not really dwelling on the Miata, other than wondering why it doesnt strike me the way it does so many other people. I dont feel bad about that. But i do feel bad for being ugly about it, which is something I want to improve about myself.

I am focused on it, however, because it felt really different to me, it is a recent experience, and i want to qualify for myself what the good and bad things (for me) are, about both cars.

Dev, I am also getting a little worried about your statements about the Spyder being unforgiving. I haven't felt that at all, and that means I might be in for a nasty surprise. But, I think a big part of that is that I probably drive like an old man compared to many of you guys, even the actual old mans. I have a little bit of fun, but I have yet to push it through a hairpin at 50 mph in second gear, or anything like that. My bar is lower, I suppose, but I do keep inching it up little by little.

I started out being very afraid of this car. I have some cute posts over on SC from when I first started. But even though I drive a little harder now, I don't think i have gotten overconfident yet.

The relatively huge cabin of the Spyder is a big draw to me. The ergonomics work almost perfectly for me, but if I could move the shift knob forward about one inch, I would. The bottom seat cushion is a little too narrow, cramps the sides of my legs. I have gotten used to ignoring that, but the car is not 100% glove fit. And I could easily see a short person hating the Spyder, with the seats so low and the dash top being too high for them.

The mid-rear format is the only proper configuration for a car, IMO, and this comes from being spoiled by the Spyder. The way it shifts the weight, it feels like the most efficient way to move a vehicle, rather than following what feels like a ton of steel around, which i can feel. I can tell the weight of my engine is back there, but it only feels like about 50 lbs.

I could be very wrong, but that's how it feels to this newb.

I also like the cabin position. Its more natural to me to be in the center of the car, not super-forward, nor too far backward. The car pivots around me, not me pivoting around the car. I think I would really hate an S2000, but I would give it a chance. Its like the first thing Mr T put on paper is an outline of an average-sized human male, then built the car entirely around that. I dont get that impression in any other car, not even my old 87 GTI (which was indeed heavy, but it was rock solid and had a nice CoG too). I got a feeling the occupants were an afterthought to the Miata engineers. "We will stuff them in there somewhere, guys, just keep working on that 4-point suspension for now..."

I didnt even notice the interior build quality of the Miata being nicer than mine. Thought they were both decent examples of cheap, lightweight, minimalist interiors. Mine is in excellent shape, but not showroom perfect. I guess that's not an important category to me for a driver's car. But I wouldn't like a ratty interior in any car. The Miata I drove was kind of ratty, and thus felt worse than The Frog. (Lol, it astounds me that that car is "worth" twice as much, because it just isnt nearly as nice of a car, not even close). But overall i just didnt pay that much attention to tge interior of the Miata. I was there for the drive, not that particular car. I wasnt buying that one, it was a soft top and the PRHT is intriguing, but it had also been wrecked, and most damning of all, it was red. Just wanted to check out the Miata vibe.

I need to get out and try a bunch of other cars. Not because I am letting go of The Frog, but just because. There is a guy at work here with a beat up Civic sleeper that makes 300+. Maybe he will let me drive it.

This post was modified 2 months ago 4 times by NottaMiata

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Posted : August 14, 2019 1:46 pm
WilcoMR-S
(@wilcomr-s)
Trusted Member

@dev

I sold my 1990 Miata. I miss it from time to time but after I finish my Spyder I am building a Model A hotrod and don't have the spare garage space.

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Posted : August 14, 2019 2:08 pm
Dev
 Dev
(@dev)
Dev, The one and only. Moderator

You are probably not driving your car near the limits but that doesn't matter because you can easily hit those limits abruptly by making mistakes in a mid engine car design so you need to be careful when and where to apply power. 

What makes a car fun to drive is not always what is on paper. It is a feeling of knowing where the limits are so you can dance but it should not be confused with predictability. Predictability is what makes things boring.  What ultimately makes a car fun to drive is a bit of playfulness of unpredictability as you are exploring your connection with the car. Once you can sink deep into this immersive experience everything comes into focus. 

Bottom line is you don't want your car to be a Mary Sue, you want a car to have character and this is why many fall in love with the old lotus and Alfa cars. The Miata is the embodiment of trying to recreate that kind of driving experience.  

 

 

 

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Posted : August 14, 2019 2:25 pm
Dev
 Dev
(@dev)
Dev, The one and only. Moderator
Posted by: @wilcomr-s

@dev

I sold my 1990 Miata. I miss it from time to time but after I finish my Spyder I am building a Model A hotrod and don't have the spare garage space.

One day I hope to build a Factory 5.  I like the fact that it will be timeless and simple.  Maybe in the next 10 years they will prefect the manufacturing of the kit.  

 

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Posted : August 14, 2019 2:31 pm
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NottaMiata
(@nottamiata)
Reputable Member

I also succumbed to some tesla clickbait last night about an artist rendition of a Roadster redux that looked a lot like a Miata NB.

Got me thinking about electrifying a Spyder. IIRC, the motor performance on the original Tesla Roadster was pretty respectable, but the car is heavy. Wonder how much of that is battery and motor, and I am sure it is a lot, but batteries have gotten lighter. There must be some sort of tool or software I could use to help me find this info...

A commenter also mentioned the Tesla Roadster was built on an Elise chassis. I did not know that, but that's hardly a surprise.

Anyone ever heard of a converted Spyder? To keep it On Topic, it would still be everything I like about a conventional spyder, PLUS more push, and it even placates my tree-hugging nature (just ignore the fact that fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity... just look the other way, nothing to see there...)

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Posted : August 14, 2019 2:43 pm
neomr2
(@neomr2)
Estimable Member
NottaMiata
(@nottamiata)
Reputable Member

Hotness. Thanks NeoMr2. But I will miss the Frog Songs. The Frog has five, and he plays them in order, but some of his cousins have six. Sacrifices must be made, though, if I can cut my 0 to 60 by half, then no more Frog Songs. Still got my stereo.

Which reminds me. I said I was going to try to be nicer, but I read that the Miata has a sound tube in the engine to amplify the sound. Why does that seem like cheating?

Edit: Wait... what? Tesla claims the Roadster does 0 to 60 in 1.9 seconds. Holy smokes. I remembered 3.9 for some reason, but I read that back when it was still in development. 1.9... I could live with red to get one of those. The video looks fake. The thing is doing 60 after like 200 feet.

This post was modified 2 months ago by NottaMiata

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Posted : August 14, 2019 4:04 pm
WilcoMR-S
(@wilcomr-s)
Trusted Member

I drove a Factory Five 818C powered by an STI drivetrain. It was a very raw piece of engineering. The lack of power brakes would have taken a good bit of getting used to or the addition of an electric vac pump booster. It felt like driving an old Pantera with all of the fun and danger.

I also drove an Exocet exoskeleton body car powered by a turbo Miata engine. It really is as advertised, a Miata on a diet. My wife wanted to build one of the full cage race versions with a lexan windshield.

A car doesn't have to be the greatest road car ever made to be enjoyed. Like the Pulsar GTI-R, they just have to feel like the have a soul to them and make the drive enjoyable. There's worlds of difference between going for a ride and going for a drive. I want to feel as though I am driving.

 

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Posted : August 14, 2019 4:40 pm
NottaMiata
(@nottamiata)
Reputable Member

There is a very clean burgundy hardtop Miata NC somewhere in the office park I work in. Blew past him on the highway today, lol. A lot of people say the NC is the ugliest of the four generations, but I don't agree. I think the NC is tied for first place with the NB. NA looks like a bar of soap on wheels, it's icky. ND is the obligatory angry fish, but they did OK not going over the top with it. I like the stance of the NC, and you only see the tic-tac from certain angles and it's really not bad anyway.

The Spyder has some bad angles too, and sadly the internet always shows the "cutesy" angle. You rarely see the angle that shows how sharp the nose actually is, or how slabby-elegant the sides really are, or how wide and low the stance is. It's a shame, cuz its really a lovely car and more aggressive-looking in person than the typical "smiley bug" images all over teh interwebz.

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Posted : August 14, 2019 5:54 pm
Galo
 Galo
(@galo)
Estimable Member

All cars are different, NM! I miss many of my previous cars; the '68AH Sprite(makes a Miata look/feel huge!!!), the '69 Z28, my 2 '66 Vettes, my 2 Cosworth Vega's(although 1 still resides in my garage, not running), the '78 280Z, the '64 Valiant(oh, wait...I don't miss that), the '03&'04 Spyders , the '06 SLK350 and the MkII Turbo. They really are all have/had different ablilities, roominess, handling and acceleration wise. The Sprite was a blast to drive, all 65 hp/72tq "powering" the little thing, and I probably miss it the most(even with the Lucas electrics).

 

Different strokes for different folks...

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Posted : August 14, 2019 7:46 pm
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