This week we get two excellent sports cars that are inexpensive to buy, fun to drive and easy on gas. First up is the Mazda MX-5, also known as the Miata. This is a lightweight rear-wheel-drive roadster with a starting price of $26K.
For that you get a soft convertible top and a six-speed manual transmission hooked to a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine cranking 181 horsepower. Fuel economy is rated at 26/35 mpg.
This particular Miata is loaded with everything from the factory. This jumps the tab to a hefty $36K! But for that fee we are getting more useful features, such as a solid retractable hardtop. That means on long highway trips, the wind noise is very low, making the journey more pleasurable. When it is parked, the solid roof provides better security from a break-in. Yet with a touch of a switch, the top lowers in seconds. This transfers the Miata into an open car roadster, with the wind blowing through your hair, the way it should be.
This vehicle also has the optional six-speed automatic transmission. A sport mode switch allows brisker performance. Gears can also be chosen manually by manipulating paddles on the steering wheel. The less expensive standard six-speed manual is smooth to shift, with a light clutch. Take your pick.
This is a real sports car. It is quick, handles like a champ and has precise steering and strong brakes. Fuel economy at 75 mph cruising was 37 mpg, or 40 mpg at 65 mph. Whether you get a fully loaded Miata with all the bells and whistles or the basic version with soft top, either will bring plenty of driving pleasure in your commute.
For those who prefer a sports car with a permanent solid roof, the Toyota 86 might do. This is also sold by Subaru as the BRZ, with minor changes. Both have a solid, proven 2.0-liter boxer engine cranking 205 horsepower with a six-speed manual gearbox. We have the optional six-speed automatic, with steering wheel paddles for manual shifting. This drops horsepower to 200.
While the 86 has more horsepower than the MX-5, it also has about 400 pounds more weight, so acceleration is about the same, good enough. This is also a real sports car, with the steering, handling and brakes expected. On the negative side, it seems Toyota played with the suspension for 2019 to make it stiffer for better cornering ability. If so, this explains the firm ride on rough pavement.
Fuel economy is rated at 21/28 mpg with the manual gearbox and 24/32 with this automatic. At 75 mph cruising, we got 36 mpg using the required premium fuel. Add to this a base price of $27K, and fully loaded fee of $32K, and this Toyota is certainly a good deal.
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.