This week we get a practical sedan and an impractical sports car from the same maker. Let’s start with the latter since we know that is the one we really want! That is the MX-5, also known as the Miata.
This has been around for 30 years, and this is the fourth generation, which is the best of the lot. The soft top is easy to lower, and the price begins at $27K. If you want the retractable hard top, plan to pay $34K. Either way, the trunk is super small, so no spare tire here. The cabin storage is only a tiny bin that might hold a wallet or cellphone. This is not a car for long trips.
Under the hood, horsepower has increased from 155 to 181. An excellent automatic transmission is offered, but this six-speed manual is so slick and easy to use, it is the best choice for me. Fuel economy will be 25/35 in the real world.
This is a real sports car, with great handling, braking and acceleration. Yet it is fairly comfortable to drive, at least in the city. On the highway, wind noise will blow your ears out, so like I said, not for long trips.
Now for a Mazda that is more practical, with four doors and a real trunk, how about the Mazda3 sedan? The base engine is 2.0, 155 horsepower, or 2.5, 186 hp. But this was the upgraded Model 3 Turbo version. Under the hood is a potent 2.5 cranking 227 hp with regular fuel, or a tidy 250 with premium. This can propel the car to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. Yes, that beats the Miata MX-5.
In other sporty driving, this sedan has steering, handling and braking that matches the Miata as well. Fuel economy is listed at 23/32 mpg, which is close to what we got. The only gripe we have is road noise from the large tires, although the suspension is comfortable enough. You can take a long trip in this car and have room for plenty of luggage.
The base price of the economy Mazda3 is $21K, but a loaded turbo version seen here will set you back $34K.
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.