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The Mazda Miata (Mazda MX-5) is arguably one of the greatest cars ever made. It’s not practical and it’s not fast, but what it is, above everything else, is fun. It never fails to put a smile on your face, and is probably the best bang for the buck proposition sports car on the market. If however, you want something different, be it for more practicality or sheer speed, here are the top 5 MX-5 alternatives.
Toyota GT-86/Subaru BR-Z
You all saw this coming from a mile away. The one car the MX-5 gets compared to the most is the GT-86/BR-Z, and for good reason. Both cars are relatively lightweight, they both go down the naturally-aspirated route, and both prioritize fun over sheer grunt. The MX-5 is significantly smaller than the GT-86, and it lacks rear seats, so if those two factors rank highly on your list, consider the Toyota/Subaru platform. Aftermarket support is enormous for both the MX-5 and the GT-86, but the Mazda can generally extract more performance for the same amount of power. Plus, as great as the flat-four engine in the GT-86 is, it’s just not as reliable or tunable as the inline four in the Mazda.
Looking at the specs alone you might be fooled into thinking that the S2000 is a direct rival to the MX-5. And although they’re both roadsters and both offer just two seats, most of the similarities end there. The S2000 uses a front mid-engine layout, so its weight distribution is nearly 50/50. The VTEC unit (both the 2.0 and the 2.4) revs out to 9,000 rpm, screaming at the top of its lungs near the upper limit. Although it too has large aftermarket support, supercharging the S2000 engine is difficult, and only go down the turbocharging route if you’re willing to spend thousands of dollars. Speaking of money, we do have to mention that the S2000 is relatively expensive. It’s always retained a large premium over the MX-5, but right now prices are skyrocketing as the S2000 is a future classic in the making. In that regard, it isn’t as cheap and cheerful as an MX-5 can be. You may also read: Incomparable: Miata MX-5 vs S2000.
Porsche Boxster S
Most people looking for an MX-5 never even consider a Porsche, but if you’ve got the cash, a used Boxster can be a great choice. The newer generations are far too expensive to buy and maintain, but the 986-gen is now a relative bargain. It’s readily available and relatively cheap to own. The flat-six engine is located in the middle, behind the front seats, so it’s a mini supercar of-sorts if you will. Make sure to get an example which has had the infamous IMS bearing issue sorted or you’ll end up spending thousands to fix it.
The Z4 isn’t a small sports car as much as it is a luxury GT car. It was never designed to have precision-sharp handling or an overwhelming amount of power, but aftermarket parts take care of both those complaints. It’s a great car, but it’s a bit German and clinical in feel. The best part about the Z4? The straight-six engine BMW is most famous for. The Z4 is a good alternative to an MX-5, but is completely different in character and feel.
Although it’s not for everyone, the MR2 is a great used purchase if you know what you’re getting yourself into. A small mid-engined sports car which is both light and powerful can be a deadly combo. The MR2 platform is lively and likes to oversteer at the best of days, but early first-gen cars were especially known to be prone to snap oversteer. Still, the Toyota engine is dead reliable and it’s actually fun to drive if you know what you’re doing. Not for the inexperienced or faint of heart however. Aftermarket support isn’t that great, but then again, what did you expect.
Although all of these are great alternatives for the little MX-5, there’s a reason why Mazda has outsold all of its above-mentioned rivals. It’s cheap, tunable, quick, and fun. And that, is a winning combination, and a formula which is very difficult to duplicate.