Mazda MX-5s are the puppies of the automotive world. You could convince yourself you don’t need one, or can’t afford one, or that it would be an irresponsible choice. But once you get one, you can’t stop smiling.
Automotive underdog, Mazda, have sold over a million MX-5s for a reason; they’re half the price and twice the fun of their more expensive German and British counterparts. They’re the quintessential “fun car”—equally ready for casual weekend getaways and aggressive track days. For years, they’ve been the perfect second car purchase, offering truck and SUV owners something zippy and impractical to drive while the sun’s out.
While the MX-5 maximizes smiles-per-mile, it’s never held a reputation as a viable daily driver. We, the under-30 crowd, tend to browse right past two-seater convertibles on the used car lot, opting for something more sensible. Soon, we drive off in a lightly-used Camry or CR-V, content with our levelheaded purchase, but leaving the poor MX-5 whimpering sadly in our wake.
But what if we’d taken the puppy home instead? Would a MX-5 be so hard to live with? After all, the MX-5 has grown up a lot since its fourth generation, “ND” model was introduced in 2016.
Recently, we spent extensive time in a MX-5 in and around San Diego, balancing our down-shifting bliss with an eye for practical, daily livability. We weren’t surprised by the car’s obscene fun-factor. But after some research into the financial realities of owning the perky droptop, we surprised ourselves with our conclusion: the 2017 MX-5 could indeed make a brilliant daily driver, especially for a Millennial. Here are five reasons why.
It’s shockingly cheap to insure
MX-5 buyers are often shocked to discover that switching to a two-seater convertible lowered their premiums. This is because insurance companies calculate premiums largely based on how well owners treat their cars. Since Miatas are relatively slow and infrequently driven, MX-5s aren’t involved in many accidents, so insurance companies rarely receive claims for them.
As a result, MX-5s routinely rank in the top 10 easiest cars to insure in any category. Call your insurance company for a quote, and you may be surprised to hear that an MX-5 is cheaper to insure than your current vehicle (if you have one).
You can buy a fully-loaded MX-5 for less than $30k
You can get a top-trim Grand Touring MX-5 with leather-trimmed heated seats, a 7” infotainment system with navigation, premium BOSE audio with speakers in the headrests, lane-departure warning, and rain-sensing wipers all for just a tick above $30k.
Don’t need the extra toys? The standard MX-5 Sport costs under $25k, and offers the same performance as the Grand Touring.
The sportier trim, known as the Club trim, adds track-ready goodness such as a limited slip differential, a front shock tower brace, and sport-tuned Bilstein shocks for a total sticker of just under $29k.
For added livability, consider the slightly quieter cabin offered by the new hardtop RF variant, which starts at $31,555 for the Club and $32,620 for the Grand Touring.
Whether you want your MX-5 for cruising, cornering, or are happy with the basics, you shouldn’t pay more than $350/mo for a lease.
It’s nice to look at
While the previous MX-5 greeted you with a goofy smile like a black lab waiting for a ball to be thrown, the new MX-5 resembles a terrier tracking its prey. From the front it’s confident, aggressive, and ready to pounce.
The sides tell a different story. In contrast to the fascia’s sharp angles, the MX-5’s hips curve with an elegant swoop.
What do looks have to do with being a good daily driver? Well, think about how often you look at the car you drive every day. When you leave your apartment, the gym, or work, would you rather walk up to something tedious designed to please the masses, or something that looks like this?
It’s reliable and cheap to run
Mazda ranks as one of the most fuel-efficient brands, despite lacking a single hybrid in their fleet. They achieve this by squeezing every drop of power out of little engines using technologies they call “Skyactiv.”
With a healthy dose of Skyactiv tech inside, the 2.0L four-cylinder in the MX-5 is rated at an impressive 34 MPG highway, but even scaling the windy ups-and-downs of the San Diego freeways we managed to achieve 36, making the MX-5 more fuel efficient than a Camry.
MX-5s are as cheap to maintain as they are to insure.
So far, the MX-5 is inexpensive, well-equipped, easy to insure, nice to look at, and to top it all off (no pun intended), more fuel-efficient than most sedans and crossovers.
But before we wrap up, it is time to address the elephant. Yes, the MX-5 only has two seats, and for young families, Lyft drivers, or art collectors, an MX-5 wouldn’t make sense as a daily driver. But if you currently only transport back seat passengers once in a full moon, and can stomach sharing a $12 Lyft when the need for passenger or cargo space arises, you’ll be able to spend the rest of your time enjoying the MX-5’s coup de grace.
It’s obscenely fun to drive
We’ve driven hundreds of cars over the years, from a droptop S-Class Mercedes to a $300,000 Aston Martin Vanquish. But few have given us the fizz like the MX-5, in any price bracket.
Mazda created the perfect $30k sports car using the same strategy Chipotle used to create the ideal $7 burrito; perfect each individual ingredient first, and the whole will come together.
The MX-5 has responsive steering, sharp handling, excellent brakes, a slick gearshift, and emits a dopamine-dumping howl as you accelerate towards the redline. Plus, it’s a manual and a convertible, amplifying the fun factor trifold.
If you have $30k to spend or $350/mo. budget for a lease, it would be easy to write off a roadster like the MX-5 in favor of a crossover. After all, who would sacrifice all that space for a little fun?
But after spending time in the MX-5, we found ourselves asking the opposite: who could sacrifice all that fun for a little extra space?