Monday, January 28, 2019

Looks like I'm getting a Miata...

Long story short, my car sharing jaunts have been somewhat costly, and buying a car would probably be cheaper. This would be true if I bought a nice used car (Mazda 2 mmmmm) but I really wanted something that's:
  • Convertible
  • FR or MR Layout
  • Small and lightweight
  • Ideally with a lsd as an option
That's pretty easy, let's narrow down some brands I can think off the top of my head and if they're in the running:
  • Mercedes - I know they do some convertibles but I honestly don't know what they are. I also don't happen to be mr moneybags, so, nope.
  • BMW - Z3, Z4. Concerned about cost of maintenance, and those within my budget are long in tooth. i8 roadster looks amazeballs, but even if I earned big bucks, that's a bit too flashy (and big) for my tastes.
  • Porsche - Targa 4S is cool! Used ones are just slightly above my budget but I have concerns about maintenance costs. Also, not rich.
  • Honda - Del Sol is out, FWD - if not it looks really cute and awesome with the Integra-ish front. S2000 is no longer in production, unmodified ones are very expensive here - you can almost buy a brand new ND for some of the good AP2s.
  • Mazda - MX5 of course, in budget, very lightweight, small. Japanese reliability. Strong community. There were also a few convertible RX7s when I wrote this post in my area, but they're really old, and I don't want to deal with worn apex seals.
  • Toyota - I'm honestly very dissapointed with Toyota... Minor rant: I don't consider the new 86 a toyota. Neither the new Supra. They've seem to have forgotten the amazing history they've got in the past..... They appear to have given up on the sports car market and I have lost interest in them. The Solara is fwd, which means nope.
  • Subaru - I accidentally listed them here because, the wrx is an icon. I don't remember them having any convertibles lol.
  • Mitsubishi - OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU WHY ARE YOU MAKING ONLY SUVS BRING BACK THE GLORY DAYS OF RALLYING! Their Eclipse is unfortunately FWD. Not a fan of the styling either.
  • Nissan - their Z is really the only choice but I'm not a fan of their styling. And it's quite heavy.
  • Hawk Cars - One day, if I have a garage, they'll be in the running
  • Lotus - Elise? I'm not that hardcore. Neither can I afford one lol.
  • Factory Five - Like the other kit cars... one day, if I have a garage.
  • Caterham - there's actually one for sale in my area when I wrote this... this car is a few steps above the Elise in terms of hardcore level, so a definite nooope for me :P
  • Koenigsegg - I'm trolling you readers at this point.
  • I'm excluding US cars from the list, as apart from a few iconic cars e.g. Trans Am, Viper, Corvette, Mustang etc etc I'm not that familiar with 'em.
So it seems like the Mazda MX5s are the main choice. That's great, early generation MX5s are tiny and very affordable.  But I want to balance a few things
  • Budget
  • Age of car
  • Safety
  • Cost of Insurance
  • Running costs
  • Maintenance Costs
I'm going to skip the budgetary discussion - I'll just say I can afford a used NC mx5. The ND, while I am certain I can qualify for a loan, I can't justify the depreciation. In addition, I don't commute, else the ND would jump to the top of the list as it has amazing fuel efficiency. Another reason why I'm less keen on the ND is the styling. It's quite a looker, and I want something more low-key. Honestly if I wanted something on the ND platform, I'd prefer the looks of a Fiat 124 Spider.

So, between the NA, NB and NC, I had a hard time choosing, but first - can I fit in the car? The NB is purportedly the tightest of the three, so probably not that. Now the NA looks amazing and popup headlights for the win! However, the NA is also very old, with the newest ones produced in 1997? That means all the NAs on the road are over two decades old, with some reaching three decades old.

I don't want to deal with a classic car, so that kinda leaves the NC. It basically ticks all the boxes: I can afford/justify it. The age of the car isn't horrendous (I was looking primarily at vehicles under 10 years old), insurance for the NC is a fair jump from the NA, but doable. Running costs appear to be reasonable. Oil changes and tires aren't super expensive. The fuel mileage I actually consider it to be quite poor, but I'm not driving it everyday, and I'm comparing it to the ND with it's modern fuel efficient engine as well as the econoboxes I rent. So it's fine.

Maintenance wise, it seems like it's a really well sorted car. There are some issues to be wary of, for example, the coolant tank appears to wear out in about a decade, and can lead to catastrophic engine failure. Thankfully it's not too expensive to swap in a new one, and there are aftermarket metal tanks.

There are 3 versions of the NC, they run from 2006-08, 2009-2012, and 2013-2015. I'm not fond of the so-called NC2, that ran from 2009-2012 - they had a front grill trimmed in silver. Urgh. I'd buy the car if it was right, and get some plastidip to paint over that trim. The original one, has what I consider a very classic look. While the final revision, dubbed NC3, had a more aggressive fascia. I choose the 2013 primarily as the trim with the lsd has a very nice front lip.

I've driven a two NCs now, and I found that I fit. Just. I have 2-3 inches of space above my head with the top up, hopefully that would be sufficient space for a helmet when I go autocrossing. The shifter. Wow. Well I've only driven a Toyota Echo before this, but the shifter's response is awesome. Snick snick snick. And the clutch is very easy to engage. The seat was also great. Of the few brands I've rented, Mazda seats, for some reason, fit me the best.

The throttle though, threw me off. The first NC I drove in a suburban area and the owner had no insurance on it, so I took it super easy, only first gear. Eh. However, a few days ago I took a test drive with a 2013 NC and visited the highways. Oh my goodness this car has some punch! (I'm pretty sure all you experienced drivers are laughing right now :P) Thankfully after a few minutes I got the hang of it and drove it without revving the engine uber high. It felt like it had alot of power just waiting in the wings to be unleashed.

The car I drove had a power retractable hard top, PRHT in miata-speak, and with the top up the cabin it felt snug. There were no problems chatting with the salesperson. The blindspots in the NC3 with the top up are pretty bad. Say the Mazda 2/3s or Fits I tend to rent, I could turn my head left to check the blindspots while keeping my shoulder blades against the seat. Not in the MX5, I really had to lead over to make sure things are clear on the left, and the right side is basically one big blindspot.

Even so, I made the test drive with little issues. When I got the car back though, I went through a checklist of things to check out, one of which was of course the top. Pressing a button and watching the sky open up above you is just... wow.  And with the top down, blind spots are a thing of the past.  Visibility is amazing, as is the open air experience. Sadly, I did not get a chance to drive with the top down, but that will change shortly :)

Not sure what else to say. I'll be taking this car for a pre purchase inspection soon. Can't wait to see the chassis bracing and aluminum arms once it's on a lift :) If all goes well, I'll be a proud owner of a used MX5 soon.

I do hope to purchase a new MX5 next, as I think that Mazda is one of the few manufacturers who still cater to people who care about driving, and I will vote with my money.