I had a car similar to the Miata before I actually bought one and the difference is incredible. Nothing compares to this car! It's an incredible performer, it's very easy to work on in your own driveway, and its reliability is outstanding. I didn't know much about working on cars before I bought my Miata; but, soon after, I'm pretty handy and do a lot of maintenance and improvements myself. This car makes you want to learn about working on cars. The aftermarket support is great and provides pretty much every type of upgrade or accessory you could think of. I don't know if I'll ever own anything except Miatas. Well, when I have kids I might get a sedan, but the Miata will stay in the garage.
The handling is superb. The independent suspension is fully adjustable and can be tuned to your specific needs. The engine is rock solid and the entire vehicle is very easy to work on if you're a weekend mechanic. There are lots of guides and support out there, so you're never alone.