I've owned other roadsters, but the Miata is a blast for the bucks. After driving a Triumph Spitfire and an MGB, the Miata is like a high dollar exotic sports car. It will get up and go if you know how to drive it (keep your rpms up, kind of like driving a small displacement sports bike). The motor is smooth and I've never been in a car that connects you to the road like this one! No complaints, best toy I've ever had. I've been walking around smiling and humming the "zoom, zoom, zoom" song since the day I bought it. It's an absolute blast.
Cost, dependability, incredible handling, fun factor. I wouldn't change a thing.
This is one fun car to drive, even stock. With aftermarket items (shocks, springs, etc.), it is even better! Although the EPA gas mileage is 29 MPG on the highway (for 1996), I get 34 to 36 MPG on the highway. Combined with the reliability of all Miatas, the cost of ownership is very affordable. Note that this is not a fast car. Even my 04 minivan can out run the 96 Miata on a straight road (0-60). However, the Miata has much more handling than speed, making it a fine canyon carver, autocrosser or city zip-zapper. If you enjoy modifying cars for appearance or performance, the first generation Miata has plenty of mod options. I'd spend the money on maintenance, tires and gas, though.
Handling. With the right tires and proper alignment, the Miata glues to the road. Fuel efficiency is not bad (for an 11 year sports convertible), as I get 34-36 MPG on the highway. It is also way COOL (literally) to get the top down and enjoy that free feeling.
For the money and the age, there is nothing to complain about. A 2007 Hyundai Elantra will outrun it, but that's not the point, is it?
I have owned a '96 Miata M-Edition for 6 years. I LOVE THIS CAR! With 64,000 miles it has never had a single mechanical issue. It gets great mileage, about 30 MPG average. It is amazingly quick with responsive handling and is absolute FUN! I have driven MGs, Triumphs, and even BMW Z-3s, and this car out drives them all. I also think the $$$ value rating is way too low - but then that may be why they are so popular... you get a car that is worth way more then you pay for it.
RELIABILITY - is the #1 feature of this great little car. No other car of this type is as reliable...or FUN!
There is a way to mount the spare tire under the car to give it more trunk space. I recommend trying this, or getting a tire repair kit, as the trunk is just too small.
I like convertibles. Take that back, I LOVE convertibles. My last two where a Caddy Allante and a Mercedes 500 SL, respectively. They were both big, gas guzzling V8 powered "sports cars"... neither one could come close to the providing the day-to-day fun of my new Mazda Miata. I did my research. These cars are bullet-proof; something my high-line roadsters lacked. I am 6'5" and fit fine inside the car, a tad cramped on longer runs, but fine for under 100 mile trips. Bottom line ... if you are looking for a reliable, safe (dual air bags & aftermarket roll bars), economical and is a blast to drive and be seen in, your search is over. I bought mine 70+k in great shape for under $5k. I LOVE IT.
Handling, economy, ragtop. Miata clubs and add-ons available online.
It's the right mix of sport and durability...ok, maybe the whole cupholder thingy for my wife (may install an aftermarket upgrade I have seen online).
I enjoy my Miata very much. I used to drive short distances to work and it was my primary car but since I do heavy interstate driving now I have purchased a larger car ... feel safer when trucks and SUV's are racing by. Love to drive it to the beach with the top down. Excellent quality, have never had any problems with it. Plan to keep it for many years. From an enjoyment, reliability point of view I rate it highly. My only concern was driving the Miata in heavy, fast-moving traffic from a "feeling safe" point of view. You don't get the respect that a larger car demands from other drivers on the highway when driving a smaller car.
Very easy to put the convertible top down. Fun car to drive. Reliability of the car is excellent.