I was only looking for a small manual transmission car to get out of the boredom of minivan, and bought a 1996 Miata. This little car surprised me in many ways. I didn't know that I had petrol in my blood before! The Miata is slow by the number, but fast once the road starts to curve. The handling capability surpasses my comfort zone, which is why I start to autocross to appreciate this fine roadster more. Needless to mention, one can turbocharge a Miata to get 200+ HP without harming the engine (which was designed to be turbocharged). It is also a practical car. I go to Costco in the Miata, and seldom need to put anything in the front seat. Try that with a Boxster or MR2!
High revving engine (in its time). Styling of the NA (esp. the flip-up lights!). Simplistic cockpit. Short shifter. Superior and forgiving handling. Size (I love little cars). Reliability. Inexpensive tires. Room for turbocharging. Cost.