I have owned a '73 Z-29, (2) 1972 240-Zs, a 1971 Series 1 240Z, a 1969 Mustang GT and a 1978 Corvette. All had great points and glaring weaknesses. The Miata has no glaring weaknesses but some off-the-chart strengths. This is easily the best handling car I have ever driven. With street tread mounted on OEM 14 inch rims, and a completely stock suspension, this car takes curves with a predictability I cannot imagine will ever be improved upon. The engine pulls in every, single gear and the shifter is heavenly. The cockpit has just the right instrumentation and an honest set of mechanical gauges. Fuel economy is amazing and has never failed to deliver less than 21 mpg in town and 27 on the highway. I seldom drive this car with any consideration of fuel economy, so those numbers can be improved upon.
The body is solid and well put together. The engine is pretty simple to service, as long as you are not changing the oil. That can be a bit messy. I cured that with the addition of a Cobalt Oil Filter Relocation Kit. The rear end and gearbox are dead simple to access and service. Oh, by the way, this car has a Torsen Limited Slip Differential. Amazing quality for a very low price.
As for folks derisively calling this car "effete", drive the thing and then talk. It does more with the 128 base horsepower and four cylinders than my 71 240-Z could with 150. I loved my Z. I love my Miata.
About 2 months ago I bought a 1994 Miata equipped with the B-Package and ABS. It had 53,XXX miles on it, had never been in an accident, and had all the records. I got the car for $3,000. This has hands down been one of the best gamble of my life. I absolutely loves this little car. Its a blast to drive, still feels as solid as a rock (especially for an mid 90's convertible), gets great gas mileage, and looks absolutely stunning. And, what surprised me is it actually sounds good for a 4 cylinder. Plus, The car fits my family and I perfectly (I'm the tallest at 5'8"). I expect many more happy, fun filled miles in this two seater.
Fuel economy, having the ability to put the top down, exhaust note, precise 5-speed manual with short throws, build quality, A/C, its comfortable for average sized people, having ABS, small storage nooks and crannies (pouch behind the passanger seat, 2 door pouches, glover box, center console box, and self behind the seats), the handling, and the constant compliments I get about the car (I was very surprised when I noticed this car still turns heads).
Ground clearance, it can be hard to get out of, no roll bar, questionable safety on todays roads, some road roughness can upset the ride/handling, trunk size, manual top with boot cover takes a few minutes to put down or up, luckily though, putting the top up takes less time.
I just had my little car's engine rebuilt by the mechanic whose worked on her since 2000. It's like driving a new car. Everything else mechanical on my well maintained vehicle is in near- new condition (the interior is my next project). I've loved every minute of driving this car and with the engine done, I am looking forward to another 15 years (before the next engine replacement!)
The headlights ("funny eyes" my daughter calls them) and the handling.
Maybe pre-mature - I've owned this car for only 9 months - but I have enjoyed every trouble free moment I've had it. Very impressed that an almost 16 year old car drives as well and feels as tight as this one does. I bought it with less than 80000 miles so it's been gently used over the years. When I was a kid in high school and college I had a couple of MGB's and loved 'em, but they were troublesome and unreliable. So when I set out to get another roadster to recapture the fun of open air driving I just had to get a 1st generation Miata. I get not only the fun, but the trouble free reliability as well. Having the both together is almost too good to believe.
It's a red, 5-spd, convertible that handles like it's on rails. Has a sweet exhaust note and the wind in the hair driving experience is unbeatable. And, yeah, I do feel like a kid again.
I guess if I wanted improvements I'd get the 3rd generation Miata (I mean, MX-5). No, this car is perfect as is. The after market stuff for this car is plentious so if I ever do get a hankering to improve anything I will be in good shape.