2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata: The S2000 Problem
by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on February 18, 2016
Let me begin by noting that our long-term 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata pleasantly surprises me every time I drive it. See, I've never been a Miata guy, for one simple reason: apart from the short-lived Mazdaspeed Miata, the thing has never had a motor. And I can't abide any sporting car that doesn't have a motor.
But the new "ND" Miata's 2.0-liter inline-4 has decent poke for what it is. You don't even need to get the revs up. Just step on it at, say, 3,500 rpm and off you go. It scoots. Color my expectations exceeded.
Having said that, I just couldn't consider a new Miata myself when minty-fresh Honda S2000s are still out there for thousands less.
I say "still" because I think the collectability is strong with this one. The prices on low-mileage cherries aren't going much lower before they start climbing, and I'd argue that's due in large part to the fact that Honda went nuts with the engines, which never appeared in any other model.
The 2.0-liter, 240-hp "AP1" four-cylinder revved to 9,000 rpm and would've come in third on this 2012 list of highest-specific-output naturally aspirated engines, splitting the difference between the Lexus LF-A (115 hp per liter) and the Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 and Ferrari 458 Italia (125 hp/L). It also happens to sound fantastic. Although the 2.2-liter "AP2" shed a thousand revs and dropped to just under 108 hp/L (it would have missed making that list by a hair), it picked up a little midrange pep in the process. It too sounds fantastic.
Don't do this, by the way:
Every S2000, in other words, has a seriously special motor. And unlike the ND Miata's mill, which doesn't reward you for taking it to redline, the whole point in the Honda is to blast through VTEC whenever conditions permit. That's how it should be in an elemental sports car. Remarkably, and I would strongly suggest for a limited time only, any enthusiast on an $18,000-$24,000 budget can get the keys to a gently used example with fewer than 45,000 miles.
The 2016 Miata, if you're scoring at home, starts at $24,915. Destination not included.
Now, as for the other features of these cars, reasonable roadster fans can disagree. I prefer the S2000's styling, inside and out, but that's meaningless to you if you like the Mazda. I don't like TV screens in my cars, and the 2016 Miata comes standard with one from the Club trim on up, and I would want at least the Club because it adds the sport suspension and a limited-slip differential (every S2000 had an LSD). But maybe you like TVs.
I could go on. You get the gist. I sincerely salute Mazda, the little company that could, for continuing to make the Miata. There's no other new car like it. But as long as the S2000 market stays roughly where it is, methinks there's a better four-cylinder Japanese roadster for the money. Tell me why I'm wrong.
Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor @ 4,521 miles