Missing My Mazda Miata Madly Mid-Makeover

1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata "Miyagi" - Ryan KeoughIf you had asked me last year at this time if I were capable of falling in love with a car, I would have laughed in your face. Cars? Me? Hardly something I was aware that someone could love! For me, airplanes were far superior in many ways and their ground-bound, four-wheeled cousins were hardly a match on so many levels.

Perhaps my sour opinion on cars were due to the fact I was driving a Dodge Stratus at the time — hardly a car one could ‘love’ per se.

However, over the past year, my contempt for the auto slowly turned to care as something slowly brought me around. Perhaps it was the day I caught a segment on England’s Top Gear by mistake and actually started enjoying the petrolhead banter of those smarmy Brits — so much so that I started watching it religiously. Perhaps it was the day I spent wading through Wikipedia reading up on the most basic of information on the art of motoring — allowing me to understand what a differential is, or what understeer and oversteer are, and of course, all the stuff that I could have understood about care and feeding of my car years ago if only I had paid attention to my brother.

Regardless, as the Dodge started to gasp it’s last breaths in the Fall, I started looking for it’s replacement. And dammit, I wasn’t going to get a loveless car again.

I wanted a fun car… something to take advantage of the nice weather in Arizona. I didn’t care much for practicality as Lil has the Jeep Liberty and that has enough practicality for our small family. I wanted something speedy, yet not a gas-hog… so a two-seater would be fine.

The recommendations came in… Honda S2000, Nissan 350Z, Mazda RX-8, and Mazda MX-5 Miata. The prices for the S2000 and RX-8 were a bit out of my range and the 350Z wasn’t really that nice-looking for my needs. The Miata reminded me of the British sports cars like the Triumph and the MG that I always liked, so I chose that.

Prices for Miatas were good too. I kept seeing $4k to $7k cars in on Auto Trader and other sites — a good price range for me! But I slowly began understanding why some were priced low… the harsh AZ sun wasn’t kind to the tops and interior of a lot of them… and others ran like a run-out, TBO’d Lycoming O-235 on a Fly-By-Night flight school plane. I found out that I had a task on my hands.

Eventually I came across the right car at the right price… and ironically it was at BMW of North Scottsdale — a place that you’d think wouldn’t be the first place for a deal on a used car. But they had a nice 1999 Miata in dark green (or Emerald Mica as they call it) with 55,000 miles. Nice interior, nice exterior, and a strong engine. I did a little haggling with my salesman (see John Sarno there… he’s a good guy and did right by me) and drove it off the lot a few days later thanks to a great auto loan deal from Wings Financial Credit Union.

Over the past few months I have fallen in love with driving. It’s the first standard transmission (5 speed) I’ve ever driven and I can’t imagine driving any other way. It’s quick and really fun to drive… and has made the morning commute to Sky Harbor far more enjoyable than the Dodge ever did.

But then a wayward rental car bonked into the back of her last Saturday, leaving a nasty looking scrape on her bumper and quarter panel. Though she was still fully drivable and in reality, the damage was far less than what I drove around with on the Dodge… it was just the pride and principal of the thing.

Luckily I have Progressive Insurance and the guy who hit me was the manager at the rental car place… and therefore no major headaches or delays. I could fix her right away.

So I took her to the collision shop today and dropped her off… and got a rental car for the next ten days while my baby is in the shop.

And I REALLY miss my Miata after driving this thing…

I got a Nissan Sentra as a loaner. It’s new enough and still has that new car smell, but who cares about new car smell on a boring box on wheels? It’s got lots of room… almost too much room for a sedan. My arms dangle on either side and the “well” where an arm rest should be on my right side is a gaping abyss with cupholders at the canyon floor that were obviously built for Big Gulps.

So evidently the product designers at Nissan found that the Sentra demographic have a sincere love for soft drinks I guess.

But, more than all other things missing, the two most important things missing on this Sentra that are standard on my Miata are the clutch pedal and balls.

My left foot feels extremely lonely and coming off stoplights or out of park, it stomps uselessly on the floor in search for some fun of it’s own. Now, it doesn’t get jealous of the right foot though… because the right foot really isn’t that enthralled with the lumbering lack of response when it steps on its pedal.

I just can’t go back to the lack of control that an automatic transmission seems to have. I can’t downshift, pull away, or control the engine in the ‘on-demand’ manner that the 5-speed gives me. I never thought I’d prefer a standard, but I really do!

Yes, the Sentra has the acceleration of a constipated walrus. But its actually a good thing that it doesn’t peel away from a stop like the Miata… lest my tiny body within this cavernous roadable hallway would thrash about like a “Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man“.

I know that some people love big, spacious cars… and with the number of Hummers, Cadillacs, and dual-axle jacked up pickups in this state, I think Arizonans are the kings of the cavern car enthusiasts. I am far more comfortable in the tiny comfort of the Miata — with the sensation I am wearing the car, not riding upon it. I love the feeling of going over the bumps in the road and how you sense every movement in the Miata. She has an elemental feeling about her… whereas the Sentra has this complete lack of element. The Sentra has this bubble feeling about it… completely isolating the driver from the road. That may be a perk for some, but certainly not for me.

So I have ten days to tolerate this tug boat and then, thankfully, I’ll get my Miata back for some “Zoom Zoom” action again. And I can’t wait…