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Mazda ND MX-5 Miata: Frustration in option packaging

Ross Ballot December 20, 2017 All Things Hoon 12 Comments

I love Mazda, probably more than I do any other manufacturer. Scratch that – as of this writing, I love Mazda more than any other manufacturer. There, I said it. I’m sorry, Jeep, Mazda just has its mojo no in a way no other company does. And, if I’m honest, I’m head-over-heels in love with the ND MX-5 Miata.

Which is why I’m so frustrated by Mazda’s option packaging on its world-famous sports car. Put simply: if you want some things, you can’t have others. And if you want other things, you can’t have some. Not that these are catastrophic flaws, the models are great across the board, but there’s a few items that have me, and many others, questioning the reasoning behind Mazda’s offerings.

What is my issue with the availability of options, both mechanical and on the comfort front, and how does it affect the theoretical purchasing of an ND MX-5 Miata? Read on to find out.

Mazda has assembled the three-tier trim levels for its MX-5 Miata: Sport, Club, and GT. The difference between what each entails is deeply frustrating when broken down. I’m not the only one to complain about this, as is evident across the Miata boards and even in some reviews alike. So what’s the issue?

Pairing. There’s a major fault in the lack of ability to pair items that are designated to each trim level.

For example, should you want a limited slip differential, an extremely important option for racers and those who drive their cars both hard or in snow, you’re forced out of the base “Sport” trim and into the Club model. But then should you crave leather, heated seats and a more insulated roof, you have to step up to the GT (Grand Touring) tier, and in doing so lose the LSD. This is a heartbreaker for even the most casual of autocrossers who want a bit more comfort and likewise for commuters who want a more cooperative rear differential, and it’s a shame everything cannot be paired together on the same model.

The GT interior — Source: Motor Trend

As it turns out, the only way to incorporate all of the “desirable” options on a Miata is to buy a Fiat 124 Abarth. But even then, you lose some of the Miata’s fantastic character as the snappy 2.0 naturally-aspirated free-revver of an engine is replaced by the up-on-power but down-on-speed turbocharged powerplant from the 500 Abarth. That combined with the extra length and heft and deliberately angry styling simply detracts from the Miata’s lightweight, light-on-its-toes character, in turn transforming it to a more complex, less raw experience. And, frankly, turning the Miata into the 124 makes it less fun, furthering why it’s such a shame that you can’t get the Abarth’s options on the MX-5.

Source: Fiat

Thus, my “perfect Miata” doesn’t exist. Without turning to the aftermarket there is simply no way to have the limited slip diff, heated leather seats, and the thicker roof all on the same car. And so the question comes about: is it easier to add an LSD to the GT, or the luxury items to the Club?

Are you better off upgrading the mechanicals or the interior? And, ultimately, why won’t Mazda let you buy a car that’s simultaneously the best-performing and most comfortable? Herein lies my dilemma. Theoretically, of course, since I’m definitely not shopping for an ND Miata. Definitely not.

Maybe Mazda gets its customers better than I think I do, assuming that those who want to track it and drive it hard and in the snow won’t care about luxury items, and that those who want the softer, more comfortable and cushy and luxurious side of things won’t care as much about the way the rear-end performs. Maybe they’re right and I’m wrong. Maybe it is stupid to want it all in a Miata.

All I know is that the perfect car doesn’t exist as a Mazda Miata, and it pains my soul. Luckily though, it’s an incredible car in any guise. And the aftermarket does exist to add niceties or differentials, should one want or need those things. But seriously, Mazda, what gives?

Man, talk about first-world problems, right? Which model would you go with? Would you prefer to buy a GT and add the LSD or buy a Club and add heated seats and a better, more insulated roof? Sound off in the comments.

  • Maymar

    I mean, for my sake, I’d be perfectly content with the base model (okay, I probably wouldn’t turn down more sound insulation – I’m getting prematurely old). That said, I’d have a hard time picking a Miata over a Toyobaru – they’re cheaper new (at least up here), and it looks like they’re getting to be a steal in my market (plenty of FRS’s with regular commuter mileages for ~$15k CDN, while the Miatas all appear to be toys, and are priced accordingly – $10k more unless you’re willing to put up with an automatic).

  • Fred

    On my 2014 TSX the choice was base or tech. A couple of things I wanted from the tech, but that was a few thousand dollars. I’m thinking of upgrading the head unit to get AA and add a backup camera.

  • Easier to update mechanicals than interiors.

  • Tiller188

    The one that really gets me nowadays is manual transmissions, where they’re even offered. Surely in this day and age, the majority of people buying a stickshift are doing it because they LIKE driving a stickshift, not because they’re trying to be miserly, no? (If they ARE buying the stick to be miserly, they’re probably doing it wrong, honestly, given the fuel mileage of today’s autos and the fact that plenty of cars come with autos as standard.) If that is the case, then why is it that the manual still seems to be relegated to base-model rental-spec trim levels? There are exceptions to that (occasionally even in places you wouldn’t expect…hat tip to Honda for the latest Accord, although even then it only shows up in a specific “Sport” trim, not available on any of the more luxurious trims), but it still seems to hold true much of the time. I really wonder whether that choice is borne out by market research, or whether it’s a leftover from when manuals were significantly cheaper and (depending on the driver) more efficient.

    • Another hat tip to Honda – the Civic Si and Type R are all manuals, no auto available. I guess it’s been that way for a long time (my RSX Type S was 6 speed only) but I didn’t realize it. Gives me a smile every time I see a Civic Si now.

  • outback_ute

    GT and add aftermarket helical type lsd instead?

  • crank_case

    It’s worse in other countries – In Ireland, you can only buy the convertible as a 1.5 with no LSD option, if you want an LSD and 2.0 engine, you must buy a heavier RF model. The Japanese home market doesn’t even get the 2.0 at all!

  • wunno sev

    as an exercise in DIY vs buying the packages, I went to the configurator site. starting with the Club and adding the ($3400!) Brembo/BBS package, i’m up to $33k+. (Brembo/BBS and LSD are unavailable on the Sport.)

    now: what if you start with the base model and spend some money in the aftermaket and the Mazda parts department? $25k for the Sport, $1100 for a Wilwood big brake kit from Flyin’ Miata, $1300 for the factory LSD at Mazda Parts Webstore. now we’re up to 27.5 (plus whatever it costs to install the LSD – let’s pretend you do that at home). that’s ~6k saved over the Club. swap on some sticky tires for another $600, bringing us to nearly 20% of the car’s price saved on doing it yourself instead of buying the packages.

    of course, you don’t get the Club interior by doing this, but you save up for the ten sets of RE-71Rs you’re gonna need to make it to 100k. there’s also no way you’re getting forged BBSs without totally ruining the budget, but the way i see it, that’s four expensive potholes with skinny tires like these, or one very expensive police report.

  • Zentropy

    My “perfect Miata” would be the 124 sheetmetal with the RF roof and the MX-5 running gear. I much prefer the retro look of the Fiat (I feel the NC was prettier than the reptilian ND), but I don’t like convertibles. If it wasn’t so blandly unattractive, my “perfect Miata” would be a Toyota 86.

  • Zentropy

    A similar Mazda tactic kept me from buying a Mazda5 instead of one of the major breadboxes. I could only get the manual transmission on the base (Sport) model, but wanted the interior and amenities of the Touring. In all honestly, though, my wife refuses to drive a manual, so it probably wasn’t going to happen anyway.

  • My biggest Miata gripe is that, unless you get the RF you’re limited to black, white, gray and Soul Red. And the RF only adds a blue that’s darn near gray. This is a fun car, where are the fun colors? What happened to the bright hues of the NA?

  • gary sciascia

    the club model lsd costs around $1400 to buy and if you install it itself……..in a gt, you get the best of both worlds as you could in the nc gt with the 6 speed manual. I have the 2016 gt , 6 speed and plan to do just that