My Little Miata: Roadster Is Magic

Actually I could’ve titled this post “My Little Roadster: Miata Is Magic” too, because ZOMG I’m still pretty elated over my latest purchase 48 hours ago. Or was it 60? Anyway.

Just want to get the car buying details down.

Since this is on the intarwebs I have to keep the details away from incriminating (even if it is probably okay–I didn’t get THAT good of a deal), but let’s just say I purchased the car with my dad’s help. He is a sales dude for a rather large Honda dealer in the NY/NJ/PA/CT area and the same parent company owns a Mazda dealer. It’s also close by and he knows some of the people who works there. More importantly my dad has a reputation within the parent company as a top sales, so this one sales at the Mazda chain tried to curry favor by giving us a pretty good price from the start.

My previous car was a 2000 Acura TL that had about 168k miles by the time it expired due to its transmission crapping out. It’s a common problem for TLs of that vintage. Coincidentally my mom drives a 2001 TL that is having the same problem, except that transmission hasn’t completed died yet. Also, that was my temporary vehicle during the past week or two. These two TLs were both pick-ups from my Dad who plucked them from people trading them in, so they were in various shapes of used by the time my family started to drive them. My old TL was kind of beat up, the previous owner doesn’t know how to take care of the car, and the transmission was worse off than it typically is because it never had a proper transmission fluid change until 80k miles in(?!). Oh, the exterior is all scratched because the previous owner took a Brillo to it thinking it was stainless steel, lol.

Anyway. I did obviously try all the Honda cars I liked. My dad has the in, and his managers would gladly oblige. The problem was I had my sights on a BRZ, which is nigh impossible to purchase. Or rather, if my car broke down a week earlier, I might had one because by the time I went to test drive a BRZ, it basically all sold out. The Subaru BRZ Limited was the one I wanted mainly for its leather inserts and standard Nav. I want Nav! The similarly … everything Scion FR-S was equally tempting, to be honest, but it just wasn’t going to be competitively priced given how it lacks all those things, and still is going to start at around 26k. The dealer markups were in the 1000-2000 range. I can’t bring myself to buy a Toyota with a markup. That’s the worst as far as value goes. I can understand paying 30-33k for a BRZ Limited, because at least that’s fully loaded.

Funny thing about the test drive. I talked to a dealer over email about me coming down, he was asking if I can make it that day and I said no. I went the day after, after work, and by the time I got there they’ve sold the two BRZs they had (a Limited manual and a Premium automatic). In fact the owner of the Premium was about to leave when we got there, and while I talked to the sales guy my dad quickly asked the happy new owner (some guy who looks to be 25yo) how much: 31k OTD. It was the blue Premium automatic.

My dad is good with people (top sales, natch) and he got some interesting details from the owner of that BRZ. Like how this dude likes the Miata. Well, we all like the Miata. Who doesn’t? At least to drive and ride? My dad loves the Miata; it’s the only sports car he purposely test drove in order to contemplate a purchase. Man. I want that Nav. But I guess grass is always greener on the other side. Seeing how the only BRZ left in the inventory is up in Staten Island (Srsly? Central NJ is out of stock?), I just gave up on it. According to the one sales I talked to, they were only going to ship 6000 BRZs in the US this year, so it’s on allocation for each dealer in a rationed kind of way. Pay a deposit, he said. I’m like, thanks, but I might as well go buy a Miata.

So that was pretty much how I narrowed it down. Other vehicles in consideration were:

  • Genesis Coupe 3.8 V6 R-spec (or, lol, the track trim) manual
  • Accord Coupe LX-S Manual
  • Civic LX Manual (the only 4-door option)
  • Accord Coupe EX-L V6 Manual (this one is fully loaded and has Nav)
  • MX-5 Sports Manual + Convenience package
  • What I ended up with is–

MX-5 Touring Manual PRHT + Suspension package (2012, natch)

I think the Genesis was in serious contention but the one dealer never got back to my dad after asking for a quote. I suspect the 3.8 R-spec manual could be had at around 27-28k OTD, which is close to how much I paid for the Miata. But this wouldn’t be from the same parent company.

I actually rather liked how silky smooth the Accord EX-L V6 was, but I really didn’t like how it still is very large, and I don’t like the 2-door Accords for some reason. They look great at an angle but its fat ass invariably rears itself. It’s got great space, though, don’t get me wrong. More importantly, while it was a great deal, the bottom line was I was able to get the Miata about 1000 or so more than the EX-L. I’d say almost the same price, depending on financing details and any packages. If the car I got didn’t have the suspension package it would have been almost the same.

Of course, that’s the 800lb elephant in the room: The Accord is way more practical than the Miata. But well, it isn’t magical. Plus the sports trim was a good 4k less.

Actually I narrowed it down further–either the Civic LX 4-door or the Miata. I figured if I wanted cheap I should go all the way. The Civic could be sub 20k OTD, which is perfect for my budget. The Accord LX-S doesn’t get me anything the Civic doesn’t already, besides another 40 HP or so; the Civic is already a whale anyway. I also test drove the Fit, and let’s just say who in their right mind would drive, let alone buy one, I don’t know. I’m going to assume it also applies uniformly across that class of cars, since Fit is one of the better examples from that class, too.

The other car-buying tidbits: is the place to go. I got a call from their rep and he quoted me a pretty good price on the Miata Sports trim. That number I can share: 24400 OTD. In reality after everything we could have had it as low as 23900 or even 23200 OTD, depending on financing and other promotions that you can bargain it from. It actually undercuts the price we were quoted at first. But all this was for the vanilla manual MX-5, sports trim.

The problem was that the sports trim lacked some basic amenities like power locks and remote keyless entry, and the one dealership doesn’t have the particular sports trim + convenience package, which means we had to wait, and they could make less money. A nearby one had all this stuff, actually, so we could’ve went and price match (as a BATNA).

This one did have the black MX-5 Touring Power Retractable Hardtop in stock, so we asked. That was probably the hardest choice I had to make in a long time, that or the Sports trim. I think I come away making the right choice, but at what cost? It was about another 4500, but I get the suspension package (Bilstein shocks, limited slip diff, “sports tuned suspension”), 17″ wheels, the PRHT, fog lights, some styling details, 6-speed manual transmission (instead of 5–not a real boon for me I think), in-dash 6-CD changer (they all can play mp3s these days, huh), cruise control, and some other not-quite value-adds. It was clearly the better value choice, but I didn’t want to pay so much more? You get what I’m saying? I think the main driving reason was that we all preferred the hardtop over soft. Bonus points was that who doesn’t like themselves some transforming mecha? The real BATNA at that price was the fully loaded V6 EX-L Accord, which has more interior comfort and practicality, the Nav, the leather, at least another 100 ponies…but you’re now driving an Accord. Is Miata’s “magic” worth all this?

My dad used the color choice (black) as a bargaining chip to lower the price by $300. I could not have cared less about color (as long as it’s not one of the two red colors). But nobody in my family likes the black for some reason, and I guess that is valid enough of an excuse.

I think I’m pretty happy. Unlike the MBP with Retina display, the value is undeniably there. And it’s just as magical (if not more so).

After driving with it for 70 miles I can tell you that in a way it makes everyday driving less exciting because handing of the car is more fun than the way the road turns. There is this downhill, reverse banked turn curving left that is in a 40mph zone on the way from my place to my folk’s place. We used to take that turn pretty hard as most cars will exhibit some significant roll at 40mph. I barely felt a thing with the Miata at 45mph. It was more than confident. But it doesn’t make the turn boring, just not exciting. It’s that subtle thing where the magic happens.

I think I’m more excited trying to learn to master the clutch on this thing now than any turn the road offers. I mean, I’m slowing down to make a right! Must get in right gear and pull out in right gear vrooom w.

The fact that this is a roadster simply increases the value-add. I think I would’ve been pretty happy if it wasn’t, but it wows all the friends and relatives when I take the top down and have a nice sunny day to impress them. It does give me great visibility to cut people lol.

Speaking of which, there just isn’t any torque at below 1800 RPM. Something to keep in mind. The NC MX-5 (2006-2012) has 170HP and improved driver’s cabin space. I do need every inch of it (it was one of the biggest concern against the MX-5 going in before the test drive) but it’s a snug fit like they say in all those magazines. My dad fits it perfectly. With the top up, my head comes up short of it by an inch or so. I think if I was a lightweight I might bump against it. The softtop has less clearance, which was another strike; the static gets my hair in that case.

Mazda has a redesign MX-5 for 2013. If I waited a few more months I bet I can buy it even cheaper. But oh well.