After researching various sports cars I ended up purchasing this car on a whim. I wanted to down size from my E90 M3. I cross shopped a lot of different cars with a wide variation in prices including the Corvette Gran Sport, Porsche Cayman S, Porsche Boxer S and the BMW M2. What I was looking for was a smaller sports car with an manual transmission. While “window shopping” with no intention to buy my local Mazda dealer offered me a deal I could not pass up so I traded my M3 for a MX-5 Grand Touring. After driving the car for a few months I have learned to love this car. If you read the reviews about this car they are fairly accurate. Let me begin by saying this car is a hoot to drive. It is so light it is very quick (not fast). The gearing is short and the weight is low making the car quick and nimble. The minimal insulation and increased road noise gives you the feeling of speed while at normal speed limits.
In my M3 I would row through the gears and realize I was going over 70 MPH in a flash after taking off from a stop light. With the MX-5 you feel a quick but not violent acceleration and when you look down you are only going 35-45 MPH. This car makes driving fun at normal speeds and will prevent you from getting an expensive speeding ticket. Everything about this car is about light weight and being fleet footed. The shifter is phenomenal and very light. It flows from gear to gear with minimal effort. Clutch is light and smooth. Throttle is light. The steering wheel has a very thin rim with an electric rack. I initially missed my thick M steering wheel and hydraulic rack. However I am now used to the feel of the MX-5 and find that the steering wheel has great feed back and the thin rim adds to the light weight steering. In spirited driving the car is light weight and easy to steer. Compared to my M3 the MX-5 dances around corners with a quick turn in and easy mid turn rotation using the throttle or steering to control over steer or under steer.
The M3 like the Corvette is very planted and has a very solid feel in the turns. This most likely has to do with the stiffer suspension and decreased roll compared to the MX-5. Some writers complain about the softer suspension and body roll the MX-5 exhibits in turns. I initially thought I was going to have to upgrade my suspension with stiffer springs and roll bars since I bought the Grand Touring model. However I think the Mazda engineers did a great job balancing ride compliance and corning feedback. The ride of the MX-5 is superior to my M3 and the increased body roll adds to the feeling of speed when turning at normal speed limits. The best way I can describe my driving experience is this is like riding a motorcycle. Light weight, quick, responsive with increased wind noise. Like riding a motorcycle the car is very noisy. There is very little sound insulation so there is increased road noise. Being a convertible (my first) I have come to appreciate the lack of a hard top roof makes this car much nosier with the top up or down. The car is also very small with very little storage space inside and a small trunk. There is no traditional glove box.
There is a lockable storage box between the seats and two similar sized cubbies behind the seat. There is also no storage space in the doors. Like driving a motorcycle don’t expect to bring a lot of stuff with you on your trips. A big bonus is the gas mileage. Like a motorcycle this car is very efficient. In mixed regular driving I average 37 MPG. Driving like an idiot I still manage 30 MPG. This is twice as good as my M3! Overall if you at looking for a fun little car that is a hoot to drive, cheap to own, gets great gas mileage, but not extremely practical if you have to carry a lot of stuff or people, then this is something to consider. Next year when the RF hard top comes out some of my noise complaints may be resolved. I was considering purchasing the RF next year until I got a deal on my convertible MX-5. However I do not regret my purchase and enjoy this car as my daily driver.