MR2 Spyder or Miata?

Discussion in 'Gearhead Garage' started by tweakmonkey, Sep 19, 2008.

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Miata or MR2

  1. Miata

    3 vote(s)
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  2. MR2

    21 vote(s)
    87.5%
  1. Dustin

    Dustin Junior Member

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    Just drive both of them, that's really the only thing that should make up your mind. They're driver's cars after all :D
  2. nidex

    nidex Hood Rich

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    Your get-everything-you-need-to-know-from-consumer-reports stance is amusing. :D
  3. Collings

    Collings New Member

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    I am excited to weigh in here as someone who has owned both a 2001 MR2 Spyder and a 1999 Miata, and a long-time autocrosser with a wall full of trophies. Both are outstanding cars. People who tell you the Miata isn't "manly" enough haven't ridden in a Spec Miata on a race track. With a competent driver the Maita is a formidable little car.

    Which one you should buy will ultimately be an emotional decision for you. I'll share my feelings.

    My MR2 Sypder was red, and every time I walked up to it in a parking lot I thought to myself, "I can't believe I get to drive this car." It's a STUPID car to own. There is NO trunk. The back is all engine, and under the front hood you'll find a SOLID SHEET OF PLASTIC obscuring a tiny space that holds the spare tire. There is not enough space for a shoe box in there. Anything you carry will have to fit in the small compartments behind the seats, or in the passenger seat.

    I drove that car very well, almost taking first place in the one autocross season I campaigned it against the superior Miatas in C Stock. It was a RIOT to drive, particularly with good tires. It had good torque and the fastest steering of any car I've driven. It's weakness was an open differential that we had to compensate for with a large front sway bar. We had to balance the car between bad understeer and crippling inside wheelspin. Mine also lacked cruise control, so my right knee hated long trips in the somewhat cramped interior. It was very comfortable other than that. At least the first few years of the MR2 spyder had problems with the rings going bad in the engine. My car had it's engine replaced under warranty around 20k miles. It's convertible top was very slick, but prone to problems folding correctly. (Look up "Spyder ears") Oh yeah.. It was LETHAL in the rain. The Miata was MUCH safer and easier to handle when the back stepped out in the wet.

    The Miata is a proven performer, a solid track toy, has TONS of aftermarket support and miata.net, which is an AMAZING resource. Anything you need to do, there's a tutorial in their garage. Any question you might think of has been asked in their forums. It's seats are a little less comfortable than the spider (I had cloth. The Leather seats in the NB are worse.), but it's got a pretty good sized trunk for a car of it's size. Mine had the factory torsen LSD, and was a RIOT to drive in a parking lot. Even with 90k miles on stock shocks it was a blast. It's VERY forgiving at the limit, unlike the edgy Spyder, and much more reliable. Anything you want to do to it can be done with off the shelf parts. I have friends with 200whp Miatas that are reliable enough to track all day and fast enough to pass many an Elise at Lotus club events. Parts are cheeper too. I wonder what a replacement top for the Spyder runs! Also, the Spyder has different size wheels front and back, so you can only rotate tires side-to-side, and your wheel and tire options are limited.

    Speaking of the track, last time I checked there were no "real" aftermarket bolt-in rollbars available for the MR2, so if you want to take it out on the track you'll be welding. The ones that are available don't bolt to the floor of the car, so they can't meet many club's regulations.

    I loved both my Spyder and my Miata, and if I could buy either of them back it wouldn't be an easy choice. But I would pick the Miata for its rock-solid reliability and its potential to be a much faster car with some mods.

    Either way you're going to have a great time.
  4. Dustin

    Dustin Junior Member

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    Best first post EVER. Welcome.

    You couldn't have written that any better or more accurately if you tried. Great feedback!
  5. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    Hey Collings,
    Welcome to the site, thanks for the insight / experience shared.

    I looked at red MR2 Spyders and this quote seems appropriate: every time I walked up to it in a parking lot I thought to myself, "I can't believe I get to drive this car."

    I'm not big on luggage/cargo and would probably have an alternate car to drive, so the MR2's size wouldn't be *that*big of a deal, but even the grocery store would be an issue it seems. :D

    Glad to hear about the reliability and all that of the Miata... I know it'll be an emotional choice for me as well, but luckily I have a little time to think about it. The weather here (Bay Area) is so nice I just need to get a convertible one way or the other. I get to drive some really cool cars for work but I want my own weekend cruiser to have a ragtop and be as small/sporty as possible.
  6. Collings

    Collings New Member

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    No problem! I'm happy to share my experience. They were my two very favorite cars. Convertibles make everything better. Even sitting in traffic is more fun.

    I might add that I recently sold the '99 Miata and a 2005 RX-8 and got a new 2008 Miata. I've driven the new Miata about 2400 miles, and only about 200 of those miles have been with the top up. The Bay Area is a great place for a convertible!

    The new Miata is a much more grown-up car than than either of the two you're considering. I chose it as a good compromise between my two previous cars. I've got half the the fun eager-to-pleaseness of my old Miata with all the comfort and sure-footedness (and seat heaters.. Bliss in a convertible at night!) of the RX-8. Even with it's extra power and refinement, the '08 is not quite as fun to flog in the hills as the '99, and I miss it often. Maybe once I get some springs and shocks on new one...

    See you on Route 9. :)
  7. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    Yeah the new Miatas look pretty big/grown-up versus the older ones. It's amazing how cheap used Miatas are, I've seen some 99s for like $5000 that look pretty nice. The MR2 spyders are quite a bit more, but even those are softened now with the economy!

    How was the gas mileage of your MR2 versus Miata? Both seem decent and from what I read the MR2 was slightly better. How's the transmission/shifter/clutch on the MR2? That's one thing I remember being really good and fun about the Miata I drove a few years back.
  8. Dustin

    Dustin Junior Member

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    The Miata has one of the most solid, reassuring gearboxes around.. It's really tight, short throws and very convincing. I know it's fairly common practice to miss gears (I've heard 3 is easy to mix up with 5 but I haven't experienced it personally) with it but it really rewards you overall.

    The Spyder on the other hand is cable-driven (like most FWD cars) and it's pretty sloppy. It's not BAD but it's definitely a lot more loose and vauge than the Miata.

    I've not spent a lot of time in the new Miata but it's definitely a grown up version of the older ones. One of the first things I noticed being in one was that it actually had some GRUNT; something the older Miatas definitely didn't have. :) They're really fast in the autox circles too, probably because guys are cramming 285 width r-compounds on the 18" wheels
  9. slowhand7007

    slowhand7007 New Member

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    NO Comparison

    I was in the car business for 12 years (still have a license specifically for buying cars to toy with) and spent quite a bit of that time owning 2 different Miatas. Most of the negative comments here are emotional/anecdotal and not based in the facts, stats or history of the Miata.

    Mazda is the only Japanese car company to have won the 24 hours of LeMans, although with a rotary. The Miata has it's own class in SCCA racing, does the MR2. The Miata was the FIRST car ever imported with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution. The Miata was on Car and Driver's top 10 list 8 years in a row. MR2s (granted the old ones) used to catch fire like Fieros. The Miata held Road and Tracks 700 foot slalom record for several years with only a Racing Beat suspension kit, eventually being knocked off by a Porsche. The accolades the Miata has racked up during it's production have been very impressive, and extensive.

    Miatas are historically one of the most reliable cars you can purchase, period. I had a 91 with the 1.6 liter engine and 150,000 miles on it. I shifted it at redline more often than not and NEVER had an unexpected visit to the shop. I could also "float" gears, after take-off, all the way to 5th and back. I did this quite a bit and never managed to break the tranny. I can't tell you how many Miatas I have seen with 150,000 plus miles and still driving well. As far as reliabilty, consider the use that these statistics come from. They test under standard driving. Are you going to standardly drive these cars, or flog them? I don't have any stats for hard use, but my instincts tell me the Toyota would break first. I know what you can do to a Miata on a regular basis and it should be illegal, lol.

    The Toyotas enjoy a reputation for reliability, comfort, and moderately exciting design. The flip side is, they are "Tinny" and do not feel as stable at speeds. MR2's, as stated so eloquently before by another poster, are a little "edgy" compared to the Miata. Miatas are VERY forgiving for inexperienced people to drive. Every time I need to teach someone to drive a manual transmission, I pick the Miata. With the Miata, if you need to adjust your angle through a curve and are close to the edge, you can normally without braking or accelerating too much. I have not found that to be true of the MR2. In an MR2, you are hard pressed to make radical changes in the motion without paying a price.

    If you have not taken a Miata out in the snow, streets empty of course or a parking lot, and steered the whole way with the e-Brake, clutch and gas pedal, you are missing out. I drove mine through several tough winters and only got stuck once, while friends with front wheel drive cars got nowhere.

    The allusions to it's lack of masculinity and preference by same said humans is due, in my mind to the shift in men's self perceptions. I never felt gay driving it, although I did get waves and honks. Being comfortable in my sexuality and loving taking a curve wide open, flat and stable, I soon dismissed the thought that I was less than manly due to my car.

    I believe, and have no direct stats for the position just a good idea, that I would look into the Audi TT as a more preferable alternative to the Miata than an MR2. The Quattro All Wheel Drive sytem, even with the "Tiptronic" automatic, is absolutely amazing in curves.

    The only Toyota for racing, other than in straight lines, is the Supra. If you want front wheel drive, you might as well buy an automatic, with really high reliability and gas mileage ratings.

    MR2, to me, MRNot.
  10. Dustin

    Dustin Junior Member

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    So in one thread we had the best first post ever and now the worst.
  11. slowhand7007

    slowhand7007 New Member

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    Dustin, Why thank you. I rather thought I was expounding on the same general tenet that you surmised. Maybe I used too many big words for you.
  12. Dustin

    Dustin Junior Member

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    Whether we agree or not isn't the point. I only had a problem with the fanboyism of your post... Like most biased people, you showed us the things you wanted to show us but you missed the big picture.

    Gotta present both sides man :)

    Welcome to the forum anyway!
  13. slowhand7007

    slowhand7007 New Member

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    Yes, I am a Fanboy, but for good reason. Anyone that likes to drive a car hard will immediately know the difference in these two. I have sold more Toyotas than Mazdas by a long shot and for a good reason, but the discussion is not between makes, it's between these two cars. Sorry, but I see very little comparison and so did not try to spend time to expound on a car that I cannot stand in the interest of being unbiased, fakely. And yes, the modified Miatas even take the difference further.

    Thing is, I truly BELIEVE in the Miata. I do accept that things change and others catch up or pass. But the MR2 is not that car.

    Thanks for the welcome. I hope to come back soon.
  14. ThatHideousStrength

    ThatHideousStrength Junior Member

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    Honda S2000! 4 cylinder, 2.0 L and 240 HP. That's pure awesome.
  15. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    MR2s aren't front wheel drive. MR2s are more set up for racing than Supras, other than drag racing.

    Buy an automatic? That's crazy. I'm a manual driver (of the 10 cars I've owned 9 were manuals) and regarding fuel economy, manuals get better gas mileage.

    I think the MR2's styling is much more exciting than the Miata. This is an opinion, not a fact, but that's my opinion regardless of which car I buy. Maybe being more rare than a Miata helps a lot, but I think the styling of the MR2 is very different than most cars / edgy / aggressive / etc.

    Sure, this may be true with Corollas and Tercels, but I doubt the MR2 feels any less stable at high speeds than a Miata.

    If you look at sites like Edmunds or ConsumerReports, or user feedback forums, most people have very good reliability results with the MR2. It's Toyota's 1ZZ-FED, same motor as the Celica. I'm not as worried about the reliability.. I work at a shop and can change out anything that breaks. In the unlikely case that the motor would blow up, I'd swap in the DOHC motor from the GTS.

    I'm not buying an older one.

    I'm not inexperienced, and I'd probably be the only one driving the car.

    I pretty much only drive sticks.

    Most cars are fun in these situations. If it snows I'd have an AWD car. But I think even my FWD Honda Insight would do better in the snow than a Miata with its tiny tires and lighter weight.

    OMG NO YOU DIDN'T JUST SAY THAT.

    The TT is much heavier. MUCH heavier. Much more expensive. Less reliable. There's no way I could imagine it'd outhandle an MR2 given similar drivers/tire grip/etc. I'd never buy a tiptronic Audi...I'd be too afraid to fall asleep at the wheel. :D

    S2000s are awesome and all but I want a more responsive motor by RPM, they're more expensive, get worse gas mileage, and are heavier/bigger than either the Miata or the MR2.
  16. Collings

    Collings New Member

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    Yeah, I think what Dustin was saying is that "in the same way that most front wheel drive cars have cables between the shifter and the gear box, the MR2 also has a cable from the shifter to the gear box." The '99 Miata's gearbox was very, very easy to work with, and coupled with it's excellent clutch feel I was able to rev-match downshifts so perfectly in that car that even non-car-people passengers were impressed. The stick in the MR2 is a little spongier, I guess, but still among the very best I've used. Among the worst I've used are ANY Audi. Someone once described an A4's shifter feel to me as "condomy". I don't really know what that means, but I couldn't agree more.

    The ratios in the MR2's five speed were great as well, particularly for autocross. My '99 had a 5-speed, and it was fine. The Miata 6-speeds are frustrating for autocross (and to some for driving around town) because the gears are closer together. That means that you'll be between 2nd and 3rd all the time on the autocross course, where the 5-speed would allow you to just leave it in 2nd. The gear ratio of 5th in the five speed is almost exactly equal to 6th in the six speed! I couldn't get my new Miata with the LSD and the 5-speed, so I have to row the car along the street with the 6-speed.

    You know.. While I'm at it, I f-ing hate 6-speeds. The only one I've ever liked was my RX-8, and that's only because the 9k RPM redline allowed me to spend enough time in each gear. A long time ago a friend had an Audi TT quattro turbo that he chipped to raise the boost pressure. The 6-speed's ratios were so close you could barely get the clutch out in first or second gear before you were at the redline! VERY frustrating. My friend's 350Z was the same way. All that BEAUTIFUL torque, and no chance to savor it before you have to shift! If you think you might ever turbocharge a Miata, I would recommend the 5-speed for its longer gears. They still aren't long enough when you're making 2x the stock wheel horsepower, but they're going to be a lot better than the 6.

    But I digress.

    Another quibble is that neither car has particularly great headlights when you're pounding up Mt. Hamilton at night. I did, however, LOVE the view of the headlights from inside the MR2. You can see them up there at the nose of the car, and they serve as a constant visual reminder of how tiny and special the car is. And from the front they look like the eyes of a deranged clown. Or at least they did to me.

    Gas milage in both cars was mid 20's. I got about 25 in the MR2 and 22-23 in the Miata. Of course, I don't recall the Miata having an analog throttle. Because of it's grace at the limit I drove that car flat on the floor EVERWHERE. The MR2 was just too fidgety to do that with. Did I mention the time I spun the MR2 in the middle of an intersection in front of a cop in the rain? (I had just changed the front sway bar, but still.) Or the time the tail got away from me and turned a regular u-turn into a super-badass drift-champion-style u-turn in front of another cop? (I was able to avoid the "exhibition of speed" ticket because I had my used-up hoosier autocross slicks on at the time.. I got that same cop to sign off the fix-it ticket later that day when I switch back to my street tires. He was NOT amused. :) )

    And as for stability at high speed.. For the first three weeks I drove the MR2 I was afraid to take a hand off the steering wheel. The steering ratio was so fast compared to the (sigh) Honda del Sol that it replaced that I was afraid to sneeze on the freeway for fear of changing lanes unexpectedly. After those first three weeks, however, it became my favorite thing about the car. Never, not under any circumstance, move your hands from 9 and 3.

    I went 120 in the MR2 once, and it didn't feel that great, but then I decided that it wasn't important to go that fast anyway. I went 110 in the Miata once, and I realized it wasn't any more fun than 70, so I slowed down.

    I went 130 in my RX-8 once, and it seemed basically like 90, which scared me. Which brings me to the S2000. AMAZING car. I've driven one of the newer ones (after 2004, I think, when they got but more torque) with racing tires on an autocross course, and though it is pretty quick to spin in the hands of mortals, it was probably the finest most controllable car I've ever had the pleasure of racing. But like the RX-8, it's so fast that you'd never get to really get to flog it on the street. You can drive the Miata flat out and have the time of your life, and kind of not be breaking any traffic laws. Being able to pull 1G in corners with reasonable tires makes up for a LOT.

    And nothing is more satisfying than dogging a poorly driven Carrera 4 up Mt. Tam with less than 100 whp. Who's the real man now, $90,000 Porsche guy? :)

    This thread is really making me miss those cars. :(
  17. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    I've noticed the market's much softer now for the used MR2s and Miatas. The MR2s are down to the point where you can get one under 100k miles for about $7000. The 90-95ish Miatas are still about the price they were (cheap!) with the occasional sub-$2000 deal. The 99+ start at $5000, but I haven't looked at any yet.

    I still haven't driven the MR2, hoping to do so very soon.

    I'm pretty torn between the value that is a 90-92 Miata and the much newer car I'd get by buying a 2000+ MR2. I'd have to sell my Talon TSI AWD *and* Honda Insight to buy the MR2, but I could get away with the Miata selling just one.

    Mount Hamilton!!! My Honda Insight is so much fun driving up there. I can haul so much arse up and down that hill. It's a lot of fun.

    Great post, thanks again for contributing. Reading your experience makes me think:
    The MR2 Spyder would be fast and an exciting car to drive, but....
    The Miata would be more fun overall, or at least I'd have more opportunities to enjoy it.

    I think if I bought a Miata I'd still prefer to sell both cars as I hate owning so much "stuff" I wouldn't be able to use. And for some reason I fell in love again with the 1st get Miatas (over 2nd), particularly in yellow. :D

    I think the most important thing in life is having fun, and a "classic" style RWD/manual roadster would be hard to beat at the fun factor game. MUST DRIVE BOTH AND REPORT BACK.
  18. sims

    sims walls of text

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    so are you pretty much decided that your going to get something knew, or are you just toying around with the idea?

    I can't wait until someone I know picks up and MR-S so I can take it for a spin.
  19. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    I don't know, I've got mixed feelings about it. I love my Honda, don't drive my Talon, and want something fun to drive. I should fix my Talon first before I make a decision either way. For some reason lots of power and AWD isn't nearly as fun here. Probably because the fear of jail, lack of nearby open roads, rain or snow.
  20. sharky

    sharky Junior Member

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    Cars=drugs=jail
  21. sharky

    sharky Junior Member

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    Did you go to the Toyota dealer yet and test drive one?
  22. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    No, they didn't have any models listed on their site. I will check at the auto mall area tomorrow. You should go with me.
  23. sims

    sims walls of text

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    hmmm, i;m trying to think of some other cool cars, but I guess you don't really want a project eh? if its going to be your only car it needs to be reliable and decent on gas. Can't think of anything better then a miata or MRS. Normally i'm not a big supporter, but with the climate you have a convertible would be so nice aswell.
  24. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    Yeah, that's exactly why it must be a convertible. It's beautiful here.
  25. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    Hey Collings,
    What is your opinion of the different years of Miatas? The 90-94s are really cheap, but were there any things I definitely want to pay more for (e.g. LSD, or 92+ cars only)? I don't know know that much about Miatas...

    Also, are the 99ish bodied cars much better than the earlier ones? I really like the pop-up cars' body.