In the not too distant future, words like “autonomous” and “electric”, will likely replace words, like “throaty exhaust” and “redline.” So is now the time to stop and find some driving enjoyment? Yes! Today the roads are littered with boring SUVs and sedans, but there are a few options left on the market if you want to actually feel the road, enjoy the sounds of the engine and at the same time have a hell of a lot of fun. Yes you can look at anything from a Camaro to an M4 or even a Toyota 86, but what about a roadster? There are a few good options, especially the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Porsche 718 Boxster.
Yup we’re about to compare a Mazda to a Porsche. Yes many diehard Porsche fans would never step foot in a Mazda showroom, but if you’re willing to look past the badge, the MX-5 Miata is a worthy alternative to the Boxster.
“Yes we know that the Boxster costs twice as much as the MX-5 Miata.”
Ok before we get started, yes the Boxster costs about twice as much as the MX-5 Miata. Great! So you could technically buy two or maybe buy an MX-5 Miata for the weekend and another car when you need to carry more passengers or more than just two small carry-on bags. But is that a reason to choose the MX-5 over the much more expensive Boxster? Not exactly…
The 2017 MX-5 Miata, which is known internally as the ND, is the fourth generation of the much loved little roadster. Since its introduction in the early 1990’s the Miata has grown in every dimension and its also packed on the pounds. Unlike the average American who continues to put get heavier, for the fourth generation, Mazda put the MX-5 Miata on a major diet. Its weight is so close to the original Miata, that it’s basically an engineering marvel that Mazda was able to get the new MX-5 Miata back down to its roots even with the additional safety equipment that today’s cars demand.
“The new MX-5 Miata went on a major diet”
Although the MX-5 can be equipped with two engine options in other markets, in the U.S. the sole engine is a 2.0L four-cylinder that generates 155 horsepower – yup about half of what the 718 Boxster sends to its rear wheels. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. On the trim front there are three trim levels: the base Sport, the enthusiast-geared Club and the more luxurious top-of-the-line Grand Sport. For this comparo, Mazda lent us a Club to tackle the twists and turns of Malibu Canyon in Los Angeles.
Over at the other end of the spectrum we have the new 718 Boxster, which brings back an old name and ditches the former naturally-aspirated flat six-cylinder for a new turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder. Some diehard Porsche fans are already up in arms about the deleted cylinders. On paper, the smaller four-cylinder generates more power, 37 more horsepower to be exact for a total 300 horsepower and at the same time it’s more fuel efficient. Buyers can choose either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch (PDK) transmission.
“Diehard fans complain about the new engine note, but it still sounds amazing.”
Unlike the Miata, which only offers one powertrain, if you want more power in the Boxster, you can step up to the 718 Boxster S with its 350-hp 2.5L four-cylinder. Be prepared to write a big check if you want the 718 Boxster S!
Ok specifics aside, how do the two roadsters compare if you ignore the badges and price tags? They are both insanely fun to drive and beautiful to look at. Both the MX-5 Miata and Boxster will easily bring back the joy of driving in your life.
What do we love about the MX-5 Miata? It’s incredibly light, behind the wheel you feel so connected to the car that it screws up basic math – in the MX-5 Miata 1+1 actually equals 1. With only 155 horsepower under the hood, you’d easily assume that the Miata wouldn’t be very exhilarating to drive – but you’d be dead wrong. Remember how light the Miata is now? It comes in at 2,332 pounds, which is about 600 pounds lighter than the Boxster 718. That light weight makes the MX-5 Miata a lot more tossable than the Boxster, but its soft suspension does hurt it somewhat on the twisties.
“The MX-5 Miata has so much personality that you will never be in a bad mood.”
What didn’t we like about the Miata? As we already mentioned, it’s soft suspension provides a bit too much body roll. While the MX-5 Miata is a joy to drive, the 718 Boxster feels more planted on the road. Lastly living with the Miata everyday may be a bit hard for some. For one, where’s the back up camera? There’s also very little luggage space and road noise with the top up makes it really hard to call anyone. Well I guess you can call anyone, but expect to hear a lot of “sorry, I can’t understand you.” There 718’s interior is a bit more quiet than the Miata with the top up and the 718 Boxster has two trunks.
What do we love about the Boxster 718? What isn’t there to love? It’s new turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder generates more power than the old naturally-aspirated flat six and although the sound may not be as nice to listen to as the old engine, it’s still great to hear when you lay into the pedal. Unlike the MX-5, there’s almost no body roll here, which makes it feel like you’re driving on rails. With a 0-60 mph time just below five seconds with the manual, the Boxster 718 will easily pull away from the MX-5 Miata, which takes just over six seconds to reach 60 mph.
“With more power, better efficiency and near perfect handling, what’s not to love?”
What didn’t we like about the 718 Boxster? 300 horsepower, a tight suspension and perfect steering are all great attributes, but do they also take a bit of fun out of the equation? Yes, even only slightly. The 718 Boxster does everything so well, but it doesn’t have the personality that comes with the MX-5 Miata. Also, although the 718 Boxster starts in the mid-$50k range, good luck getting one for that price. Once you start tacking on the options, the 718 Boxster comes in closer to the mid-$60k-$70k price range – far out of reach for most.
Can there actually be a clear winner here? It ultimately depends on you. The MX-5 Miata is a simple sports car and with pricing starting around $25k it’s a great value, that’s hard to beat. If you’re looking for a simple, fun, no frills sports car, then go with the Miata, but if you want more luxury and more performance the 718 Boxster is a must have, well if you can swallow that price tag.
Side Note: Still can’t make a decision? How about looking at a used roadster, like the Honda S2000? We brought one along for the trip and even though its been seven years since the last S2000 rolled off the line – it’s a great option if you’re looking for something fun. With 237-240-hp on tap the S2000 is a great alternative to the MX-5 Miata. The S2000 has a raw feeling that will Pricing is now in the $15,000-$25,000 price range.