Everyone knows the current Mazda Miata is fun, but I don’t think it gets enough credit for being the engineering marvel it is. The car weighs about 2,300 pounds, depending on equipment. And despite 30 years of improvements in safety technology—much of it required now—that’s only about 200 pounds heavier than the original one that launched in 1989. That’s amazing, and a testament to how fastidious Mazda’s engineers were about cutting weight.

So the question is this: if you want Miata fun, do you blow a bunch of money on a new one, or do you get the same thrills from a cheap used one?

Advertisement

That question is the subject of this Throttle House video, which puts a loaded 30th Anniversary Miata—sticker around $44,000 in Canadian money—against the same kind of Craigslist special NA Miata you can find in any parking lot for about $5,000 or less.

Unlike, say, a BMW M3, a Ford Mustang or a Volkswagen GTI, it’s amazing how radically similar these two Miatas ended up being despite their 30-year age difference. They’re both small. They’re both light. They both get the job done with modest power figures and no forced induction. They both depend on a good manual transmission for maximum fun.

In other words, Mazda’s done a great job not screwing up what made the Miata a winner in the first place—there’s some horrible alternate universe out there where it got bigger, heavier, more expensive and turbocharged, like a Z4.

So how do the two cars stack up today? They drive remarkably similar, the Throttle House guys report. Despite being down a lot of power, the NA doesn’t struggle to get up to speed, but the newer ND is more fun to wring out—and obviously has better brakes.

Advertisement

If you like airbags and Bluetooth, the new car is a no-brainer. But this is a rare example of an old car and its newer version being so very similar in terms of experience that, yeah, you may be happy if you don’t go after the latest and greatest thing. Having driven both, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed either way.