The 2016 Mazda Miata Club arrived in our test fleet this week on the coldest day in two years. -11F For the first two days we had the car, then snow. Anyone that tells you the Mazda Miata is a great commuter car in the dead of winter is either pulling your leg or has no concept of what a good commuter car is. So for the two days when it was below zero, we drove around top up and tolerated the noisy, cramped cabin. Then it warmed up to about 30F and snowed, so, of course, we dropped the top and went for a spin.
Yes, the Miata is cozy at about 30F as long as you wear gloves and a hat. The Club Miata we tested didn’t even have heated seats, yet with the side glass up it was fine. Interestingly, the snow does not come into the cabin as long as you are moving. Many Miata drivers know this is also true of light rain.
The fresh powdery snow came on top of icy compacted snow in our neighborhood. There really is no more difficult challenge for a car than this type of scenario. After about two inches fell we drove off into the white stuff.
The test car we had was wearing Bridgestone LM-60 Blizzak winter rubber, and it made all the difference. The car could always move forward – slowly – even up steep hills. However, the car does a sort of side to side shimmy as the traction control and limited slip differential work in harmony to deliver the power. You have to trust it. At first, it feel like the car is going to step out to the side and not recover, but it does. In cornering, you have a choice. You can go slowly and remain on the driving line, or you can goose the throttle, and the Miata will slide a bit with controllable oversteer. You can apply opposite steering inputs and then the car comes right back predictably. Another option is to disable the traction control and drive it rally style which I did in a parking lot.
With visions of the end of Superbad in my head (a police car in a drift hits a light pole), I let the tail hang out wide and used the throttle to steer. It doesn’t take long to master this and then you can do it on-road if nobody else is around. It’s big fun, and the car makes cool noises while you play. Stopping wasn’t bad at all given the circumstances. You just have to plan ahead.
Having owned an NC Miata for many years that never saw rain, never mind snow, I doubt most owners will ever take their Miata out for snowy rides. These cars are gems worthy of care and should be enjoyed in their proper setting. However, if you do opt to head out in a snowstorm, we offer one word of advice. Blizzaks.