An electric Mazda Miata.
John Goreham's picture

An Electric Miata From Mazda Would Be Fantastic

We make the case that an electric Mazda Miata would be a blast to drive.
Advertisement

The Mazda Miata is the most fun you can have holding a steering wheel. Notice we didn’t stay “stick shift.” Before you judge, this writer has owned and loved many stick shift vehicles including a manual transmission Toyota Supra, Honda Civic Si., Acura Integra, pickup truck, and an NC Mazda Miata Grand Touring. I love to drive a stick and I've been being paid to do it off and on since the 1980s, starting as a driver at a landscape construction company driving stick shift rack-body trucks in downtown Boston.

For me, the joy of the Miata is linked directly to the drivetrain. I enjoy shifting the car, and more specifically, I enjoy using the downshifts to engine brake, and I enjoy rev-matching downshifts when approaching a corner in other situations. I also like to double-clutch and downshift when it makes sense. It’s fair to say I know my way around a stick shift vehicle.

ioniq paddle shifter

However, I test electric vehicles for a living, none of which need or use a manual transmission. I’ve been very fortunate to have tested the Tesla Model 3, Kia Niro Electric, Jaguar I-Pace, and other popular EVs recently and have tested most available models over the course of their introductions. What I have discovered, and this is no secret, is that battery-electric vehicles are more fun to drive than internal combustion vehicles. That is in general. For example, a Kia Niro BEV is more fun than a Hyundai Elantra. A Tesla Model 3 is more fun than a Corolla or Lexus IS. The fun I refer to is related to the drivetrain, but the low center of gravity EVs handle is generally also enjoyable.

Related Story: 2018 Fiat Spider Abarth vs. Mazda Miata RF Track Day Comparison - The Surprise Winner

The instant torque is part of the allure. Also, EVs have a more linear acceleration. Finally, EVs also have great engine braking, and that engine braking is often linked to paddle shifters that can make the regenerative braking force stronger when you want it to be (spirited driving), or lighter when the situation merits that feeling (highway driving).

Watch Tesla P85 Getting zapped by Electric Mazda Miata and click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube channel for daily news on automotive industry and new cars.

There is another reason I can imagine an electric Miata being great. I’ve owned two convertibles, a Miata and a Lexus IS 350C. Aside from spirited in driving these cars on empty country roads, I love to cruise in convertibles on long rural drives, or along a waterfront. When doing so, I love the sensation of being able to hear the ambient sounds. Birds, waves, wind, and such. EVs are the quietest vehicles on the road. A quiet Miata would be great.

As a former owner of my NC Miata, I also would love the fact that I don’t have to worry about the gas going bad over the winter when my Miata is garage-bound. That was a concern when I owned mine. Also, having the vehicle serviced every six months was a drag. With an EV Miata, I know from experience that my service interval would effectively be only when the tires needed rotating or the brake fluid changed. I can handle cabin air elements myself, and frankly, a cabin air cleaner is stupid in a convertible anyway.

battery tray niro

Miatas are all about lightness and handling. Current EVs are not light. The battery pack is heavy. Mainly because it needs to be large enough to carry the vehicle 200 miles or more. With a Miata, that would be unnecessary. I rarely drive mine more than 50 miles without stopping for a while. A small battery pack capable of 75 tor 100 miles would be fine by me. I know some folks use Miatas for daily drivers, but those are not the majority of owners. Perhaps Mazda would offer a couple of different versions, including one with a longer range for those folks. Like the Nissan Leaf line for example. The new MINI convertible uses a small battery and has limited range. It seems to make sense in that small, nimble vehicle. Until we move past big, heavy, expensive, lithium-ion batteries this compromise will be made by every manufacturer in every vehicle to some degree.

My story here is not meant to imply that the current Miata design could be converted to a decent EV. We're imagining a new generation of the vehicle. Perhaps the "NE generation." That fits the model year code nicely. I wouldn't mind losing the stick as long as the future EV Miata remains rear-wheel drive, compact, affordable, and fun.

Watch this walk-around of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata and click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube channel for daily news on automotive industry and new cars.

I love driving convertibles and I love driving EVs. To me, it seems like a match made in heaven. Tell us what you think in the comments below. If you have some experience owning or testing EVs and Miatas be sure to include that, so we know from what experience your opinion is derived.

John Goreham can be followed on Twitter at @johngoreham.


Subscribe to Torque News on YouTube.


Follow Torque News on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Comments

This is one area where we are in complete agreement. I agree that the MX5 would make a great EV platform, and because most sports car owners do not use their cars for commuting, then 100-150 miles EV range should be fine. Plus bigger battery packs are heavier and more expensive to build, therefore the enemy of affordable sports cars. One problem is that Mazda has not built ANY EVs or hybrids to date. They have supported diesel engines to gain better fuel efficiency. But with the VW dieselgate fiasco diesel is a dirty word. In 2017 Mazda did team up with Toyota and Denso on a joint venture called EV Common Architecture Spirit Co Ltd to develop EV technology. The resulting "XEV," platform uses a rotary range extender that can work as mild hybrid, or series hybrid. Rotary engines are not known for great fuel efficiency, but their small size, simplicity, and high revving nature are a good match for electric motors in cars. Most likely we could see that XEV technology first in a small crossover like the CX-30. But I think that it would be a worldwide hit if the XEV technology were also released in the Miata as a PHEV, with a relatively small 20kWh battery with around 60 miles of EV range, and a small rotary range extender available for longer trips. If it comes together, I do not see it happening until 2021 or later, but it would be great if a PHEV or BEV Miata were actually built.
Double clutching is not necessary in any Miata. Heel and toe downshifts are definitely fun and easy to do in any Miata due to good pedal placement. But double clutching? Not sure why one would need to do that unless their car has worn synchros.
There is no "need." People do it when decelerating without need for braking so the vehicle will have a completely smooth transition from gear to gear without any engine braking. It allows you to match the revs very nicely. And because it is fun and involving.
This is one of the main reasons I hope the third wave of EVs, the one that involves every established automaker bringing their experience to electric vehicle design, is upon us soon. As you point out, the second wave we're experiencing now is all about stuffing a large and heavy Li-ion battery into expensive luxury cars or existing ICE models, with a firm focus on increased range and efficiency. While I think that has been necessary to a point, it has probably become something of an obsession within EV circles. The focus now needs to be encouraging other automakers into the fold to release multiple models designed specifically around an electric drivetrain. That way we'll start to offer something for everyone, including compelling weekenders like an all-electric Miata!