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If you’re shopping for an affordable sports car, the pickings are relatively slim. However, that’s not to say they don’t exist. Whether you’re shopping for a four-cylinder two-seater that’s decent on gas or a V8-powered tire shredder, there’s a multitude of options.

That being said, there’s only one that perfectly balances the combination of affordability, reliability, easy and cheap maintenance, decent fuel economy, and a remarkably fun driving experience when behind the wheel. Even though you likely already know, here’s a reminder: Miata is always the answer.

Consumer Reports gives the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata top credits

Front end of 2012 Mazda MX-5 NC Miata parked on mountain roadway
2012 NC MX-5 Miata | Mazda

Consumer Reports recently put out a list of reliable, affordable sports car options. While the list is packed full of great options, only one of them gets the highest remarks CR has to offer. That is the 2012 (NC generation) Mazda MX-5 Miata.

The three categories that the Miata excels in where each of the other options do not are road test, reliability, and owner satisfaction. Other offerings that make the list are the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S, which have low-reliability ratings and even lower owner satisfaction ratings. The 2014 Ford Mustang also makes an appearance. While it has consistently good ratings across the board, they don’t quite match that of the Miata.

Interestingly enough, another contender on the list is the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata, which is the newer (ND) generation. While the ND got the same rating as the NC in owner satisfaction and reliability, it got slightly lower in the road test category.

White Interior of 2012 NC Mazda MX-5  Mazda Miata the highest rated used affordable sports car from consumer reports
2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata interior | Mazda

Perhaps most impressive is that the list features three different price brackets, and the NC transcends them all. One spans from $10,000 to $15,000, with the following two spanning from $15,000 to $20,000 and $20,000 to $25,000, respectively. Despite the pricing breakup, not one vehicle in any of the price brackets gets the same praise as the NC Miata. This includes the Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, a 2019 Honda Civic, and a couple of BMW options.

So, long story short, an NC Miata is affordable no matter your sports car budget! Then, you’re free to use any leftover funds for a nice road trip or some performance modifications!

Though the NC Miata has long been the “ugly duckling” of the iconic affordable sports car lineup, it’s been getting much more praise lately.

The NC Miata might not be affordable for long

We’ve already seen the meteoric rise in the cost of first-generation (NA) Miata models. Additionally, the second-generation models, which are essentially the same as the first-gen models with some aesthetic and powerplant improvements, are also on the upper-end of the price ladder right now. So, the NC really is the only affordable Miata for the time being.

Unfortunately for sports car fans, as the automotive world continues to finally accept that it’s time to appreciate the NC Miata, that’s subject to change. There’s a chance their affordability will go out the window.

Sure, the NC is down on power compared to its now eye-wateringly expensive competition, the Honda S2000. However, the NC still offers amazing handling characteristics and go-kart-like road grip with the wind in your hair. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what an affordable sports car is all about.


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