Skip to main content

Unfortunately the selection of cheap new sports cars seems to be thinning by the day. Fortunately, that means the models we’re left with are pretty solid choices. Two popular cheap sports cars are the Subaru BRZ and Mazda Miata, both of which have loyal followings. But for those getting into the sports car space, which model is the best choice? The BRZ offers a bigger upside for daily driving, but for pure enjoyment, the Miata continues to reign.

Subaru BRZ vs Mazda Miata: by the numbers

The Subaru BRZ in silver
2022 Subaru BRZ | Subaru USA

As always, we’ll start our comparison with the spec sheets for each of these cheap sports cars.

The latest MX-5 uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to offer 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. In the Subaru, an updated 2.4-liter four-pot powerplant offers up 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Clearly, neither model is a tire-shredding supercar, but that’s never been what these cars have been about.

Weight tells a bigger story with these cheap sports cars. The Miata weighs in at 2,341 pounds compared to over 2,800 pounds in the BRZ. That makes the power-to-weight ratio of the Subaru a respectable 0.081 hp/lb, versus 0.077 hp/lb in the Mazda.

The zero to 60 acceleration data further proves the similar performance of these two affordable sports cars. The Mazda reaches 60 mph in 5.7 seconds while the heavier Subaru takes 5.9 seconds to reach highway speeds.

Real world applications

While the lightness of the Miata makes it a true joy for track driving, the tiny Mazda coupe also lacks refinement. Meanwhile, the Subaru BRZ feels like it’s made to be driven every day. The added refinement makes the Subaru sports car an easier choice for a fun daily driver, while the Miata might be better suited to weekend romps and autocross work.

The interior and cargo numbers for both of these Japanese sports cars bear that out. While the Miata is undoubtedly more fun, its 4.6 cubic feet of trunk space laughs in the face of weekly grocery chores. The BRZ, meanwhile, offers nearly seven cubes of trunk area, according to MotorTrend. Not stellar, but certainly enough to pack for a weekend road trip.

Furthermore, the Subaru coupe offers significantly more leg and headroom than its Mazda competition, so taller drivers will have a more comfortable experience. Even better, the BRZ’s new seating position offers more support and ergonomics, so a day on the back roads is easier to handle.

An entry-level racer

An orange 2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata
2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata 30th Anniversary Edition | Mazda

There is a reason that the Mazda Miata is the entry point for sports car racing. The balanced handling and communicative steering make it an easy car in which to learn high performance driving. For all the BRZ’s refinement, it loses that raw feeling of performance. The lightweight, low-powered Miata emphasizes driver ability. It forces the driver to understand how inputs affect vehicle dynamics to find the ultimate limit.

That’s not to say the BRZ isn’t similar, but it does feel like there is more stuff between the driver and the road. On balance, that makes the Miata a better choice as a focused sports car.

Splitting the Subaru BRZ and Mazda Miata isn’t so much about numbers as it is the overall experience. Ultimately, the debate is between daily driving comfort and outright engagement.