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While both the BMW 230i and Mazda Miata are affordable sports cars, the BMW offers two big advantages that the Mazda MX-5 can’t offer. Despite a higher starting cost, the 230i proves itself as an excellent daily sports car, while leaving the Miata in the dust.

2023 BMW 230i beats the Mazda Miata on performance and luxury
The new BMW 2 Series | BMW USA

What motor is in the BMW 230i?

Looking under the hood we find the first big advantage that the BMW 2 Series coupe has over the Mazda Miata. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the 230i delivers 255 horsepower compared to just 180 ponies in the non-turbo Mazda MX-5 Miata. In addition, the 295 pound-feet of torque trounce what the little Mazda can offer with just 151 pound-feet pulling it along.

Ripping from a standstill to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds, the BMW has over a half-second on the Mazda before they even reach highway speeds. And from there, the 230i just keeps pulling, completing the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds. That’s 1.6 seconds better than the Mazda in Car and Driver testing.

We should also note that the four-cylinder turbo in the 230i can be tuned to over 300 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque for a few hundred bucks; getting there in a Miata will cost thousands.

Only 2 seats in the Mazda MX-5 Miata

As affordable sports cars go, the Miata is a respectable contender. That is, until it’s time to put a kid in the back seat or a gym bag in the trunk. It’s here where the 2 Series shows off its versatility, offering a reasonable back seat despite its two-door configuration. The 10 cubic feet of cargo space may not seem like much, but it dwarfs the five cubes in the back of the Mazda. Overall, the 230i just does the daily thing better than the Miata, and it’s not close.

The Miata outhandles the affordable BMW 230i sports car

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is an icon of affordable sports cars
Mazda MX-5 Miata RF | Mazda
Related 2022 BMW 230i Review: Fast and Affordable With Little Compromise

2022 BMW 230i Review: Fast and Affordable With Little Compromise

I can hear the Mazda fans screaming, “But the Miata is the quintessential sports car!” and you’d be right. There’s no arguing that when it comes to clipping apexes and feeling the road through the car, there is no match for the Mazda. And while the 2 Series technically has more grip on the skidpad, that’s got more to do with rubber compounds and tire widths than the chassis setup.

Start chucking them through switchbacks, and the heft of the 230i becomes a liability while the Miata just keeps on carving. The 3,500 pounds that refine the BMW experience weigh it down when things get twisty. We have no doubt that the Miata would trounce this thing on an autocross course.

An easy choice? Not so fast

Both the Miata and the 230i are rear-wheel drive sports coupes, so both of them are rare breeds that we should all appreciate. And while the BMW offers a more well-rounded driving experience, the Miata has earned its status as a legendary sports car. Truthfully, choosing between these is more a matter of lifestyle than anything else.