Me, myself and the Miata—Why the Mazda MX-5 is all about YOUR happiness
(The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2015 - 10:00am

Ask yourself—when was the last time you chose a car for the sole reason that it will make you happy? Several people have told me that they’ve always dreamed of owning a sports car. But, as if feeling selfish for even considering a sports car, they quickly enumerate reasons why they’ve never had one—it’s so impractical, it doesn’t have enough room for my family, it uses too much gas… Usually associated with speed or self-indulgence, it’s not surprising that sports cars simultaneously trigger thoughts of aspirations and happiness, along with guilt. However, it seems the Mazda MX-5 (also called “Miata”) has succeeded in evoking only happiness.

It’s been 25 years since the first generation MX-5 two-seat roadster was introduced to the world, but its development philosophy has remained the same. The MX-5 has always been guided by Mazda’s hallmark “Jinba Ittai”—the feeling of oneness between the driver and car, and the “Lots of Fun” characteristics that go beyond ordinary driving pleasure. 

The fourth-generation MX-5 arrived in the Philippines last August 6, and everything about it was designed to evoke happiness. 

“The all-new MX-5 is the epitome of Mazda’s core ethos of providing pure driving pleasure on the road,” says Steven Tan, president and CEO of Mazda Philippines. “The amount of design and engineering effort that was put in by Mazda engineers into this latest generation is intended to bring back the first MX-5’s calling to deliver joy in driving. We are confident that the all-new MX-5 will set a new benchmark in providing more smiles not only to its owners but to everyone who sees the car.”

The exterior appearance of the 2016 MX-5 is striking with its smooth curves, sleek lines, and overall bold design. What makes the MX-5 unique is that it’s designed to draw attention not only to the car itself but to its driver as well. The signature “KODO” design embodies beautiful proportions to make the MX-5’s occupants stand out. 

When I had to give a lecture in a university, I arrived in a red MX-5. I saw students and adults stopping to stare, and a group of teenagers exclaimed “astig!”(a Filipino slang for “cool” or “awesome”).  I caught no less than Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhide Ishikawa taking a glimpse of the red MX-5 as soon as it pulled-up to pick me up from our dinner. Seeing the reactions of onlookers was enough to make me happy about the MX-5, but driving and sitting inside it gave me more reasons to smile.

The MX-5 sports a 2.0-liter SKYACTIV gasoline direct-injection engine, a compact convertible two-seater body, front-midship engine, rear-wheel drive configuration, and 50:50 front-rear weight distribution. Inside the MX-5 are premium leather seats and a mixture of sleek modern look with some vintage-feel. For a compact sports car, I was able to have a working station inside it while a driver chauffeured me through traffic congestion. It has a full infotainment system, charging stations and even a DVD player.

Driving and riding the MX-5 made me feel like the car is all about me and making me happy—it looks good, it makes me look good, and I feel good inside it. But compared with other sports cars, the MX-5 does away with feelings of guilt. While the car’s compact size and oneness with the driver are enough to make its drivers and riders self-focused, these do not translate to negative self-centeredness. 

Some aspects of the MX-5 that break negative stereotypes associated with sports cars: it’s environmental-friendly and more fuel-efficient; it’s designed for safety; and it has an affordable price. The last point is especially relevant—if you’re driving a sports car that sacrificed your kid’s college fund or your home savings, that’s selfishness; but if you’re driving an affordable sports car that truly makes you happy, that’s guilt-free indulgence.

I wondered if I was being overly optimistic, so I interviewed those who have been MX-5 owners for several years. Asked what they love about the car, president of the Miata Club Atty. Tips San Juan said, “Just looking at a Miata, any Miata, will make you smile… and it’s the most fun car to drive, bar none.”

The Miata Club was organized by Eddie Salonga (its founding president) in 1997, the same year the first MX-5 was introduced in the Philippines.

The diversity of the Miata Club’s membership is a testament to how common feelings evoked by a car can bring people together. The members of the Miata club come from varied backgrounds, Atty. Tips describes themselves as “a motley group, bound together only by our love and passion for the MX-5 Miata.” 

According to MX-5 Programmer Nobuhiro Yamamoto, “Mazda built the MX-5 with the hopes that it would become a presence that transcended its existence as a mere car.   Sitting in it should bring a smile to the driver’s face and instantaneously spark an urge to take the top down and go for a drive… And it should become a cherished part of the owner’s life as time goes on.”

And cherished these Miatas are. Atty. Tips estimates that more than 20 Miata Club members also bought the new 2016 MX-5 Miata. She shares, “For some of them, it’s their second, third and even fourth Miata. Did I already tell you we have a love and passion for our Miatas?”

A third or fourth Miata? If that’s not proof that the MX-5 brings happiness without guilt, I don’t know what is.



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Karen Jimeno is a junior partner at Jimeno Cope & David Law Firm and a law professor.  She hosts LegalHD on CNN Philippines Tuesdays at 9:30PM. She graduated from UP Law School and Harvard Law School, and is licensed to practice law in the Philippines and in New York.

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