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reliability vs. performance vs. comfort


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I have enjoyed seeing the many opinions here about which tools and spare parts to carry along with questions and great advice on fixing all the issues that 7s seem to run into. I also noted that quite a lot has evolved, for instance weight. Starting at under 800 lb for series 1 (mine weighs more now), to around 800-900 for series 2 and then quite a jump to series 3 and I assume Caterhams are a somewhat over 1000. The early weight increases  were probably not due to government regulations entirely but perhaps all the modern conveniences have added weight, and maybe some negative impact on reliability (as in more stuff to go wrong)? I doubt much has changed as far as comfort and I am more than fine with that. Noting that you probably can not beat a 7 for excitement, I was thinking about performance vs. reliability. Examples come to mind from other Lotus designs. Take the Europa and the Elan that many of you are familiar with. Now compare them with the Toyota MR2 and Mazda Miata respectively. Sure all those more modern safety features and size gain added weight and they are no doubt less fun to drive than the Lotus designs. But they did turn out to have really good reputations for reliability. I assume gains in safety like side impact resistance added weight (think about the central frame Elan) but I would bet reliability was engineered in without being responsible for much of the weight gain. Of course the Japanese were trying to appeal to a much broader market. Having previously owned, pit crewed or raced quite a few British cars (MG, Sprite, Jaguar, Triumph, Sunbeam, Formula V, Formula Ford etc.) I have seen some good and bad engineering. Stuff that gets stressed too far I expect to break or leak. I guess driving harder than the design limits may account for some of the issues. Has anyone had much driving experience in the models mentioned to confirm or dispute the fun vs. reliability aspects? Hope I am not opening a hornet nest.

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The Miata is dead reliable even when driven hard.  I know a bunch, including mine, that autocross with over 140k miles.  Full RPM used (7,200) every run and no problems, just routine maintenance.  Modern tech, materials and tolerances are just so much better.  Plenty modern engines make over 100 hp/liter yet are reliable.  Progress.  It is a shame about the weight though.  Better rust proofing and very few chassis problems and reasonable mileage.  If someone built a really light sport car now, it would be fabulous.  Under a million $ please.

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I think the weight gain in a lot of the smaller sportier cars isn't being put towards reliability as much as it is going to comfort.  The great example I use for this is that the seat in my mini cooper weighs something like 70x what the seat does in the caterham.  The number of people that want comfy seats and quiet rides vastly out numbers those that will sacrifice those comforts for better handling.  

 

Reliability is a tough thing to measure.  Of all the fun small cars I've had (boxster, miatas, elise, caterham, minis) I've only had one breakdown and that was a fuel pump going on a mini.  Maintenance on the other hand I've seen a vast difference in the cars.  The elise for instance was good for a brand new set of brake pads every year and tires about every 18 months.  

 

 

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I've raced Porsches, BMWs and Miatas and tracked AMGs, Caterhams and a bunch of others. From my experience the Miatas stand out as the most reliable by some distance followed by the older BMWs. Modern day sports cars are so heavy and complex, I think the GT3 Cup cars cost $70 per shift average on track!

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I own an S3 Cat and a 91 Miata. The Miata is supercharged, with a good aftermarket suspension, but otherwise stock. I track, autocross and street the Cat, autocross and street the Miata (haven't tracked it). Driving each is a different experience. You can read all over this site and elsewhere what the 7 driving experience is like. I definitely feel all the additional weight in the Miata. I know this is a vague statement, but it feels more like a "car" than the cat. A lot of that may have to do with the roominess and conventional windshield. The cat feels like a 7. On the street I could never get near the limits of the 7. With street tires in the Miata I might be able to hit the limit, but that's pretty dangerous driving. Driving the Miata is a more relaxing experience. Driving the 7 I'm always on high alert.

 

I don't think there's any car that is more reliable than an NA Miata. Really. It is incredibly well engineered. I am an engineer and car guy, and the folks who designed the original Miata did an amazing job. Any of the minor shortcomings are well known and documented.

 

Having said all of that - maybe KitKat will chime in. He has a track-oriented 7, and an ND Miata, and he has track experience in both.

 

 

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