2018 Volkswagen Beetle vs. 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Beetle has standard post collision braking, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The Beetle (except S/Coast) offers optional Park Distance Control to help warn drivers about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind their vehicle. The Beetle also has a standard backup monitor to help drivers see any and all obstacles behind their vehicle. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer any parking assist system.

Compared to metal, the Beetle’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Mazda MX-5 Miata has a metal gas tank.

Both the Beetle and the MX-5 Miata have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, available blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

The Volkswagen Beetle weighs 535 to 940 pounds more than the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts. Crosswinds also affect lighter cars more.

Warranty

The Beetle comes with a full 6-year/72000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car. The MX-5 Miata’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 3 years and 36,000 miles sooner.

The Beetle’s corrosion warranty is 5 years longer than the MX-5 Miata’s (10 vs. 5 years).

Reliability

The Volkswagen Beetle’s engine uses a cast iron block for durability, while the MX-5 Miata’s engine uses an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2017 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Volkswagen vehicles are better in initial quality than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 10th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 32 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 27th, below the industry average.

Engine

The Beetle’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 19 more horsepower (174 vs. 155) and 36 lbs.-ft. more torque (184 vs. 148) than the MX-5 Miata’s 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Volkswagen Beetle uses regular unleaded gasoline. The MX-5 Miata requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The Beetle has 2.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the MX-5 Miata (14.5 vs. 11.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

The Volkswagen Beetle comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the MX-5 Miata.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Beetle’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the MX-5 Miata:

 

Beetle

MX-5 Miata

Front Rotors

11.3 inches

11 inches

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Beetle has larger standard tires than the MX-5 Miata (215/55R17 vs. 195/50R16). The Beetle’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the MX-5 Miata (235/45R18 vs. 205/45R17).

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Beetle offers optional 18-inch wheels. The MX-5 Miata’s largest wheels are only 17-inches.

The Volkswagen Beetle’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Mazda MX-5 Miata only has 4 wheel lugs per wheel.

The Beetle has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the MX-5 Miata; it requires you to depend on roadside assistance and your vehicle will have to be towed.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Beetle’s wheelbase is 9.1 inches longer than on the MX-5 Miata (100 inches vs. 90.9 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Beetle is 3.3 inches wider in the front and 1.9 inches wider in the rear than the track on the MX-5 Miata.

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Beetle Dune Convertible is quieter than the MX-5 Miata Club:

 

Beetle

MX-5 Miata

At idle

39 dB

50 dB

Full-Throttle

73 dB

88 dB

70 MPH Cruising

70 dB

78 dB

Passenger Space

The Beetle has standard seating for 4 passengers; the MX-5 Miata can only carry 2.

The Beetle Convertible has 1.9 inches more front headroom and 3.1 inches more front shoulder room than the MX-5 Miata.

Cargo Capacity

The Beetle Convertible has a much larger trunk with its top down than the MX-5 Miata (7.1 vs. 4.6 cubic feet).

A low lift-over trunk design makes loading and unloading the Beetle easier. The Beetle’s trunk lift-over height is 27.9 inches, while the MX-5 Miata’s liftover is 32 inches.

Servicing Ease

The Beetle has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

Ergonomics

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the Beetle has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

The Beetle’s standard front power windows open or close with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The MX-5 Miata’s power window switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully. The Beetle Convertible’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the Beetle SE/SEL to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

The Beetle’s sun-visors swivel front-to-side to block glare from the side windows. The MX-5 Miata’s visors are fixed into the windshield header.

The Beetle’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Mazda only offers heated mirrors on the MX-5 Miata Grand Touring.

The Beetle SE/Dune’s standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

A built-in pollen filter removes pollen, exhaust fumes and other pollutants from the Beetle’s passenger compartment. This helps prevent lung and/or sinus irritation, which can trigger allergies or asthma. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer a filtration system.

Model Availability

The Volkswagen Beetle comes in coupe and convertible bodystyles; the Mazda MX-5 Miata isn’t available as a coupe.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Beetle owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Beetle with a number “1” insurance rate while the MX-5 Miata is rated higher at a number “5” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Beetle is less expensive to operate than the MX-5 Miata because typical repairs cost less on the Beetle than the MX-5 Miata, including $5 less for front brake pads, $50 less for a fuel pump and $35 less for front struts.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Volkswagen Beetle will be $449 to $4447 less than for the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Recommendations

The Volkswagen Beetle outsold the Mazda MX-5 Miata by 66% during 2016.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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