2013 Mazda MX-5
2013 Subaru BRZ
2013 Mazda MX-5 vs 2013 Subaru BRZ. Click image to enlarge

Review by Mark Stevenson, photos by Kevin McCauley and courtesy Subaru Canada

The Mazda MX-5 has been the go-to choice for enthusiasts the world over as an affordable performance four-banger that returns smiles and miles per gallon in simultaneous harmony. The diminutive drop top has proven time and time again (for example in this MX-5 vs Mini Roadster comparison) to be much more than the sum of its parts.

Now there’s a new kid on the scene and it wants Mazda’s crown.

Toyota and Subaru, in an effort to knock the MX-5 from its longstanding podium spot, has brought us the BRZ/FR-S/GT86 triplets (though we don’t get the Toyota-badged GT86 version here in North America). The specs are impressive versus Mazda’s stalwart convertible; 200 hp to 167 hp, 151 lb-ft from the 2.0L Subaru Boxer vs. 140 lb-ft from the 2.0L Mazda inline-four. About 50 kilos (a bit over 100 lb) of heft separate the competitors, though this measure goes in Mazda’s favour.

I could rhyme off more numbers – power-to-weight, numbers of cogs and ratios, fuel economy, and every other quantitative measure – but these cars are all about how they feel and make you feel. After spending a number of days with both cars in the heat of Houston, Texas, we are pretty sure we have a solid idea who trumps who. So do the law enforcement professionals of Texas.

There is one thing worth mentioning before we get into placing these cars in their respective positions on the two-place podium: no matter what you buy, you still win. The MX-5 and BRZ are great cars, both with their strengths and foibles, and nobody will judge you for buying one over the other. But, we may like you that tad bit more if you choose the number one pick.

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