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I'm sure the 2.5T was completely engineered with the SUV's in mind, not surprising it's not the greatest fun in the "fun" cars we know and expect from Mazda. But inline with them becoming a luxury brand or whatever they're doing.

That is a great NA, reminds me of how enchanting their utter simplicity is.
And this is why good classic Japanese cars are selling for alarming amounts now.
People want to relive that time when cars felt analog and direct and you were in total control of them.
The Japanese cars actually held up well enough to enjoy again.
OP- I totally understand.
While the (auto only) 2.5T Mazdas seem like nice cars, they just don't make me want to drive them like a good old slow but felt fast Mazda Protege5 did.
I test drove a manual Mazda3s 2.3 hatch when they first came out.
My first reaction was- this is a nice comfortable quick car, but it also feels less visceral than a slower Protege5.
What's more important: speed or feel?
 

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Those engineers must have had so much.
saké?
I actually catch myself thinking about my 80's s*tboxes with excellent steering, hard narrow tires, insanely light and easy shifters, and 75 peak hp with maybe half that torque at anything below 4k rpm.
Fun with a capital slow. Lol.
On that note.. what could a person do with a cheap manuel tripot Mirage?
A proper used cheap 5 speed Mazda2 never came up locally for me.
 

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Our Protege5 remains to this day one of our favorite cars that we ever owned. I should have kept it longer but was seduced by an ultimately disappointing Mazda6 Wagon (V6, manual).

I've been commuting all week in my '94 Miata and it really is a delight. Just simple, handles well, reliable (so far), and while the ride-in is chilly, the drive home after work is sublime.
You used to be able to commute in a subcompact and still see around other vehicles in traffic.
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It too bad Mazda wasn't able to make the Kabura (a tweener between the RX8 and MX5 but with MX5 drivetrain) - I assume due to costs and the late 2000's recession.
A slightly bigger fixed roof Miata would be fine with me.
FWIW- I don't think Protege5s have jumped up in price like other fondly remembered Japanese cars yet.
Might be the time to get one again if a good one can be found.
On that note- how is the steering feel on the BRZ/FRS/86 siblings?
 

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If you want to go down that path, I would recommend the Fiesta with the 1.0 turbo I3. You can easily swap in a cheap FiST suspension, it was available in a manual. I have wanted one (with cold weather package) but the manuals are very rare. Would give you at least some OEM upgrade stuff from the FiST.
You needing proper FiSTing knuckles.
Steering knuckles that is.
 

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The Si was on my short list but the rev hang from that car,

Oh gawd- good call on rev hang.
That absolutely kills the joy of driving a manual.
I test drove a new 99 Mustang (V6) and the rev hang just made me not even consider even though the car drive quote well otherwise (for the price/class).
What a terribly offensive way to deal with off throttle emissions.
1st gen carb'd RX7s got a flap added at one point that would completely close off the intake when off throttle- but that was done to help fuel economy as the engine would still suck back some intake charge with no throttle when revving hard..
 

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Amazing how fast the R package aero bits take an NA Miata from "meh" to "HELL YEAH" for me:

Well then have I got a treat for you.
Walmart.com and others have rear wings you can put on ANY car!
Turn the grocery getter into a race car in minutes!

Wheel Car Tire Vehicle Vehicle registration plate
 

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It's too bad we lost the Mazda2 in the US market.
The base 3 is now 3000 lbs.
 

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That is what the Miata is for I guess. But I understand what you're getting at.
I'm just dreaming of a time when affordable cars were lighter and "nimble" even if they lacked powa.
Even a base Corolla is pushing 3000 lbs now.
 
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