It all depends on your expectations, and your budget (especially your budget). To a certain extent, it depends on your mechanical ability, especially if you start doing engine swaps.
Start with your budget and decide what you want from a car, and what compromises are acceptable.
Spyders in general are getting cheaper, but also getting older as the newest you are likely to find will be nearly 15 years old and have over 100,000 miles. Some parts are getting hard to find as well. Even with a 2ZZ or K20 swap, the rest of the car will probably still be well worn. You can put a lot of money into the cars, and still have an old car.
Any S2000 in decent shape is going to cost a lot more and will be at least 10 years old. You can still buy a new Miata if new technology and reliability is the goal.
Another consideration is that many "sports cars" have been driven like sports cars and driven hard. So excessive wear compared to mileage could be a concern.
Personalty, we bought our first Spyder over 12 years ago as a sunny day fun car. My wife doesn't like Miatas, and at the time the S2000 was in the same price range as a used Porsche Boxster, so open sports car options were limited. We drive it about 3,000 miles a year (sunny days only), don't drive it particularly hard, and find the stock 1ZZ to be "adequate". It has been very reliable, but I wouldn't use it as a daily driver. We have a late model sports sedan that has far more HP than any Spyder, other than highly modified ones.
Alright I think I have gotten over the roll safety issue, I did drive a Spider with no roll bar for years after all...Probably would still try to find a car with a roll bar if I can. Seems like the windshield is really strong on the S.
In terms of excitement, would you guys say it's more than a Boxster but less than a Spyder? I find Porsches too civilized for a toy while also not coddly enough to please the old man spirit in my 20s body
I find the s2000 just as exciting as the spyder if not more. It's loud. The engine revs high. It handles great. The seating position is more tight so if you are big it's not comfortable. The shifter is excellent.
That's the main problem I have with the s2k as well, but I think it'll scratch my car itch without giving me trouble all for a good price which is all I can ask for. The aero is also horrendous but for slow street driving that doesn't matter.
It sheds more weight than the Spyder if you remove the soft top and put in a hard top FWIW, but the electric top is I guess a fun toy to have.
I feel like I'm pretty set on getting one now. No roll bar unless it's a Mugen, everything else seems installed too far forward and close to my head.
One last question for the S2k owners here, some people mentioned it's more comfortable than the Spyder, while savageese on YouTube says the S2k is a "shitbox" inside.
Is the rattling a whole lot better? What about wind/road noise? I kind of found the Spyder too noisy, as I always wore earplugs.
The super clean S2ks are still going for a lot of money, which I can't help but think is poor value. I'm going to rent a Jag F type coupe next month for a day to see how much I like the luxury GT experience just in case I happen to really enjoy a Mercedes-quiet "sports car".
I finally managed to drive an S2k today! Only took 16 months to make it happen lol. Bone stock car.
Build quality is WAY better than an MR2 or BRZ, which makes sense given the premium price. Interior is amazing.
Engine is great; could use a lighter flywheel, but it is responsive and easy to control. Gear shifter feels AMAZING.
The car feels slow, kind of like the BRZ. It's just way too heavy and needs to lose 300lbs somehow. At the top of 1st gear even with the short gearing it just doesn't really get moving.
It's much quieter and more comfortable than the MR-S. For me, it kind of takes away from the sense of occasion.
Cabin is small, a little better than the Miata, but more cramped than the MR-S. I think fixed buckets are still a must for me.
9000rpm was almost a bit of a disappointment, because I thought it would be more exotic feeling. The F20C feels more or less like a 2ZZ.
The real problem is that the ND Miata is now cheaper, and I daresay it's the better car. It has more steering feel, it's faster with some cheap bolt-ons (that would add barely any hp to the S2k), IMO it matches the S2k's interior quality and shifter feel, and it has higher fuel economy.
I really wish I bought an S2k back in 2015. The prices then were very reasonable. Now people want 12k for a salvage high mileage car, and I think that's just stupid. When the prices were lower, I think I would've liked the S2000 more than the MR-S, but I feel like it's now only logical to step up to an Elise with prices the way they are.