They're very different because of one factor: they have a back seat. Even if it's a tiny one that is only large enough for me to strap my small child in, it has Latch points for a car seat and that makes a world of difference. I'd own a Miata/MX5 if it wasn't for that. Sadly the Miata/MX5 also has the whole "girl car" stigma so a lot of people won't buy them just for that reason. But I can't think of any automotive journalist that thinks the Miata isn't one of the best sports cars for the money. A lot of people have been dreaming of a Miata coupe for a long time.Honestly, I get the premise of the FR-S/BRZ; have fun going slow. My question is, where have all the fans of these cars been hiding all this time? I mean, the Toyobaru twins are no different from what the Miata has been over the last 2+ decades. The Miata has never set sales charts on fire, but Toyota releases a lightweight RWD sports car and it's the best thing since sliced bread.
I think there's evidence of cost-cutting on most vehicles under 50k. I haven't looked above that so I can't really say for sure if that exists as well. I can understand your point that you miss the wheel controls, because my company Impala doesn't have them and I find myself missing them when I drive it instead of our Camry (first world problems, amirite? ), but I think they decided to strip GT perks out of it and make it more of a sports car. Saves cost, yes, but also makes the car more focused, if that makes sense.+1
There is plenty of evidence of cost-cutting on both models. I might be in the minority, but the absence of redundant steering wheel controls is a turn off for me too. I can control my radio and phone without taking my hands off the wheel and my eyes off the road. It's hard to go back from that.