2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review
The 2016 Mazda MX-5 (no longer called the Miata) may be completely new from top to bottom but it retains its “spirit of a sportscar” soul.
THE PROS & CONS
What’s Best: Nothing comes close.
What’s Worst: Cramped cockpit, smaller trunk – but who cares.
What’s Interesting: How Mazda has been able to keep the MX-5 as the best selling sportscar of all time.
2016 Mazda MX-5 at a glance
BODY STYLE: Compact roadster
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 2.0-litre, 16-valve, DOHC four-cylinder (155 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque); six-speed manual, six-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium recommended), manual, 8.8/6.9L/100 km city/highway; automatic, 8.9/6.5L/100 km
CARGO: 130 litres
TOW RATING: Not recommended
PRICE: GX, $31,900; GS, $35,300; GT, $39,200; not including $1,795 shipping fee.
LOS ANGELES, CA: To this day, the Mazda MX-5 Miata was the car that attracted the most attention of all the vehicles I’ve driven over the past 25 years
In fact, that reaction was for a first-year, 1990 Miata in French Mariner blue that drew high-fives from almost every kid I saw and crowds when stopped. At one point, I had five cars following me on the highway for more than an hour.
With a 1.6-litre four-cylinder producing 115 hp and 100 lb/ft of torque with a very short throw, five-speed manual gearbox (optional four-speed automatic), it had just enough power to have fun, but not enough to get you in trouble. And though it bulked up over the last 25 years it’s been in production, it’s still as much fun as it was a quarter century ago.
I have driven every Miata since day one (which must be some kind of record) so hopping into the new 2016 model was something I have waiting to do since the reveal last year.
At the reveal, the designer of the original car and good friend, Tom Matano, was standing beside me when the car emerged from behind a curtain exclaiming, “They nailed it.” And he was right.
There’s an old saying, “if it looks right, it is right” and that certainly describes the new car.
From the start, Mazda did nothing to change the spirit of the MX-5 (the Miata name has been dropped) which is the reason why almost one million have been sold, making it the most popular sportscar of all time.
Pricing is very simple. In usual Mazda Canada fashion, there is a base GX ($31,900); a mid-level GS ($35,300) and a top level GT ($39,200) with a $1,795 shipping fee.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard while a six-speed automatic (with Sport mode) is a no charge option – in fact the only option.
The engine remains a 2.0-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder but now with Skyactiv technology, which is skewed to fuel efficiency producing 155 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque on recommended premium fuel. Fuel consumption is rated at 8.8/6.9L/100 km city/highway for the manual and 8.9/6.5L/100 km for the automatic. That’s a 25 per cent improvement over the 2015 model.
Front suspension is pure sportscar, being independent double wishbones with an independent multi-line setup in the rear.
On the GS and GT manual, the MX-5 gets the sport suspension with Bilstein shocks and limited slip rear differential.
One of the nice touches was making a mesh wind blocker between seats standard and the valve covers are aluminum instead of black plastic for the simple reason it looks better.
It is also the stiffest MX-5 yet going back the original premise of making it as light as possible. To that end, Mazda chopped about 68 kg (150 lb) off the weight of the third-generation model.
And it all comes together on the road.
As you approach the new car it looks smaller, mostly due to the elimination of the bulging front fenders from the former “Joker grin” design language of the previous model.
But it is also two inches shorter. The hood and the seats are 20 mm lower, while the top is 10 mm lower.
Push button start is standard and the 2.0-litre snaps into life with a nice, fruity little burble from the exhaust.
The new, lighter manual has lost none of its toggle-like shift throws with the shifter a proper leather ball with shift pattern on top angled toward the driver.
I drove a prototype manual similar to Canada’s GS with the limited slip and Bilsteins, but with American spec 19-inch BBS wheels and Brembo brakes, which are part of a Sports Package we’ll get on the 2017 model in Canada.
Handling to me was different than the 2015 and that’s because of the crux of the 50:50 weight distribution is now behind the shoulder, not nearer the steering wheel as before.
Weight transfers quickly forward in hard cornering, making it easier to point (which I prefer). The steering felt light and get harder at speed but I would have liked it stiffer. Thankfully, the clutch take-up was just about perfect.
Mazda admits the suspension is soft to please a vast majority of buyers, which makes sense. That came through in the automatic without the sports suspension.
The automatic, which will probably attract a lot of interest with its no-cost transmission, results in a ride that’s pleasant and responsive; but, to me, the manual is the real deal.
No matter what transmission it has, the best thing about the MX-5 is simply how much fun it is to drive.
After more than a quarter century the MX-5 remains true to what made it so great by being, to quote Mazda, “fun to drive at all speeds and with all skill levels.”