He said/She said Mazda MX-5 Review
Battle of the Sexes.. Lacey Elliot from Driving Television and Dan Heyman, our number one automotive journalist, battle it out over the Mazda MX-5
Lacey Elliott: I remember the very first time I saw a Miata; now called the Mazda MX-5. It was so incredibly cute! Over the years, this classic little 2-seater convertible has seen a few changes in the style. 25 years and fourth generation later, Mazda has, in my opinion, really hit the nail on the head. The bulging front fenders are gone and the LED headlights have a kind of squinting appearance. Making it look like its ready to pounce at any moment. Mazda’s Kodo design has transformed this car and it looks substantially different than Miata’s of the past. I was always attracted to this tiny car because it was co darn cute, but no more. It is still small, but its turning heads because it’s now a more aggressive looking little sports car.
Dan Heyman: So Lacey doesn’t call the Mazda MX-5 “cute” anymore. While I have to respect my esteemed colleague’s opinion, I kind of have to disagree with it. Granted, while it lost the mark I’s “daisy” wheels a long time ago, and the little, oblong foglights have gotten progressively larger to the point where they’re now just a couple of menacing LED slits either side of a gaping front splitter, I wouldn’t say the 2016 edition will scare a Mercedes SLK or Porsche Boxster in dark alleys. It’s still got skinny little tires, short overhangs and a stance that looks something like a bulldog pup trying to act tough. As Lacey says, they even sliced off the fender flares for this gen, making for a much more feminine profile in the process. Thing is, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; one of the MX-5’s distinctions is that it’s the accessible sports car, and the disarming styling just further adds to the feeling—before you even step in and fire the engine—that this is a friendly, unassuming car that’s will not only be fun to drive, but easygoing, too.
INTERIOR & SPACE
Lacey Elliot: It’s a little 2-seater convertible; space is not why you will buy this car. Improved ergonomics and the fact that the seat can recline a little bit more have made this generation feel roomier than the previous model. Sitting behind the wheel everything is in the perfect position to make driving comfortable. The gearshift sits perfectly in my hand and the pedals are perfectly aligned for my feet. The soft top can be opened with just one hand, either from the driver or the passenger with ease. It is a simple car; nothing inside is over complicated.
Dan Heyman: “It’s a simple car, nothing inside is overcomplicated.” Ahh, there’s the ticket. Lacey’s hit the nail right square on the head with that one, and I love that about the Mazda MX-5. Yes, I was ready for a bit of a shock to the system knowing that I’d have to figure out the non-power soft top (a power folding hard top is surely on the way), but it’s so bloody simple and quick that I’m starting to think that’s how I’d spec my MX-5. Especially considering the hard top would cost me valuable headroom, which, at 950 millimetres, is already at a premium. Even with the soft top, I’d have to take my hat off when raising the top, that’s for sure.
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Lacy Elliot: The 2.0Litre 4-cylinder engine puts out 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of . You don’t have to know what any of that means because it won’t matter one bit when you are behind the wheel. It actually has less power then the previous model but with some mechanical changes the driver gets more useable power more of the time.
The engine now sits a bit lower and farther to the back of the engine bay to improve the center of gravity. This generation has more high-strength steel added to the structure to improve safety and also reduce weight by about 10%. It feels peppy, light and put a smile on my face in every driving scenario.
Dan Heyman: Of course this is where the strengths of a car like this had better come into focus. Luckily, on the Mazda MX-5, they do just that, with an asterisk or two. First, the good stuff: even though the MX-5 has finally made the switch to electric power steering, steering feel is quite good and the response, direct. This does really feel like a go-kart, I’ll give it that. Power-wise, while horsepower is down, there’s actually more torque than the outgoing model, which helps the car—as Lacey put it—feel faster, more of the time. Then there’s the rest of the MX-5 stuff; the stubby, snickety gearlever (that doesn’t stick between 2nd and 3rd, as it used to), the light-as-a-feather brakes and ideal seating position, even if the longer-legged among us have to make some adjustments. It’s a load of fun, 90 per cent of the time. Trouble starts when you start to approach the limits. The softer ride means a little more unpredictability in longer curves thanks to body roll, which actually had me check my confidence level a few times during a spirited drive on one of my favorite bendy roads. As weird as it sounds, the MX-5 isn’t really a car that likes to be thrashed, preferring to deliver more in day-to-day driving. Which, I guess, will probably be more important to more people.
Lacey Elliot: If it aint broke, don’t fix it! I love that for the last 25 years Mazda has not over complicated anything on this car. The base GX starts at just over $33,000 and has cruise control, Bluetooth, MP3 capability and push button start. For close to $41,000 the GS model upgrades to 17” high-lustre gunmetal finish alloy wheels, piano black accents, adjustable heated leather seats and Bose premium audio system.
Dan Heyman: It’s funny that we even have a “technology” section in this review, because that is so not what the MX-5’s always been about. Having said that, so much has been added this year—especially to my GT top-trim tester—that we should touch on it. For starters, there’s a proper infotainment system that actually gets a touchscreen display and BMW iDrive-style central control knob. They’ve somehow found room for nine freakin’ speakers (including headrest-mounted items) in the thing, and the way your music changes where it’s coming from and aimed at weather the top’s up or down—made evident by the way the sound stutters as soon as you attach/detach the roof latch—is pure genius. Really, though; NINE speakers?!? Aren’t the six the GX and GS models get enough?
Lacey Elliot: For under $45,000 there is nothing out there that comes close to this car. Sure you could get into a Porsche Boxster, but the price almost doubles. I would take the Miata any day. It is incredibly good looking and an absolute blast to drive. No doubt that this latest Mazda MX-5 will continue to be the best selling sports car of all time
Dan Heyman: Bottom line? The MX-5 is still quintessentially, enthusiastically, definitively a driver’s car, and one that stands as one of the best bargains (it starts at just over $30 grand, after all) not just in the sport car game, but on the market right now. They may have added a slot of fluff, switched to electronic power steering and softened things up a little, but the MX-5 remains one of those cars that knows what it’s meant to do, and does it well. It’s no jack-of-all-trades, that’s for sure, but then, would anyone want it to be?
2016 Mazda MX-5 GS 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 (optional $200 Ceramic White paint as teased); GT, $39,200; not including $1,795 shipping fee.
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