GENERATION FOUR: A NEW BEGINNING
Mazda looks to its first Miata MX-5 to create its latest
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Apr 3, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by Sean Spear
It Just Keeps Going and Going and….
Having already doled out his two cents on the 2014 version of the Mazda Miata, Sean Spear takes another shot at the Miata, but this time the all-new 2016 model. Let the comparisons begin….
So you’re a mid-level Japanese car company with a flagship vehicle that really has no competition. It’s time for a refresh, only you have that devil on your shoulder (you know, the one that told you to make this crazy modern roadster 25 years ago in the first place). So this devil whispers in your ear “Screw the refresh, let’s do something ca-rae-zee! Let’s get those also-rans talking again! You know you still want to….”
When most would come out with some commemorative badging and special one-year-only paint colors and then called it a day, Mazda got seduced by the devil. The result is an all-new roadster that seriously raises the bar. While I had ample praise for the last generation Miata and its ability to do almost everything asked of it well, the 2016 model raises the bar by feet, not inches.
The 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 is still the very definition of a roadster: a lightweight, moderately powered, open-top vehicle with just two seats. However, it is this model’s execution of those elements that makes it a game-changer.
Unusual for this era, the Miata has only had three redesigns in its 25+ year history. The new model is less an update of the last version, with the size and proportions more akin to the original that debuted in 1989. Think classic MX-5 with the KODO treatment; Mazda’s signature design language. Lines and creases are sharp and sweep along the whole car. The nose bends downward to the road with a touch of menace, and the rear widens to give a muscular and planted stance. Attention is even paid to making the head and taillights reflect the overall crisp yet smooth language.
Our tester car came wearing ‘Ceramic Metallic’ as its skin. A KODO-created color, it is not quite white, but more of a whitish-grayish-silver. Its semi-matte finish does seem to allow the lines of the car to be noticed without the glare a lighter color sometimes produces. The exterior color carries into the cabin, with the door sills sporting the same skin. The interior coachwork is complementary, with black and deep gray surfaces and red accent stitching. Materials are modest, but nicely integrated. Telegraphing its racer-friendly ambitions, the instrument cluster is dominated by the front & center tachometer. The public road speeds portion of the speedometer remains in clear sight; if you are going over 90 miles per hour, then you’re probably not watching your speed anyhow…on the track, right?
Controls are within decent reach (infotainment is fully controlled by a set of volume and tune buttons on the mid-console), but interestingly the CD Player is behind you in-between the seats. Well, who still uses the CD Player when the car is Bluetooth and USB-capable anyhow? Bottom line, the car’s look is consistent inside and out; not unlike the first-gen Audi TT was. While the KODO design language has managed to unify the look of Mazda’s sedans and crossovers, the execution in the Miata is just different enough to maintain the car’s one-of-a-kind appeal.
Getting out on the road, the car is a happy rev’er, with a throttle quick to push the rpms high into the band. Power comes on in mid-range, with the same new 2.0-Liter DOHC 4-Cylinder engine found in the new Mazda CX-3; recently reviewed by LA Car’s Editor-In-Chief (and my personal track nemesis) Doug Stokes. But I digress. In this car, the 4-banger has gotten the same Skyactiv-G treatment as in the CX-3, but with some additional engine management tweaks that boost output an additional nine horsepower to 155, with 148 pound-feet of torque. As I detailed in my previous article, the (outgoing) model’s 167 horsepower would make you think that Mazda is going backwards in the performance department, but a combination of 148 less pounds and 8 more pound-feet of torque actually help make the 2016 version 3-tenths of a second quicker going 0-60 mph. At 6.4 seconds, that is nothing to dismiss; all while addressing one of my previous complaints by achieving the magical average of 30 mpg combined during our test period. Heck, they even got rid of the weird ‘to key or not to key’ ignition in favor of push-button start.
Despite the better speed times, it is the wonderful ‘toss-ability’ of the car that makes it really shine. In a turn, you can corner as tight as a needle hole or drift like an inflatable raft to your heart’s desire. Your choice of steering and throttle inputs are all that are required. At just 2,330 pounds, you really notice the car’s lightness, but it remains planted in the laterals.
LIVING WITH IT
Part of the historical charm of the Miata has been that it can be both a club racer to one owner and a daily driver to another. The current model doesn’t disappoint. And while I constantly felt it asking me to drive it at-limit, its practicality was also very vocal. Trunk space remains a two-seater best 5 cubic feet. Gone is the hardtop-convertible, in favor of a completely manual soft-top. Like everything else on this car, this is no ordinary soft-top. The outgoing hardtop had an impressive drop time of just 12 seconds. The 2016 version’s soft-top is essentially 1/10th of that time. All you do is flick open the windscreen lock and push the top over and back behind you until you hear a click. A flick of the safety lock on the back cabin wall between the seats frees the top for you to pull it back up and over your head in equal time. I found myself repeatedly demonstrating this to anyone who would listen and also watch in amazement.
The last Miata was a well-executed niche car (if a million-unit seller can be called that) with great drivability but also some noticeable compromises. The 2016 MX-5 Miata fixes those issues and doubles-down on the things that make it great. The car is superior in almost every way to the outgoing model, and only increases its versatility by doing all that anyone would ask of it well. Hoping that no clergy read this article, I am forced to say that the devil may have been right.
For more information about Mazda products, go to mazdausa.com.
Name of vehicle:
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring
$32,090.00 (as tested, including $820.00 destination charges)
EPA fuel economy ratings:
27 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Normally Aspirated 2.0 liter I4
155 @ 6000 rpm
148 pound-feet @ 4600 rpm
Drive Configuration: rear-wheel drive Transmission: 6-speed sport AT with steering-wheel mounted manual shift paddles Dimensions: o Length: 154.1 inches o Overall Width: 68.3 inches o Overall Height: 48.8 inches o Ground Clearance: 5.3 inches o Curb weight (lbs.): 2,332 pounds Performance: o Acceleration: 0-60 mph – 6.4 seconds o Top Speed: 137 mph Warranties: o "Bumper-to-Bumper" Limited Warranty: 3-year/36,000-mile* o Limited Powertrain Warranty: 5-year/60,000-mile* o 24/7 Roadside Assistance Program: 3-year/36,000-mile* *Whichever comes first.