The 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 marks the debut of the 4th generation of the iconic roadster. It’s been around for 25 years now and one could say it has developed a cult following. Legions of enthusiasts gather at tracks across the country every weekend to have fun with these little cars. There was a lot at stake when Mazda set about reworking the Miata and you’ll be happy to know what they’ve come up with will not disappoint.
The car looks simply beautiful and had everyone from the most die-hard fans to the most jaded auto journalists grinning from ear to ear. The new look takes its cues from Mazda’s KODO design language which means it’s an innately appealing car. It looks like a Miata, but at the same time it doesn’t, and this is a very good thing.
The car has 45mm shorter overhangs, but through a design process focused on the driver and the drive experience, they’ve made it roomier inside. Choices like LED lamp assemblies that are slightly thinner helped reduce size without affecting the interior room and also reduced weight. Every opportunity was taken remove the unnecessary so that the MX-5 now weighs less by 150 pounds.
New high-tension cloth mesh seats were an integral part of the redesign. They’re lighter, thinner, and hug your body so you’re less likely to slide between the bolsters and more likely to sit snugly in place. They are extremely comfortable and well-positioned so you can easily see over the hood and have a full view of the road.
The seating also figures into the 9-speaker Bose audio system. There are speakers built into the headrests so even with the top down you’ll hear your music. They’re designed so you aren’t aware of the sound in the headrests unless you turn your head overly far. This means they’re not intrusive, but a blended part of the system. An added benefit is that incoming calls transfer to only the driver’s headrest speaker for privacy.
The MX-5 Miata is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft or torque paired to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. Yes, this isn’t as much horsepower as the previous MX-5, but peak horsepower and torque come in lower on the 4th generation so you get more power at lower speeds. This also bumps fuel economy with Mazda estimating 27/34 city/highway for the manual and 27/36 city/highway for the automatic.
There are three models of the MX-5 starting with the $24,915 Sport, moving on up to the $28,600 Club, and topping out with the $30,065 Grand Touring. The Grand Touring is the most comfortable and luxe with its black leather seats and features like lane departure and blind spot warnings, but it’s not the choice for everyone.
The Club is the most performance-oriented of the lot and will appeal to the real driving enthusiast. It is the only model to feature an available $3,400 Club Brembo/BBS Package which adds Brembo front brakes, 17″ BBS dark alloy wheels, side sill extensions, and rear bumper skirt. Oddly, you cannot get leather seats on this trim so you’re left with what may be a difficult choice. It’s either more luxury or better performance, but not both.
Our time in the seat of the MX-5 Miata included twisty, turning canyon roads in California. It was the perfect testing ground for both enjoying a little top-down driving and thrashing the car around tight corners and switchbacks.
Mazda repeatedly told us that this car was all about the driving experience. It’s part of the reason the removable cupholders are only reachable by a contortionist. Driving is more important than sipping a latte and driving is pretty much all you’re going to want to do once you get some time behind the wheel.
We drove both the Club and Grand Touring versions of the MX-5 Miata. The Grand Touring has a softer, more compliant ride and it looks nicer with those leather seats, but we far preferred the Club. It all goes back to the drive experience and the Club capitalizes on that fully.
The MX-5 Miata in either guise feels fast yet controlled thanks to its very low driving position. The sense of speed makes it that much more fun to shift through the gears. The engine sounds delicious, so put that top down at every opportunity to let the sound really fill your ears.
The Brembo brakes and cloth seats made the Club more fun. The seats hold you firmly in place while the brakes more evenly brought the car to a stop and slowed it more confidently and more smoothly than in the Grand Touring.
Electric power steering makes its first appearance in the MX-5. It’s tuned to weight up the more you turn and there’s a great amount of feedback. You feel perfectly connected to the road rather than overwhelmed by too much feedback or numb from not enough.
We only drove the manual transmission, which is honestly the way you should be driving this car. It is smooth and easy with a clutch that won’t kill you in heavy traffic. The manual transmission is where the fun lives in the MX-5.
The soft top is your only choice and it’s easy to operate. No complex system of clips and latches here, but only a single latch in the center. You open it with one hand and push it down into the deck until it clicks. It’s just as easy to pull back up into place.
The infotainment system is clean, uncluttered, and intuitive with a 7″ screen that sits up on the dashboard. The touchscreen only works when the car isn’t in motion. Otherwise there’s a dial and buttons on the center console.
We did have a few minor quibbles. The sun visors are ridiculously flimsy plastic with unfinished edges that look cheap. Also, there’s no glove box, rather a small compartment between the rear seats. In the end, the little things that are wrong don’t matter compared to the big things that are very right.
The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata takes 25 years of experience and creates the best version of the car yet. It has not forgotten its roots as a roadster. Mazda has made it better to drive and not loaded it full with unnecessary modern whiz-bang gadgetry. If that’s what you’re looking for, then this is not your car.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a car that is pure fun and makes no excuses, them the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is the perfect ride.