The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the prototype for all modern roadsters. It is what every car should feel like behind the wheel. The 2016 MX-5 is the most fun car I’ve driven in recent memory. It is the all new legendary Mazda Miata that all others must be judged on.
In a time when cars are getting heavier, busier and softer, the MX-5 gets lighter, simpler and more enjoyable than ever before. A heavily revised version of the Mazda3’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine slots neatly under the Miata’s long, sculpted hood and serves up 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque.
While down on power compared to the previous generation, weight is down too, the new Miata’s power-to-weight ratio is improved, meaning a quicker sprint to 60 mph in 5.9-seconds and a respectable 129 mph top speed. That means it feels fast, faster than the old car by a good margin.
Sure, for nearly the same money, you can gain access to vehicles with almost double the output, but power is only a single dimension of complete driving pleasure. As Mazda say in their latest advertising campaign “Driving Matters”. Each throw of the shifter is short, crisp, and met with a subtle, yet assuring “click” into place. The smooth shifter is ideally positioned, while the narrowly spaced pedals are perfectly aligned underneath the thin, small-diameter wheel, as an added bonus the pedals are spaced perfectly for heel-toe downshifting.
However while enthusiasts might bemoan Mazda’s decision to ditch the hydraulic steering rack for an electrically-assisted unit, this is easily one of the best systems available on the market. Not only is turn-in lightning quick, but weight also builds as the g-forces do mid-corner, leading to a natural, balanced feel with turn of the wheel.
Mazda spent a good bit of time on that last part. It actually built the driver’s seat, pedals and steering wheel, and then molded the rest of the car around it. The seat no longer has a height adjustment, but Mazda solved that problem with a little bit of clever engineering. It now slides forward on an upward angle, so drivers with shorter legs will get a bonus inch or so in height as they move toward the wheel.
All Mazda roadsters have a double wishbone suspension setup in front and a rigid multilink setup in the rear. The Grand Touring and the Sport model get the standard suspension; the Club trim, comes with a more sport-focused setup featuring Bilstein dampers, a shock-tower brace and a limited-slip differential and the option of a Brembo upgrade.
Mazda’s Connect infotainment system is one of the best in the industry, with excellent feedback from the selection dial, quick responses from the system, intelligent button redundancies, and clear navigation readout. Perhaps my favorite element of the new interior is the manual folding soft-top, which is a single-handed, four-second affair thanks to its smartly-designed hitching mechanism.
But we do have some issues. The phone holder area doesn’t do nearly enough to hold your phone during spirited driving and there is not a ton of luggage space. However the lack of an available backup camera seems a bit of a missed opportunity. Other than that, there’s not much too complain about.
So far, the MX-5 checks off every box an enthusiast needs, including price and everyday usability. And, if you need another reason to get out the checkbook, we drove the car for about 1000 not-slow miles during our test, and easily averaged more than 30 mpg and averaged 42 mpg between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The car faithfully embodies the “Kodo” design language Mazda introduced in 2010 and the MX-5 is just an extremely rewarding car to drive and still rates very highly on the “Smiles Per Miles” meter the original version was designed around.
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