The Mazda MX-5 (originally called the Miata) has long been the personification of driving fun and the fourth-generation 2016 model continues to be just that. The original MX-5 Miata, introduced in 1989, was the reincarnation of a British sports car and more than 950,000 have been sold worldwide. According to Mazda, the all-new 2016 is lighter, smaller, quicker and more nimble than its predecessor. The wheelbase is nearly one inch shorter and curb weight is 2,332 pounds. Mazda says that increased use of high-tensile steel and careful attention to reducing even the slightest amount of weight with every component resulted in a total weight reduction of 150 pounds.
There are three models: Sport, Club and Grand Touring. Sport starts at $24,915, Club at $28,600 and Grand Touring at $30,065. The test vehicle was the Club model with the optional Brembo/BBS package of 17-inch BBS wheels and Brembo front brakes. The Club model also has a limited-slip differential on manual transmission models, Bilstein shocks, a shock tower brace and a front air dam and rear lip spoiler. The base price was $28,600.
The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine delivers 155 horsepower, 12 less than the previous model. It would seem that fewer horsepower would hurt performance but the car felt as quick and energetic as ever, helped by the lighter weight. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. Fuel economy is up considerably, too. The manual transmission model is rated at 27 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on the highway. That’s exceptional.
Driven vigorously, the MX-5 feels as though it is glued to your hips. The engine has been moved down and back for better handling. The steering is light and direct and the car pivots around corners so precisely that it almost feels telepathic, thanks in large measure to a 50-50 weight distribution and low center of gravity.
Slide into the MX-5 and the cockpit definitely feels small. Folks over six feet tall are likely to be cramped. The pedals are tightly grouped and getting in and out can be challenging, especially for aging enthusiasts. The stubby gearshift is next to the driver’s right hand and changing gears is as simple as rocking your wrist. Dropping the manual top is a matter of undoing a central latch and pulling it back into folded position behind the seats. It is most easily done outside of the car, but can be done from inside.
On the highway, the cloth top reverberated so loudly that I could hardly stand to drive more than 65 miles per hour. The previous MX-5 was available with a power folding hard top but one is not offered on the 2016. A folding hard top would add weight but it would make the car much more suitable for highway use.
Mazda’s infotainment system has a seven-inch color touchscreen display. It is operated with voice commands or a multi-function command dial on the console. Standard items include HD radio, two USB inputs, smart keyless entry, a Bosenine-speaker audio system with headrest-mounted speakers and Sirius satellite radio. The interface of the optional, dealer-installed navigation system was not nearly as intuitive as most smartphones. The MX-5 may be 26 years old but it acts like teenager.
Price: The base price of the Club model is $28,600. The test car was equipped with navigation and the Brembo/BBS package of 17-inch wheels, Brembo front brakes, painted brake calipers, side sill extensions and a rear bumper skirt. The sticker price was $33,170.
Warranty: Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Point: The redesigned MX-5 still has the soul of a pure sports car. The new body is attractive, fuel economy is improved and handling is just as good as ever.
Counterpoint: The MX-5 is slightly smaller than the previous model and the cabin felt crowded. The cloth top is quite noisy at highway speeds.