The Miata: Lighter and a bit tighter
Mazda has redesigned its MX-5 Miata roadster for the fourth time since its introduction in 1990. This MX-5 is lighter and more fuel-efficient than previous incarnations, and its trunk – never particularly useful to begin with – is a little smaller. Otherwise, the new model preserves the qualities that have kept this roadster on the market for more than a quarter century.
We were a little disappointed we were scheduled to receive the Soul Red 2016 MX-5 soft-top convertible in mid-December, but the unseasonably warm weather enabled us to drive it around one day with the top down. This unexpected opportunity revealed something about the roadster's personality that we'd never noticed before: everything about this car seems more fun and engaging with the top down.
It seemed to accelerate faster and corner quicker than it did with the top up. The quick-shifting 6-speed stick shift seemed even smoother. Of course these were perceptions, not reality. Maybe knowing it would be easier to get into and out of the MX-5 added to the enjoyment.
Our test car was nearly 200 pounds lighter than the 2015 model. That, combined with generous applications of Mazda's SKYACTIV technology, boosted fuel economy from 21 mpg city, 28 highway, to 27/34. Mazda still recommends using premium gasoline.
The base price of the MX-5 Club is $28,600. With fees and options, including the Brembo braking package, the sticker price came to $33,120. The MX-5 isn't the only 2-seater on the market, but only the Nissan 370Z competes in that price range – and it isn't available with a convertible top.
All 2016 MX-5 models are equipped with a 155-horsepower inline 4-cylinder engine; the previous version had 167 horsepower. We didn't notice a difference in performance thanks to the car's weight reduction. In past years, we've noted the MX-5's fuel economy really should be better, given the car's small size. The increase to 34 mpg, with no penalty in performance, is impressive.
Along with better fuel economy, the new MX-5 comes with improved technology. For traditionalists who want a basic roadster in the mold of the old Fiat Spider, MGB and Triumph TR series, the MX-5 still comes with a 6-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, though a 6-speed automatic is available. On the technological side, the 2016 MX-5 features a 7-inch color touch-screen display, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, satellite radio, auxiliary jack, two USB ports and Bose 9-speaker audio. A multi-function commander control rests somewhat awkwardly in the center, between the seats, but some drivers felt it was not far enough forward for comfortable access. (Tall drivers also objected to the placement of the cup-holders at the rear of the center console, where the driver's elbow occasionally bumped them.)
The MX-5, a niche model, is a fairly light seller for Mazda, but it's doing unusually well this year. With 7,885 units sold in 2015, sales are up more than 80 percent from 2014.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club
Engine: 2.0-liter Four, 155 horsepower, 148 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 2,332 lb.
Suspension: Double-wishbone front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 17-in. painted alloy
Tires: 205/45R17 W performance
Seating capacity: 2
Luggage capacity: 4.6 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 11.9 gallons
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city, 34 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium unleaded (recommended)