Saturday Road Test – 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

First Drive

By Ron Amadon

ALEXANDRIA, VA. – May we all raise a glass to Mazda for more than a quarter century of Miata motoring fun and then add a hosanna or three for the engineers and designers who made it even better for 2016.

Before we detail the changes, let me assuage one major concern Miata fans might have. It is still the most fun that those of us with humble incomes can have on four wheels.

Mazda started with a total redesign of the exterior giving the Miata a more aggressive stance. It is nearly a half-inch lower, the wheelbase is shorter but the car is now 2.5 inches wider for those keeping score.

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The new model is about 150 pounds lighter with a curb weight of 2,332 pounds when equipped with the six speed manual transmission. There are various factors that aided that effort – aluminum exterior panels except the windshield frame and doors, and they even trimmed a few pounds from the air conditioner.

The comfortable seats are more than 35-percent thinner than the outgoing model owing to a net and urethane seat material replacing traditional springs. This, in turn, allowed engineers to remove approximately 17 lbs. from each seat and position them lower in the MX-5 for an improved center of gravity, enhanced visibility and an extra notch in the rearward seat adjustment. There was plenty of legroom for my 6’ tall bod and the new seat holds one firmly in place during exuberant cornering.

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All models will come with a 2.0-liter four rated at 155 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. It can be matched with one of the very finest six speed manual shifts that one can find on the world market. From the very first time you move out, the shifter and transmission are as familiar as something you have been driving for, oh, fifty years or so. While I can’t imagine owning the Miata with anything else, a six speed automatic is an option.

Work your way through the gears and the 2016 feels quicker than the stats indicate as the engine and exhaust make all the right sounds. While Mazda does not quote 0-60 figures, results that I have seen put it just a touch over and a touch under six seconds. Top speed is 125.

EPA estimates are 27/34/30 mpg for the six speed manual and virtually the same for the automatic.

Settle into the cockpit and everything comes readily to hand and eye. Reach out and the stubby shift lever is right where it should be. The easy to read instruments are right at eye level and the pedals come readily to foot. It is all part of what the maker calls its human-centric driving position.

There is a new MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system with a seven inch full color touch screen display with voice command available on the Club and Grand touring models.

The double wishbone front suspension and rear multilink set up is carried over and made for superb handling in short drives near president one’s Mount Vernon. I can’t wait to take one out to the more challenging roads of West Virginia.

Wind buffeting is well contained with the top down, and Mazda has made some changes so it can be easily raised in seconds from the driver’s seat should a fall shower quickly pop up.

The sportier Club model I drove had the Brembo/BBS Package that adds lightweight, mean looking forged 17-inch BBS wheels, Brembo front brakes with red-painted calipers at all four wheels, a rear bumper skirt and side sill extensions.

It is well worth the extra $3,400. Add in $300 for the “Soul Red” paint and the test car came to a reasonable $33,120. The base price for a Sport model is $24,915 while the Grand Touring checks in at $30,065 base.

Mazda had a goal of making this a fun car to drive. Not the fastest set of wheels on the road, and not the most spacious. But the most balanced and fun to drive reasonably priced sports car on the road today.

Take my word for it. Take one out for a test drive and you will discover just how much fun driving can be.

Heck, even the monthly payment is easy to live with.

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