2015 Car of the Year

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2015 Car of the Year

Mazda MX-5 Miata

An Easy Winner

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Usually the Car of the Year selection results in sleepless nights, gnashing of teeth, and the thought that I should do something totally unprofessional and just flip a coin.

Until now.

The redesigned Miata captured the flag the first time I drove it on a top down, lovely warm day. It wasn’t so much an introduction to a new car as getting together with an old friend.

Yes, the new Miata looks different; there are hundreds of changes under the skin, yet it retains every morsel that made it, for the money, the most fun you can have on four wheels.

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After 26 years and about 950,000 sold globally, Mazda decided it was time for an MX-5 rethink.

Enter the KODO, or Soul in Motion design, that I would term eye catching especially with its more aggressive front end.

At 2,332 pounds with the stick shift, the 2016 is about 200 pounds lighter than the outgoing design thanks to engineers and designers sweating the small stuff. To give you an idea of how small, the headlight units are 40 millimeters shallower, 22 mm shorter in vertical height and are 15 percent lighter. Even the driveshaft is three pounds lighter. Yet with all the changes, the desirable 50-50 weight distribution carries over.

That diet allowed a 12 horsepower reduction under the hood but don’t swallow your taco whole at that news. There is more an adequate output from the 2.0 liter four with 155 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque @ 4,600 rpm. The redline is at 6,800 and the little bugger pulls beautifully to that level.

All this is aided by a six speed manual box that acts like an extension of your right arm. Yes, you can get a six speed automatic, but really … That would be like Adele singing the greatest hits of Tiny Tim.

Zero to 60 works out to just a touch over six seconds and you will have the ability to experience .90 G on a skidpad. But all that means little. What does matter is way the total package is integrated together much like the team effort that’s need to capture the Super Bowl.

The tires grip the road like Star Wars grabbed ticket sales, the double wishbone front suspension with rear multilink set up and excellent feedback through the leather covered steering wheel send messages to the brain along the lines of, “You could take that next corner a bit faster.”

2016 Miata interior

Inside there is more than adequate room for two adults, materials have been upgraded especially in the upscale models, and all controls really do come readily to hand.

There were no springs under the very comfortable leather trimmed bucket seats, (another weight savings measure). They are of a mesh aero board construction and hold your bod nicely in place while you scare the hell out of your passenger on curvy roads.

For 2016 the seats are a just a touch more adjustable, most noticeable in the ability to recline the seat back further.

A 7” color touch screen is mounted center dash and also can be controlled via a large knob on the console. Unfortunately, it is easy for your arm to come in contact with that knob and there goes your navi map for instance.

First timers might chafe at the lack of storage space. There is no glove box, the center console indentation for your phone is tiny, and storage under the center arm rest is miniscule. Cup holders are between the seats to the rear and less than handy. But look around. This is a small car and there is only so much space for designers to work with.

The trunk is also on the small side, but I did fit in five grocery bags and a multi pack of bottled water. My neighbor watched the unloading and, without saying a word, seemed surprised that it all fit. (He drives a Ram pickup.) Yet no one buys a sports car for its cargo hauling ability.

On the highway, there is considerable wind noise with the top up, but it was no more bothersome than any other pure sports car I have driven. With the top down wind buffeting is not much of a factor, handy if your loved one just came out of the hair designers.

Offsetting the noise were the wonderful sounds emanating from the Bose audio system with 9 speakers that is standard on the Limited edition. USB ports and Bluetooth are now standard equipment across the board.

There was also a tire pressure monitoring system, blind sport monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert system.

Ingress and egress will keep you nimble yet are light years easier than say the last Lotus I drove with its large shelf that must be cleared before your bottom touches leather.

The ride is on the stiff side for those experiencing a true sports car for the first time, but it is not out of line for those who have been enjoying their Miata’s for decades – and there are thousands of them. The little two-seater, you see, has a marvelous record when it comes to reliability. Many owners have hit the 200,000 mile mark.

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Our upscale limited edition with two small options carried an MSRP of $31,315 from a starting price of $30,065. If that is in excess of the local budget, know that a base Sport model starts at $24,915. Add in the amenities in the Club model at the price goes to $28,600. All true bargains.

I say this very rarely when it comes to car reviews, and it usually pertains to rides that are ten times more expensive than the base Miata. If you at all enjoy driving, this is a car that you MUST drive before some wretched disease carries you off to the big garage in the sky.

Even in base form, it will sit in the driveway saying, “Come on let’s go play.” Every single time you will return home with a smile on your face, and that is what makes the MX-5 Miata such an easy choice as “Car of the Year.”

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Specs:

SKYACTIVE-G 2.0-liter DOHV 16 valve 4-cylinder with Variable Valve Timing.

Horsepower 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque 148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm

Displacement (CC) 1998

Bore X Stroke (MM) 83.5 X 91.2

Compression Radio 13:1

Fuel System Electronically controlled fuel injection

Drivetrain Front-midship engine, rear wheel drive

Manual transmission 6-speed

Automatic transmission 6-speed AT with Steering-wheel mounted shift paddles.

Monocoque unibody with backbone frame construction and front and rear suspension subframes.

4-wheel disc brakes

Steering Type Rack and pinion with double pinion electric power assist

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