Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - front

Words by Andy Lilienthal, photos by Mercedes Lilienthal

Growing up, my dad would take me to the Raceway to Fun go-kart track in Newport, Minnesota. I always looked forward to it, no matter how many times we went. There was something about getting behind the wheel of that little kart, despite the fact it wasn’t really very fast, that was so much fun. It handled well, you could push it without fear, and it presented the illusion of speed, even if it wasn’t all that fast. Each time I got into the all-new 2016 MX-5 Miata, it was like going to the go-kart track as a kid. I couldn’t wait to get in, I could drive it hard, and I wasn’t in any inherent risk of danger, so long as I didn’t drive it like an idiot. This car was the closest thing I can relate to that feeling as a kid. And I would drive it at every opportunity during my week with it. Go to work on Monday? Let’s go! Need to pick up something at the grocery store? Count me in! Going to lunch? I’ll drive!

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

The Miata has always been like a knife; sharp and precise in its performance. But the ’16 Miata is like a razor blade. Mazda has honed in on all those things you liked about the last Miata and the Miata before that and made it better—sharper—from the engine to the interior.

The ’16 Miata is completely redesigned, and for the first time, has a sexy shape. Not that previous Miatas haven’t been attractive vehicles—they have—but they’ve been attractive the way an MG midget or Triumph Spitfire look good; you know what I’m getting at. But the ’16 Miata is downright sexy. The Miata is like that girl (or guy) in high school that comes back the next year a little more grown up and kinda hot. Yes, this new Miata is a real looker.

Forged BBS wheels and Brembo brakesGreat lines; creased corners; flowing sheet metal—it’s very pleasing. And if looked at from the right angle, almost looks a bit Jaguar F-Type-esque. Top up or down, this car is hot. Even when you’re sitting in the vehicle, the front wheel arches have a certain flared look, which reminded me a bit of the BMW Z4 or even a Corvette.

Our test model was the Club Edition, which includes performance bits such as the red Brembo brakes, Bilstein shock absorbers, an appearance package with all sorts of little aero bits, and forged black BBS wheels. Paired with the Soul Red paint, the car looks ready to eat up some curves. Unfortunately six of the seven days we had the Miata it was raining and nasty, not exactly Miata weather. That being said, I still got a chance to see what the Miata was made of.

A new 2.0-liter Skyactive four-cylinder mill resides under the long hood and produces 155 horsepower and 148 lb/ft of torque—12 horsepower less than the outgoing model (although up 8 lb/ft of torque). But the new Miata also weighs 148 lbs. less than the outgoing model. Mazda says performance is actually up, and I’d believe it. By the way, this new powerplant sounds fantastic, too. From the second you fire up the Skyactive engine, there’s a nice snarl from the tailpipe; it sounds like a little racecar. With the combination of shape, sound, top down (or up) performance, the Miata is certainly a sensory experience in just about every regard.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club Skyaciv 2.0-liter engine
Power comes on quickly and the engine revs freely all the way up to the 7,000 RPM redline. The car never feels down on power, and will sprint 0-60 in under six seconds. But it feels fast nearly all the time, because you’re only 4.9-inches off the ground—you’re lower than just about anything else out there. It really is like driving the best go-kart you’ve ever piloted. The shifter is fantastic, but perhaps a slight bit notchy, and I love it. Throws are short and can be performed with a flick of the wrist. Clutch uptake is pretty much spot on to where I’d want it, and the gear indicator on the dash not only tells you which gear you’re in, but which to go into next for optimal fuel economy. Speaking of, the car is rated at 27 city, 30 combined, and 34 highway. We got about 28 combined.

Handling with this Club Edition model is also very go-kart like. Those Bilstein shocks really do work wonders, although the ride is noticeably stiff and you feel every imperfection in the pavement. And with the car’s short wheelbase, you can feel it porpoising a little bit on really bad roads. The car has a limited-slip differential which aids in keeping the rear end in check. And on the few times I actually had dry pavement with the car, it stuck to the pavement like a slot car. I only wished I had more of an opportunity to really push the car, but alas, the best November transportation in waterlogged Oregon may actually be a kayak.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club top
Because of the steady rain we had, I can honestly say the convertible top is very watertight. As with many convertibles, there is a significant amount of wind and road noise that make their way into the cabin. But again, this is a Miata, not a Bentley Continental GT, and I will gladly live with a bit of sound. There was a slight rattle behind my head on the top, however. Other than that, the car was tight and rattle-free. The manual top is also extremely easy to operate. Simply unlatch the front lever, and fold back until it clicks into place. I was easily able to do this without exiting the car, too. Putting the top back up is just as easy. I find I needed to use the defroster a lot (both front and rear window units) to keep the fog down. Small cabin + wet conditions will require such actions.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club interior

Mazda did a very good job redesigning the Miata’s interior, and the entire thing falls in the current Mazda design theme. There’s the iPad-sized LCD display mounted in the middle of the dash, the knob-controlled interface for the infotainment system, and the vents that are integrated into the dash. Ergonomics are good, with everything being in reach. Cheers to Mazda for continuing to use a three-knob climate control system, too—easy and intuitive. The gauge cluster now features some digital readouts for things such as fuel and engine temperature. Gone is the oil pressure gauge. The center-mounted tach and right-mounted speedometer are simple and legible. Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much storage for anything. There is a small cubby in the arm rest, and a “glove box” mounted between the seats on the rear bulkhead.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club clubholders
Of particular note are the cupholders, which are semi configurable. You can pull them out of their clip-in slots if you don’t want them. They work well and easily held my coffee mug in the morning. They do look like a bit of an afterthought, but then again, the Miata is really designed for one thing: driving. And like the Miatas of yore, the trunk is tiny, but will accommodate a few bags of groceries, a couple of duffle bags, or a small suitcase. As my co-worker said—this is not the car to take to Costco.

I am not, however, a huge fan of the seats. They aren’t as supportive as I would’ve expected. They feel a bit like someone stretched some fabric over a metal frame and didn’t add enough padding. You almost feel cradled like you’re in a sport hammock as opposed to sitting in sport seats. Also, there is no telescoping steering column, which would’ve been nice. One other gripe: I couldn’t find a 12V plug in. However, it apparently does exist and is located under the dashboard near the driveshaft tunnel on the passenger’s side. From the photos I saw, it’d be nearly impossible to get under there easily to plug anything in, so let’s hope you simply don’t need to.

As you’d expect with a car this low and small, entry and egress aren’t for the large or inflexible. There’s a bit of a dance that needs to be done to slip in and come out of this car, but I assure you, it’s worth it.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club rear 3/4

The 2016 Miata continues to be a razor blade among a drawer full of butter knifes. And with each generation, that razor gets sharper. Everything you liked about the Miata continues to be there, but it’s just a bit sharper; a bit more refined. But it’s not too refined. It still keeps enough of that raw roadster feel and scrappy performance to be called a Miata. This car just keeps getting better and better. And for those of us who do live in wet (or cold) climates, I sincerely hope Mazda releases a version with the power retractable hardtop, which was the version I liked most in the last generation. This Club version had a sticker price of $33,120. The entry price for the Miata is $25,735. It might not be the most powerful or fastest car for the money, but I assure you it's one of the most fun.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club rear

Mazda has yet again knocked another one out of the park with the Miata. This is one I would gladly spend my hard-earned money on. It’s just so much damn fun. You can’t not smile driving this car. You want to drive it. It’s like going to that go-kart track as a kid, but in this case, it’s faster, more comfortable, and open all the time.

THE BASICS: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club
MSRP As Tested: $33,120
Engine: DOHC 2.0-liter I4 16V, direct injection
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Horsepower: 155
Torque: 148 lb/ft
Curb Weight: 2,332 lbs.
Wheelbase: 90.9"
Overall Length: 154.1"
Suspension: F: Double wishbone
R: Multi-link rear
Brakes: F: Disc w/ABS
R: Disc w/ABS
Wheels: BBS 17" forged alloy
Tires: 205/45/17
Fuel Economy (MPG): 27 city, 30 combined, 34 highway
Fuel Type: Premium 92 octane (recommended)
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata door

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata taillight

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata front spoiler

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata gauges

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Trunk


Anime Gee said...

I finally got to sit in one at the LA Autoshow. The sad part is that it actually feels more smaller & tighter than my 1995 NA. I'm 6'-1" & weigh about 170. Just an average tall guy. I fit perfectly & comfortably fine in my NA. I won't be upgrading anytime soon. This sucks 'cause I was really looking forward to this new car. It's full of so much excellence & win.

I am sad. (;o; )

jay said...

i'm also 6'1" (and, cough, 195 lbs), and i also previously owned an NA. when i went to test drive the ND (with checkbook in hand) the seat wouldn't go back quite far enough... nooooo!!! but then i discovered that if i made the seatback angle slightly more upright, i could get the seat back a couple more inches, and it fits me perfectly. so now it lives in my garage (soul red club)

the only drawback relative to my red/tan 94 is storage in the cabin. btw what does anyone keep in those weird cubbyholes behind the seats?