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!
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.
Great 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|Curb Weight:||2,332 lbs.|
|Suspension:||F: Double wishbone |
R: Multi-link rear
|Brakes:||F: Disc w/ABS |
R: Disc w/ABS
|Wheels:||BBS 17" forged alloy|
|Fuel Economy (MPG):||27 city, 30 combined, 34 highway|
|Fuel Type:||Premium 92 octane (recommended)|