2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata - MX-5 Miata reinforces fun in sun tradition


 The fourth-generation of the world's best-selling roadster, the 2016 Mazda MX-5, is on dealership lots today and not much has changed over the years with this sleek subcompact. It was at the 81st Chicago Auto Show, Feb. 11-19, 1989, that the original 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata made its world public debut as a light weight, front-midship, rear-wheel-drive, two-passenger sports car.

Why change a good thing? More than a million buyers have popped for a Miata and there is one big reason why. The Miata is a singular vehicle in terms of pricing for a two-seater. Prices for the three (Sport, Club, Grand Touring) MX-5 models roughly range from $25,000 to $30,000. Today's closest competitors are the Mini Cooper convertible and Nissan's 370Z. The Mini Cooper's 2015 prices start at $26,100, but it is a front-wheel-drive convertible. The 2016 370Z roadster's starting price is $41,820.

The MX-5 is small, inside and out. This can be good or bad. Certainly the car will not take up much space in a garage. Parking in tight spots will be no problem. Fuel economy is good, but not exceptional. And, since it has only two seats, its purpose is obvious and that is to have fun on the road. It is not a family vehicle.

Quick off the mark, tight steering and a subdued purr from the twin alloy exhaust tips contributed to fun rides during recent test weeks.

With an almost perfect 50-50 balance between front and rear and a new generation Skyactiv 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 155-horsepower, the engine can be mated to the buyer's choice of either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission specially tuned for the MX-5. It is the most compact of any generation MX-5 so far and at less than 2,500-lbs. is more than 220 pounds lighter than the model it replaces, promising a dramatic leap in driving fun. Some of the mass savings comes from the further use of aluminum components and the weight of the soft top is reduced.

The new MX-5 is fast off the line and, in media testing, has done 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.3 seconds. This performance is a half-second faster than predecessors. Unofficially, the roadster came to a stop from 60 mph in a distance of 111 feet. This is good. Brembo brake discs measure 11 inches, vented in front and solid in the rear.

It maneuvers well in tight street conditions and it should as the convertible rides on a wheelbase of 90.9 inches, is 157.3 inches long, 68 inches wide and 49 inches tall. The MX-5's turning circle is 30.8 feet, which is remarkably tight.

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 is distinguished by a fresh approach to Mazda's KODO design language, which combines beautiful proportions with body surfaces that express the contrast between stillness and motion. Low and wide in appearance, on the exterior, a buyer gets 17-inch alloy wheels supporting P205 radial Bridgestone Potenza runflat tires, dual alloy exhaust tips, fog lamps in front flanking a honeycomb grille with silver trim for headlamp and turn signal housings. The dual exhausts are throaty but mannerly.

During the test weeks of a Club model of the MX-5, the aluminum-alloy engine was mated to a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted manual shift paddles is a $1,500 option.

Premium fuel is recommended for the 11.8-gallon fuel tank. During the test weeks, the MX-5 averaged 30.1 miles per gallon with one person aboard, the driver. The convertible was driven aggressively. 

A sport-tuned suspension system with an optional limited-slip differential relies on wishbones in front, gas-charged Bilstein shocks, multilinks in the rear and stabilizer bars front and rear.

A challenge to owners is entry and exit. Not every human frame can get in and out easily.  Although not limited to buyers of a certain size and age, watching a 67-year-old, 220-pounder struggling into or out of an MX-5 can be comical. Once on a padded bucket seat, the interior can feel confining.

A snug feeling cabin has been moved a little toward the rear to create the appearance that the occupants are sitting at the body's midpoint. The two front leather bucket seats are ideal for lithe bodies, but they best be agile as well. Taller folk (six-feet, 2 inches and climbing) might complain about leg room. It takes some effort to sink into the cockpit as well as to exit, but the process is not overwhelming. A mesh windscreen is placed between the bucket seats. With the side windows up and the windscreen in place, two people actually can carry on conversations while cruising at 50 to 60 miles per hour.

Standard features on the test model included fog lights, LED head and taillights, chrome grille surround, body-colored front and rear bumpers, intermittent wipers, remote keyless entry, cruise control, redundant sound controls mounted on the leather-wrapped and tilt steering wheel, one-touch express windows, black seatback bar trim, leather seats-shift knob-steering wheel, trip computer and power door locks. USB connectivity and Bluetooth are standard on all 2016 MX-5 models.

Besides windows and locks, another power appointment is exterior mirrors.  Features on MX-5s include  remote keyless entry, pushbutton start, defogger for rear glass window, floor mats, 12-volt outlet, cup holders, vanity mirror, trunk lights, clock, tachometer, external temperature display and a nine-speaker Bose sound system for high definition AM-FM and satellite radio, compact disc and MP3 players and two USB ports. Several of the speakers are in the headrests. Also standard are Aha, Pandora and Stitcher internet radio. Although sound is managed from a seven-inch touch screen, on the center console is an auxiliary control knob.

Mazda designers wanted to copy European sports cars and leave the interior without holders for coffee cups or other beverages. After all, roadsters were designed for sport driving, not for drinking coffee. The Europeans, BMW in particular, and Mazda realized that North Americans like their coffee. Mazda solved the issue by installing ports for two removable cupholders at the rear of the center console.

Safety equipment includes disc brakes, a four-wheel antilock braking system, airbags in front and on the sides (no overhead curtains as this is a convertible), brake force distribution and headrests to complement the two seatbelts.

The three-year or 36-month warranty includes 24-hour roadside assistance. Powertrain coverage is five years or 60,000 miles.


Vehicle: Club convertible model of 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5

Type: rear-wheel-drive, two-door, two-seat subcompact

Price: $28,600

Engine: 2-liter, 155-horsepower, dual overhead cam, inline four-cylinder

Transmission: six-speed manual

Wheelbase: 90.9 inches

Length: 154.1 inches

Width: 68.3 inches

Height: 48.8 inches

Weight: 2,332 pounds

Trunk: 4.6 cubic feet

Leg room: 43.1 inches

Ground clearance: 4.9 inches

Turning curb-to-curb: 30.8 feet

Fuel tank: 11.8 gallons

Fuel: premium

Brakes: discs, 11-inch vented front, 11-inch solid rear

Tires, alloy wheels: 17-inch

Suspension: double wishbone front, multi-link rear, gas-filled shock absorbers

Assembly: Hiroshima, Japan

Warranty: transferable, three years or 36,000 miles with roadside assistance, five years or 60,000 miles on the powertrain

Information: www.mazdausa.com

M.J. Frumkin and J.E. Kuyper

M. J. Frumkin and J. E. Kuyper covered the auto industry for decades. Frumkin was with Consumer Guide for 14 years, has authored four books and co-authored three more. He is also the historian/archivist for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association/Chicago Auto Show. Kuyper has been an automotive writer, editor and columnist for newspapers in the Chicago area the past 25 years. His reviews currently appear in the daily Northwest Herald newspaper. Frumkin and Kuyper are founding members of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.