Cars are made everyday and new ones are being designed all the time. In a way, cars are like children. New ones are made on a regular basis, while others are left to age and get better with time. That means that when a new car comes out, it has to be really good to get the entire automotive industry in an uproar. When the original Mazda Miata came out in 1990, it was a car that did exactly this and the Japanese automaker did it once again with the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
When I went to the DC Auto Show for a second time, I managed to talk to some of the individuals that were working for the brands and lined up a test drive with my local Mazda dealership. Everything that follows is from a brief, 40-minute test drive in the sports car.
The MX-5 Miata is a modern take on a classic sports car. In the good ol’ days, automakers would focus on creating lightweight vehicles with small peppy engines. That’s not the case anymore as drivers demand more features, more comfort and more safety features out of their cars. With the new MX-5 Miata, Mazda has returned to the glory days by cutting a drastic amount of weight. The new model apparently tips the scale at 2,309 lbs., which is roughly 100 lbs. heavier than the 1992 Mazda Miata that I currently drive. In a world of oversized vehicles, the MX-5 Miata sticks out like a vegan at a steakhouse.
Since the MX-5 Miata’s extremely light, it doesn’t need to have a monstrous V8 or even a V6 under its hood to provide you with a thrilling ride. In fact, the entire MX-5 Miata lineup is powered by a 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that puts out 155 hp. That’s not a lot. Some may claim that 155 hp isn’t enough for a sports car, but in a car as light as the MX-5 Miata, it works.
In fact, the entire car works in harmony. The punchy four-cylinder engine provides for a rev-happy unit, while the six-speed manual transmission clicks through the gears in a satisfying manner. It’s all very connected and that’s something that’s been missing from the sports car segment for a while. Even more interestingly, I found that the new MX-5 Miata is an enjoyable and connected car at any speed. You don’t need to be pushing the sports car to its limits, or yours, to enjoy driving it. The car’s more than content to eat up the miles as a cruiser as it is attacking a windy road.
The new MX-5 Miata is truly the complete package. You could really enjoy this car everyday, only on the weekends, or whenever your heart desires. It will reward you with driving it by putting a massive smile on your face, because it doesn’t take a racecar driver to enjoy and it doesn’t cost $1 million. It’s the best car money can buy at $25,000 and it’s something that every single enthusiast should try.
Unlike previous Mazdas, the MX-5 Miata features a new, frowning face that is supposed to make the sports car look a little more aggressive. Some days, I love the design. Other days, I find it kind of confusing. It’s not a timeless look like the original one, but it could be a lot worse. And the car looks better in person, as well as in specific colors. Red, white and black, for instance, really bring out the MX-5 Miata’s sultry lines. One thing’s for sure, it doesn’t look like a hairdresser’s car anymore.
Some might hate it, while others will love it. It doesn’t matter what side of the line you fall one, just as long as you agree that Mazda took the MX-5 Miata’s styling in a different direction than before.
At its core, the MX-5 Miata is supposed to be an affordable sports car. It’s supposed to be a bare-bones example of what is possible for just $25,000. But the top-of-the-line MX-5 Grand Touring Miata that I drove was dripping with all of the latest features. It had nicely bolstered, heated tan leather seats that I found to be quite lovely. Besides the nice seats, the $30,000 model comes with Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning System, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, navigation and more. If you’re interested in getting a cheap sports car that has all of the latest features, then the Grand Touring model is a great choice.
Mazda Infotainment system worked well. The actual screen itself is a nice size and has very little glare in direct sunlight. What I didn’t like, however, were the placement of the buttons, which is awkwardly placed behind the gear shifter and next to the parking brake lever. Laying your hand on the shifter inadvertently changes the radio station, which gets annoying. Speaking of which, I hate where Mazda placed the parking brake lever. It’s placed right next to the passenger’s leg, which means that using it will have you groping your passenger. While that’s a great icebreaker for a first date, I wish the infotainment buttons and parking lever were switched. Overall, it’s a nice place to sit.
The Miata is the original sports car that can do it all and the new MX-5 Miata is even better. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is a gem. It may not be the most powerful motor, but there’s more then enough torque to push you back into the seat. While the engine comes alive at above 3,000 rpm, the engine has a linear power delivery that makes it feel a lot quicker than it is. Zero to 60 mph happens in 6.4 seconds, but it feels quicker. It’s a friendly engine, that invites you to go faster, but you can also enjoy it by dotting around town.
The Grand Touring model isn’t exactly the enthusiasts’ choice, but it does a fine job of going around corners in a spirited manner. There’s a bit of body roll, but the car is nearly telepathic in nature and has loads of available grip. You don’t need to be a racecar driver to enjoy this sports car and you don’t have to push it to the limit to get a feeling that this is something special.
The one thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the electrically-assisted steering. It was numb and a little vague. While I knew exactly what the front wheels were doing, I felt like there was a little lightness right off of center. Going a little quicker and driving on a road that has a lot of subsequent turns negates this small gripe.
The MX-5 Miata is an amazing sports car that can do it all. It’s one of the few vehicles that can be enjoyed by anyone and at any speed. However, if it were my money, I wouldn’t get the Grand Touring model. Go with the base Sport Model or the Club trim. Because let’s be honest, this is an affordable sports car. And $30,000 for this a little much. Don’t get me wrong, the Grand Touring model is worth every penny, but getting a Miata that has heated seats, leather seats and automatic climate control seems wrong. Pocket the extra cash and spend it on some track days or a road trip. Because a car like this is a rare thing and needs to be enjoyed.
Special thanks to Brown’s Alexandria Mazda for providing the car.