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2016 Mazda MX-5: Forever the Iconic Miata

By Arv Voss, September 5th, 2015

Promising both sporty performance as well as a new kind of efficiency available only from Mazda, the 2016 MX-5 Miata adopts Mazda's full suite of SKYACTIV technology along with the "Soul of Motion" design philosophy.

Manufacturer photo: Lightweight, nimble and fun to drive, the fourth-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 draws inspiration from MX-5s that came before it, pairing the driver as one with the car
Manufacturer photo: Lightweight, nimble and fun to drive, the fourth-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 draws inspiration from MX-5s that came before it, pairing the driver as one with the car

The new 2016 MX-5 is lighter, having dropped roughly 150 pounds from its predecessor's weight. It is also smaller, quicker and more agile than before. It still, however, retains its iconic and genuine two-seat, rear-wheel drive roadster flavor and appeal, and is by far the best looking Miata ever.

Visual changes over the past several years have been very subtle at best with themed editions as well as special paint and trims. The new Miata is stunningly beautiful and presents an entirely new face. It comes in three levels of trim, or in three different models if you will: the base Sport MX-5, which starts at $24,915; the performance-oriented MX-5 Club that's expected to be the volume leader beginning at $28,600; and the more luxurious Grand Touring with a starting price tag of $30,065.

MX-5 Miata models are powered by a 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder engine with direct injection that makes 155 ponies at 6,000 rpm, while developing 148 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,600 rpm. Gearing the engine's energy to the rear wheels is either a standard SKYACTIV six-speed manual transmission or Mazda's SKYACTIV Drive six-speed automatic.

A roadster is, by definition, a two-passenger convertible or open-top vehicle, traditionally with a soft cloth top. In recent years, Mazda has offered a power retractable hard top (PRHT) for Club and Grand Touring models, but for the 2016 model year, only a manually operated soft top is available. The PRHT may possibly return as an option at a later date.

Manufacturer photo: Lightweight, nimble and fun to drive, the fourth-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 draws inspiration from MX-5s that came before it, pairing the driver as one with the car

The Miata's new design is a breath of fresh air, featuring a long hood, abbreviated overhangs, a cropped cabin space that's moved far back on the body, and large wheels moved as far forward as is practical toward all four corners. The two-seater is on a smaller scale than before with some styling cues that seem to display a European influence -- the Jaguar F-Type comes to mind. The design team's goal was to move forward, through modernization, but without sacrificing the car's purity and heritage.

The profile is lower and more aerodynamic, and the car is equally appealing with the top up or down. The manual cloth top is now lighter and may be easily operated from within the car.

All of the Miata's exterior panels, except the windshield frame and doors, are made of aluminum, reducing the body weight by roughly 45 pounds. Seats are more than 35 percent thinner than the outgoing model's, thanks to a net and urethane seat material that replace traditional springs.

The interior showcases a human-centric driving position, focused around the driver, with things like the pedal position optimized to fall in line with the driver's natural foot movement. The hood is now lower and the windshield A-pillars have been moved aft and made more upright for greater visibility. Exterior paint colors are now brought into the door panels -- all combining to provide a greater sensation of the outside world. Passengers have also been positioned inward to feel inline with the center of the vehicle, but passenger space is tight for those measuring 6'4" or taller.

My test Mazda MX-5 Miata during the national press introduction was a Club model with a manual gearbox, a Soul Red metallic exterior, and black interior with red stitching. The base price was set at $28,600, which rose to $33,230 after adding the Brembo brake and forged BBS wheel Package, Navigation, and destination charge. Sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, a shock tower brace, front and rear stabilizer bars, a limited-slip differential, 17-inch wheels and tires, and a front air dam and rear deck lid lip spoiler are standard.

Manufacturer photo: Lightweight, nimble and fun to drive, the fourth-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 draws inspiration from MX-5s that came before it, pairing the driver as one with the car

Essentially, the 2016 MX-5 Miata Club roadster is race-ready off the showroom floor once you add a roll bar and five-point harness to meet sanctioned racing requirements.

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a raging success as an affordable, fun-to-drive pure roadster thanks to its Kansei engineering, which concentrates on how the car feels through the driver's sense of touch, how it sounds at speed, and how it looks with the top stowed, rather than focusing on 0-to-60-mph acceleration figures.

The new MX-5 Miata has lost absolutely none of its appeal. The diminutive roadster now ranks in a higher status across the board, and the manual gearbox delivers a positive response in the driving experience, without question.

Acceleration may not seem blistering to some, but is certainly quick enough to provide great fun. When prodded with gusto, the engine's growl is pleasing enough, and doesn't register as offensive at all, though a heightened, throatier note from the exhaust would generate even wider smiles. Handling is crisp and precise with pleasing throttle steer properties, and the car exhibits an excellent front-to-rear balance.

The MX-5 remains a true sports car with heart. In my mind, it will always be a Miata (MX-5 or not). Long live the Miata.

Manufacturer photo: Lightweight, nimble and fun to drive, the fourth-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 draws inspiration from MX-5s that came before it, pairing the driver as one with the car

Specifications

Base price $28,600 (as tested: $33,230)
Curb weight 2,332 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Engine type 16-valve Skyactiv 4-cyl. w/DI
Epa mileage rating 27 mpg city, 34 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 11.9 gal.
Horsepower (net) 155 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 154.1 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 148 at 4600 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Vehicle type 2-passenger RWD compact roadster
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