The Mazda MX-5 Miata made its world debut at the Chicago Motor Show in February, 1987, with U.S. sales beginning in May of that year. The second generation bowed ten years later in Oct 1997 at the Tokyo Motor Show and the third generation made its first appearance at the Geneva Auto Show in March 2005. The new fourth generation Mazda MX-5 Miata was unveiled simultaneously last September in Japan, Spain and the U.S.
This latest iteration MX-5 Miata has adopted Mazda’s full suite of SKYACTIV technology along with their KODO “Soul of Motion” design philosophy. The 2016 Miata 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, 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.
All new MX-5 Miata models are powered by a longitudinally-mounted 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G DOHC, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder engine with Direct Injection that makes 155 ponies at 6,000 rpm, while developing 148 pound feet 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 6-sped automatic.
A roadster is by definition a convertible or open top vehicle, traditionally with a soft cloth top. In recent years, Mazda has offered a PRHT (Power Retractable Hard Top) 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 available option at a later date. The basic “Jinba Ittai” mission statement for the Miata, which translates as “the rider and horse as one” continues with this latest example.
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 car 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 in now lighter and may be easily operated while seated in 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 lbs. 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 inset to feel in-line with the center of the vehicle, but passenger space is tight for those 6’4” or more.
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 and Handling charge. Sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, a shock tower brace, forint and rear stabilizer bars, a limited slip differential, 17-inch wheels and tires, and a front air dam and rear deck lid lip spoiler were all standard fare.
SUMMARY: The new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a raging success as an affordable, fun-to-drive pure roadster thanks to its Kansei engineering, which concentrated on understanding 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 zero-to-60-mph acceleration figures.
The new MX-5 Miata has lost absolutely none of its appeal, regardless of the model chosen. 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. but a heightened, throatier note from the exhaust would generate even wider smiles and perhaps even a little LOL. Handling is crisp and precise with pleasing throttle steer properties, and the car exhibits an excellent front to rear balance.
My only negative issue arose when riding as a passenger, as the co-pilot’s space is tight for my 6’4” frame. The driver’s side posed no problem.
The MX-5 remains a true sports car with heart in conjunction with Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom” spirit. In my mind, it will always be a Miata, (MX-5 or not). Kudos for the genuine sports car feel and looks as well as the easy to operate manual top. 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. Long live the Miata.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club
|Price as Tested:||$33,230.|
|Engine Type and Size:||2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder with Direct Injection.|
|Horsepower (bhp):||155 @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque (ft./ lbs.):||148 @ 4,600 rpm|
|Transmission:||6-speed SKYACTIV-MT with short throw shifter or 6-speed automatic.|
|Drive Train:||Longitudinally mounted front engine / Rear-Wheel Drive|
Front -Double wishbone with aluminum arms, Gas-filled monotube dampers and stabilizer bar.
Rear – Multilink with aluminum bearing support, Gas-filled monotube dampers and stabilizer bar.
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front), ABS, EBD and BA.|
|Tires:||Yokohama195/50 R16 (Sport) / Bridgestone 205/45 R17 (Club and Grand Touring) hi-performance summer. Mounted on 8 “V”-spoke alloy wheels.|
|Length Overall:||154.1 inches – without license plate holder|
|Curb Weight:||2,332 lbs. w/ 6-speed MT / 2,381 lbs. w/ 6-speed AT|
|Fuel Capacity:||11.89 gallons|
|EPA Mileage Estimates:||27 mpg city / 34 mpg highway MT / 27, 36 AT|
|Drag Coefficient:||Not listed|
|0 – 60 mph:||Not tested|
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.