The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The newest Mazda MX-5 Miata is the best ever

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

            • SEE ALSO: Mazda Research and Buyers Guide


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

"Simplify and add lightness" was the motto of Colin Chapman, founder of the Lotus sports car company. Lotuses of the Chapman era were known for light weight, extreme agility, and performance far above what their small size and mostly small-displacement engines would suggest, at least while they held together. Sometimes things could be a little too light…


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Finalist
What does that have to do with the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata? In a time when "complicate and add bloat" seems to be the industry norm, the new fourth-generation MX-5 is one of the few designs that follows Mr. Chapman's principle. Compared with the previous version, the new Miata weighs about 150 pounds less. It's only about 180 pounds heavier than the 1989 original -- not bad at all considering the significant increase in crashworthiness demanded by governmental regulations and just as significant increases in equipment and convenience demanded by buyers since then.

What the Miata always has been and most definitely still is is a contemporary example of the affordable two-seat roadster popularized by British manufacturers Triumph, MG, and Sunbeam and Fiat and Alfa Romeo in Italy. This was a genre that was extinct when the first MX-5 appeared. There is competition now, but the Miata is still the least-expensive / best-value two-seat roadster made today.

What's new? All details. Attention to detail during design and construction was at race-car level -- obsessively optimize everything possible for the lowest mass, which requires less power for any given level of performance, which in turn requires less fuel and so produces lower emissions. Win-win-win-win! High tensile-strength steel and aluminum alloys are widely and appropriately used. Power, 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, is from a 2.0-liter twincam four-cylinder with direct fuel injection and runs to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. No high-tech (read: expensive) dual-clutch sequential racing box here, the Miata is as ever all about the quintessential driving experience and driver involvement.




As expected, all 2016 MX-5s are convertibles, with a cloth manual folding top. Simple and lightweight. And quick and easy -- far advanced from a British roadster of the 1950s, or even `60s. It's not a Meccano set! Trim levels are Sport, with everything you really need for everyday use; Club, with "Plus-One" lower-profile, wider 17-inch tires and wheels, a limited-slip differential and front shock tower brace on manual-box cars, aero kit and upgraded cabin electronics, and optional package of BBS alloy wheels and Brembo front brakes; and Grand Touring, with leather, infotainment upgrades, and all of the contemporary electronic nanny, er, safety systems.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The SUV I was supposed to get for this week was unavailable. So a lovely metallic red MX-5 Club with stick and the BBS/Brembo package was substituted. No complaints from me! Yes, it's Fall so it can be cold and it can rain. So? The top goes up or down in seconds and the climate control system produces warm or cool air quickly and efficiently. There is enough trunk space for my needs, and I could live with this as an only car. How does it feel on the road? Instantly familiar -- it feels like a Miata. No surprise there -- nimble handling, quick steering, excellent brakes, especially with those front Brembos. Acceleration is quick, with zero-to-60 in the six-second range. Fuel economy was impressive at 32mpg overall. No track time, just regular highways and city and backroads, not necessarily all flat-out because this car is just as enjoyable at a touring pace as it is at watch-that-license speeds. So it can be more than just a weekend toy. Hey, I'm here writing this now largely because 50 years ago my father needed and economical small car for commuting. And got a (used) Sunbeam Alpine. Which was my introduction to auto mechanics, and later, driving. Any Miata is far better and more reliable, and at least as much fun. Plus more economical.




APPEARANCE: Hide the Mazda logo, give it an Italian-sounding name, and add a "1" in front of the MSRP and maybe no one would be the wiser. Styling is simple and elegant. If the general shapes, curves, and angles are familiar from other implementations of Mazda's "KODO Soul Of Motion" design language, the MX-5 is the best instance yet. It has classic long-hood, short-deck proportions with the cabin set well back, and prominent fenders. Low, wide LED headlights and lower "cat's whiskers" LED running lights frame the rounded five-sided air intake. The wheel arches are moderately flared, and the Club aero kit consists of a front splitter, side sill extensions, and a rear lip spoiler and diffuser all in gloss black.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

COMFORT: The MX-5 Club has all you need for serious driving, and nothing you don't. Supportive seats, very good placement of controls -- steering wheel, shifter, and pedals -- even though the steering wheel adjusts for tilt only, good visibility, and plenty of feedback from what is important when driving, yes. Power everything, heated and cooled seats and cupholders, super-size drink holders, and the like, no. Mirror and window adjustment are power; the top is manual. And can go up or down in seconds when needed. The tachometer takes center stage in the instrument cluster. Interior materials are appropriate for the class and price point, and the design is functional and pleasant. And yes, there are AM, FM, XM, and streaming audio choices, Bluetooth connectivity, and navigation and information systems but those are non-intrusive. Cabin noise levels are high, but that is expected. It's a sports car, not a luxury sedan. The trunk holds approximately the contents of two carry-on bags (4.59 cubic feet), plenty for lightweight touring for two people. Golf clubs? Um, sports car. Passenger seat, maybe.

SAFETY: The new MX-5 is designed and built to meet or exceed worldwide safety standards. Its unibody structure takes care of that, augmented by front and side airbags and side door beams. An engine-immobilizer antitheft system is standard as is a tire-pressure monitoring system. Roll hoops hide unobtrusively behind the seats. Strong four-wheel disc brakes are standard. Brembo front discs and calipers are available in Club models with manual transmission. Blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and adaptive front lighting are standard in the Grand Touring.

RIDE AND HANDLING: This is a sports car and its suspension is tuned accordingly and appropriately. And perfectly for its mission. With Bilstein shocks, a front strut tower brace, and a limited-slip differential standard in the manual-equipped version, the Club is the enthusiast offering. The BBS wheel and Brembo front brake package is pricey at $3,400, but worthwhile with decreased unsprung weight from the wheels and excellent performance from the four-piston front calipers. Good chassis rigidity allows a supple ride and good handling and cornering characteristics. The electronically-assisted steering allows plenty of feedback. Turn-in is quick and there is no bump steer -- but pay attention because very little effort is needed for maneuvers. Connectivity here is in its original and proper meaning -- between driver and road, not operator and distracting devices.

PERFORMANCE: The secret to the Miata's success? It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow. Not that this one is exactly slow. 0-60 time is around six seconds, a second or so quicker than the previous version and three seconds better than the original. And far better than any of the equivalent sports cars of the past. Direct fuel injection allows a high 13:1 for efficiency and torque. If power output seems decreased compared with the previous version -- from 167 hp @ 7000 to 155 @ 6000 -- torque has increased from 140 lb-ft at 5000 rpm to 148 @ 4600. Don't forget that there's less weight to move. Lower revs are better, no need to get acquainted with the rev limiter and a nice fat torque band means easy acceleration. Yes, it likes to scream at the top, but that's rarely absolutely necessary. And one result is exemplary fuel economy. My 32 mpg overall was a balance between high 20s around town and on backroads and sometimes over 35 on the highway -- with hills and at real highway speeds. Need an economical commuter car? Even there, go for the stick. The short-throw shifter is a pleasure to use, ratio selection is perfect, and the engine is so flexible that shifting can sometimes be optional.

CONCLUSIONS: The newest Mazda MX-5 Miata is the best ever.

SPECIFICATIONS

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Base Price $ 28,500

Price As Tested $ 32,800

Engine Type DOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with variable intake cam phasing and direct fuel injection

Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.

Horsepower 155 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 148 @ 4600 rpm

Transmission 6-speed manual

Wheelbase / Length 90.9 in. / 154.1 in.

Curb Weight 2332 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 15.0

Fuel Capacity 11.8 gal.

Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline recommended,87 octane unleaded regular permissible with reduced performance

Tires 205/45R17 84W Bridgestone Potenza S001

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, VSA standard

Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone / independent multilink

Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 27 / 34 / 32

0 to 60 mph 6.0 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Brembo/BBS Package - includes: Brembo front brake discs and calipers, BBS 17" forged dark alloy wheels, advanced keyless entry system $ 3,400

Club Appearance Package -- includes: front air dam, side sill extensions, rear lip spoiler and bumper skirt $ 0/included

Delivery Charge $ 820