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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review - Shorter, Wider, Lighter, Smarter +VIDEO

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

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

“Good roads are the ones where you don’t have a car in front of you,” said Mazda’s Dave Coleman at the recent North American introduction of the all-new MX-5 roadster.

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

Dave has a passion for driving and for the Miata. He is Mazda North America’s lead engineer for the new MX-5. Dave and the team at Mazda worked hard to dramatically improve this all new fourth generation Miata. The Miata is not a point A to point B car; it’s a driving car. Fun, twisty, open roads are where the Miata is most enjoyed.

We had the chance to experience just that in our drive of the 2016 Miata along the mountain-rural Angels Crest Highway, a 66-mile long, two-lane segment of California State Route 2 over the San Gabriel Mountains, in Los Angeles County, California. Segments of the road reach altitudes above 7,000 feet, with a summit of 7,903 feet at the Dawson Saddle, which makes this road one of the highest in Southern California.

As a point of reference the first Miata was introduced at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show and now 26 years later more than 950,000 have been sold globally. I drove a first generation Miata back in the early 1990s and have driven a number of the newer generations since then. When I slide down into the Miata’s driver’s seat and grab hold of the steering wheel and shift lever it takes me back to my younger years and my ’67 Triumph TR4A. I put lots of miles on my Triumph touring the back roads of Eastern U.S.

The cost of fun in the 2016 MX-5 Miata is quite reasonable with the Sport model priced at $24,915. There’s also a Club model at $28,600 and a Grand Touring at $30,065.

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

So what’s changed on the new MX-5. Well, everything. For starters the MX-5 was put on a diet. Using what Mazda calls the “gram strategy” every part was examined for weight, nothing was added that wasn’t necessary, and in the end the new Miata is 150 lbs. lighter than the previous third-gen car. High-tensile steel is used in the structure to improve safety and reduce weight. All exterior panels but the windshield frame and doors are made of aluminum, reducing the weight of the body-in-white by approximately 45 lbs.

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

And while reducing weight, the complete suite of Mazda’s SKYACTIV engine, transmission, chassis and suspension technology was incorporated into the overall design. The engine is the same but has been tuned differently for better fuel efficiency. The SKYACTIV-G engine powering MX-5 produces 155 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 RPM and it sits lower and farther back in the engine bay for a lower center of gravity and quicker handling response.

Acceleration from stop to 60 mph takes around 6 seconds. And, at the same time, fuel efficiency has been increased by 25 percent for the six-speed manual. EPA test fuel economy ratings are 27 city mpg and 34 highway mpg. The new city rating is nearly the same as the previous generations highway rating.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

A six-speed automatic is available for $1075 extra and MX-5s with this transmission have a 2 mph higher EPA test highway rating at 36 mpg.

In our test drive we drove freeways and two lane open roads, along with a few residential streets. The Miata’s engine and transmission delivered everything we asked of it. Acceleration, highway merging, passing and cruising are all done with ease. The manual transmission is as smooth as butter to shift with short throws that firmly engage each gear. The light weight of the MX-5 is evident in the vehicle’s overall performance.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The fourth-generation roadster continues to use a double-wishbone front suspension and rear multilink setup that is both lightweight and highly rigid. Along with the high-tensile steel in the body, frame and crossmembers, the Miata uses a new double-pinion electronic power assist steering rack designed for better road feel. The rear multilink suspension has been retuned in its compliance steer and kinetic steer characteristics for more toe in. In our spirited driving along Angels Crest Highway the MX-5 certainly handled quite well, with excellent and confident-feeling overall driving dynamics through the switchbacks and uphill and downhill curves.

The new MX-5 is designed following Mazda’s KODO – Soul of Motion design philosophy. The designers strived to achieve a beautiful roadster whether the top is up or down. The designers also worked to maximize the pleasure of open-top driving while providing good wind control. The soft top is manually opened and closed and is very easy to operate while seated. An aluminum roof panel in the inside above the seats helps reduce wind noise and also forms the hard shell covering the boot when the top is down. Headrest speakers are smartly used for better top-down listening.

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

There are amenities like two cupholders, but they can be removed since shifting the transmission may just be more important than drinking. The trunk has been redesigned for better use of space and will hold weekend luggage for two.

Standard on all MX-5 models are air conditioning, push-button starter, a manual cloth convertible top, power door locks, USB input, Bluetooth wireless phone pairing and audio streaming, leather shift knob and CD player.

MX-5 Sport models come equipped with 16-inch wheels and 195/50 tires, cloth seats, a six-speaker audio system with an auxiliary jack and cruise control.

Club models come with 17-inch wheels with 205/45 tires, a limited-slip differential and shock tower brace on manual models, Bilstein shocks, front air dam and rear lip spoiler, piano black side mirror covers and seat back bars, MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system with seven-inch color touchscreen display and voice commands, multi-function commander control, HD radio, two USB inputs, smart keyless entry, a BOSE nine-speaker audio system with headrest-mounted speakers and Sirius satellite radio.

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

Optionally available for $3,400, the Brembo/BBS package adds lightweight, forged 17-inch BBS wheels, Brembo front brakes with red-painted calipers at all four wheels, a rear bumper skirt and side sill extensions.

MX-5 Grand Touring comes with bright 17-inch wheels with 205/45 tires, leather-trimmed seats, automatic climate control, a nine-speaker BOSE audio system with headrest-mounted speakers, Homelink garage door opener, HD radio and Sirius satellite radio. It also includes Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE suite of safety technologies, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive front lighting, lane departure warning, high beam control and rain-sensing wipers. (

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

For 2016 model year, Mazda offered a MX-5 Launch Edition limited to 1,000 units.
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata  (select to view enlarged photo)

It was announced at the 2015 New York International Auto Show, along with, a reservation website for customers to place their orders. Deliveries started in late July 2015. The 2016 MX-5 Launch Edition comes in the exclusive combination of Soul Red with a Sport Tan leather interior. It is equipped like the MX-5 Grand Touring and available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Some may still be available!

Are you ready for a road trip? Long live the Roadster.

© 2015 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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