2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review by Marc J. Rauch +VIDEO
The everyman-roadster from Mazda is better than ever
Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
• SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyers Guide
The Mazda Miata is special to me for two reasons: First, it was born the same year that The Auto Channel launched our first automotive television series (1989). It was also the first entirely new vehicle that we featured in Episode 1 of that series, and it was the first new vehicle press launch that I ever attended.
Second, driving the Miata roadster 25-26 years ago was special because the first car I owned was a 1958 MGA roadster. Needless to say, driving the new Miata was quite a bit different than driving the MGA, but the open air open-road exhilaration from 20 years earlier was the same. It was a great car to drive in my junior and senior years in high school.
In 1989 the introduction of the Miata was a very big deal. Not only did all automotive media cover the premiere, all general news outlets sensed it was something special and it became a media darling. I think it was primarily because of the very cute vehicle's very affordable price of under $14,000. At the time nearly anything that could be considered a "roadster" (especially in the U.S.) were priced much higher - such as Mercedes SL, Porsche 911 and 944, and Lotus Elan.
The advent of the Miata also set off a furious rush to production from other manufacturers. Ford gave us the Mercury Capri, built in Australia with a Mazda engine; Toyota redesigned the MR2 to meet the challenge; and General Motors went on to release the same vehicle under three brands - Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, Opel GT. Undoubtedly, the success of the Miata also motivated the introduction of the BMW Z3, and Honda S2000.
The Miata has always been a blast to drive. Have there been improvements in handling and performance? Sure, but frankly I never drove a next generation Miata and thought: "Oh thank god they finally upgraded the thingamabob or the whosywhatis." And I'm not nearly near enough of a gearhead to tell you that the newly tuned SKYACTIV engine is a significant breakthrough in automotive technology. All I'll say is that all of the updates and features have made the 2016 MX-5 Miata the most enjoyable version ever.
The one criticism that I had of the original Miata and the gen 2 version was that they looked too girly. Gen 3 offered a more masculine appearance with the larger front grill, but I thought that the angle and position of the headlights presented a peculiar smiley-face. The fourth Miata is different. The new Miata has a strong manly appearance, reminiscent of the seriously expensive roadsters.
I had the opportunity to drive the new MX-5 Miata during a multi-day Mazda press event in Southern California, where we also drove the new CX-3 Crossover - wonderful smaller addition to the Mazda SUV line-up. It's not a smaller version of the CX-5 or CX-9, it's its own man - or rather, its own car.
We drove from Westlake Village, in the western part of L.A. County, east across the valley to the Angeles National Forest north of Pasadena, and then back. My driving partner was Larry Nutson, one of The Auto Channel's top journalists. Larry also enjoyed the experience, but I'll let you get his very learned opinion of the new Miata if you CLICK HERE.
The route provided a great variety of road types and conditions. We had straight highway speed highways (not LA rush hour), vertical ascents, and plenty of twists. We drove the entire way with the top down, but on a couple of driver changes we did try out the new one hand easy-to-open and easy-to-close top. It functioned as advertised...easy.
The Miata is really lots of fun to drive, particularly when the weather is grand and the top is down. It's a small car, but it doesn't drive like a Mini Cooper - you know, that zippy go-cart like handling (I'm not complainin', I'm just sayin'). It drives like a sports car. If you want a roadster style car, that's proven itself for nearly three decades on the road and on the track, you can't go wrong with the 2016 Miata. When you take into account its price compared to other roadsters it is the best buy for the dollar, or pound, or euro, or peso, or shekel, or yen.