A guy in a shopping center parking lot looked over at me and said, “Nice car.” He then pointed to his identical 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata parked about 50 feet from my test vehicle.
“You’re taller than I am,” I replied. “Is it hard for you to get in and out of the car?”
“I’m 6-4 and it is, but it’s worth it,” the guy responded.
And so it is for Mazda MX-5 enthusiasts. The best-selling roadster in history has a new generation for 2016 and it’s among the most talked about vehicles in the industry.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
With its new lighter and slightly less powerful approach, the 2016 Mazda MX-5, a two-seat roadster, is powered by 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with 155 horsepower. It weighs about 200 pounds less than its predecessor. One result: Its acceleration has improved about a half-second in the standard 0-60 mph test to a swift 6.2 seconds.
The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata has also improved gas mileage averages, with the six-speed automatic transmission improving to 27/36 respectively in city and freeway driving. My weekly driver, the six-speed manual option, had averages of 27 and 34 mpg.
The new Mazda is offered in Sport, Club and Grand Touring trims, with my test vehicle the middle option. Standard features for the Sport trim include: 16-inch alloy wheels, a manually retractable black soft top with a glass rear window, LED headlights and taillights, air-conditioning, push-button ignition, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power accessories, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Club trim comes with different equipment depending on the chosen transmission. With the manual transmission it includes a sport-tuned suspension with upscale Bilstein shock absorbers, a shock-tower brace, a limited-slip differential and an engine sound enhancer.
Mazda MX-5 Thrives on Winding Roads
All Club models get 17-inch wheels with summer performance tires, a sport front fascia, a rear lip spoiler, piano-black mirror covers and roll hoops, red interior stitching, upgraded interior trim panels, a 9-speaker Bose audio system (with headrest speakers, satellite radio, HD radio, Aha/Pandora/Stitcher Internet radio and dual USB ports), voice controls and a 7-inch touchscreen interface with an auxiliary control knob mounted on the center console.
Like every Mazda MX-5 or Miata (as it once was called) the 2016 model is at its best on winding roads and with the top down. It zips around corners and it does while far from quiet. Isn’t that the beauty of a sports car?
My test vehicle also included the one available option package. It’s called the Brembo/BBS package and features 17-inch forged BBS wheels, Brembo front brakes, an aero body kit and keyless ignition and entry.
As a 6-foot, 195-pound driver, I often felt cramped getting in and out of the car. After 90 minutes into one test drive, I had knee pains. There’s little room in the Mazda MX-5 to stretch out or even to slightly extend limbs.
Convertibles are universal in one respect. They’re more fun to drive with the top down than with the top up. My test Miata was no exception. The Miata drives low to the ground like any roadster and its feel on the road is the antithesis of elegant driving.
The MX-5 also has a substantial driver’s side blind spot and it’s not particularly quick from a standstill. The acceleration substantially improved approaching freeway speeds or in passing situations.
The MX-5 also has adept corning and steering, further adding to the car’s fun-to-drive personality.
Add it all up, and it’s likely why a 6-4 stranger in a shopping center parking lot said hello and shared his enthusiasm for his uncomfortable, wonderful car.
Efficient retractable ragtop.
Intuitive navigation system.
Difficult to enter and exit.
Tiny trunk. It may hold a small, soft-sided carry-on bag.
Facts & Figures: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 6.3 seconds.
Fuel economy: 27 mpg (city), 34 mpg (highway), six-speed manual transmission.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $28,600
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.mazdausa.com.
Price As Tested: $32,820.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.
What Others Say:
“Shorter, lighter and more enjoyable than ever, the new Miata has got more on-road finesse than any vehicle within $10,000 of its sticker price.” — Yahoo Autos.
“The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata receives the most significant redesign in its 25-year history. It reverses the recent trend of getting bigger and heavier while still improving comfort, feature content and refinement. If you want fun on a budget, this is your car.” — Edmunds.com.
“If you think driving should be a fun experience that stimulates your senses without costing an arm and a leg, or if you just want the thrills of classic top-down motoring without the headaches of owning an old car, then there’s no other choice but to buy the new Mazda MX-5.” — Kelley Blue Book.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata retains its long-time status as a fairly priced, fun-to-drive, two-seat sports car. The formula just works. It’s a great weekend car for a sunny day drive on a country road and with the top down. But it’s not so attractive as a daily driver.”
Article Last Updated: December 22, 2015.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.