Expert Reviews

Day-by-Day Review: 2016 Mazda MX-5

Day 1

And now for something completely different! Okay, perhaps not completely different but special nonetheless. The all-new for 2016 Mazda MX-5: more commonly known as the "New Miata."

For 2016 Mazda has truly gone back to the drawing board with the MX-5 and back to its roots. For the first time since the original MX-5 was launched in 1989 Mazda has broken the mold. The second and third generations were evolutionary designs from the iconic "NA" MX-5, but this new "ND" model breaks that pattern and starts over from the beginning again, at least in terms of exterior design.

This new MX-5 is bolder and more aggressive, gone are the feminine looks and features that were the butt of a lot of jokes. The strong front end with muscular shoulders make this MX-5 look much more butch, while still retaining some of the curvy and sexy shapes around the rear to keep the car from being too rough around the edges.

The same recipe used in the original has been followed, lightweight (gone is the power retractable hard top), simple – okay this version has cupholders but barely – and small. As small as you can probably make a vehicle this capable in terms of traction and still pass crash tests.

My tester is a GS model, which comes standard with a wonderful six-speed manual transmission, a 2.0L Skyactive four-cylinder engine that outputs 155 hp and the much valued limited slip differential -- the most sought after specification.

The weather this week was forecast to be rainy but the clouds have parted and the predictions have changed to sun all week, ensuring that I stay top down for ultimate motoring fun.

Pricing: 2016 Mazda MX-5 GS
Base Price: $35,300
Soul Red Mica Paint $300
Freight: $1,795
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $37,495

Scion FRS
Subaru BRZ


Day 2

The interior of the MX-5 is not much to write about, but there are a few items that need to be mentioned. First there is a trunk for those that think the MX-5 has little to no cargo space, the opening is small though so you are limited in that sense, but the space itself is rather deep and can hold quite a bit of gear if you pack soft items that squish rather than boxy items.

On the inside of the passenger compartment there are two seats, two cupholders, one infotainment screen, a gauge cluster, a gear lever, a hand brake and a steering wheel. Funny enough that actually is nearly everything there is, besides a few buttons -- the MX-5 is spartan. The seats are ultra slim and very supportive, but you better be slim as well because even I, a rather small by today's standards male fits snug in the seats.

The seats have adjustment for fore an aft, the back of the seat reclines and there is an adjustable thigh support, but no height adjustment. Again, I'm not very tall and I looked for that height adjustment as I feel like I'm sitting higher than I should be once I've fallen into the low seats -- it's an odd sensation.

The steering wheel tilts, but also doesn't telescope so hopefully you can get comfortable with the little adjustment there is, thankfully Mazda has made the seating very driver oriented so I was at home nearly instantly.

The cupholders are a joke, hidden between the two seats, good thing I only ever use cupholders for my cellphone and there is a place large enough for that in front of the gear lever. And then there is the infotainment screen, slapped on top of the dash for all to see. It looks weird in photos, but when driving the car it's well placed and works well. I just wish it displayed some other information that I would find fun, like a voltmeter, oil pressure gauge or g-meter. The only real beef I have with the controls on the MX-5 are the infotainment ones.

While the centre armrest area works great in the Mazda3 and CX-3/5 it doesn't work in the MX-5. The console is so small and you are constantly shifting. Reaching down and back for the volume knob is a nuisance and it is blocked from the passenger as well -- they should have just left it on the dash above the HVAC controls.


Day 3

In return for lightness Mazda removed the power hardtop from this model but by doing so they also improved the soft top. The mechanism for the soft top has to be the best in the business and it certainly is a joy to use. The previous generation soft tops could be operated when seated in the seat if you were a giant or if you enjoyed dislocating your shoulder to operate it.

This new system is genius and easy on the arms, one quick push of a switch and the top is unlatched. Throw it backwards and give it a push to engage the lock and it's done. To put it back up, pull the lever between the seats and the spring mechanism pops the top up enough for even a short person like myself to grab, pull forward and latch. It takes seconds and nearly zero effort, it's actually kind of fun!

But who cares about the top right? That's just a necessary step to motoring nirvana, because driving with the top up is pretty well torture. With the top up the car is noisy inside, visibility is poor and well it's just a lot less fun. With the top down though, the car is airy, fun and visibility is downright amazing -- about the same as walking really, with zero blind spots.

What's really important with the MX-5 is the drive, because really it is all about the drive. The first time I took off and shifted through the gears on this car it reminded me of the first time I test drove an NB Miata at the Mazda dealer back in 2000 -- what a rush.

There is some magic going on here that is hard to describe. The car feels quick and torquey despite the small displacement numbers. Yet you can row through all the gears, winding them out like a boy racer and as you merge onto the highway you are still only travelling 110 km/h. And that is what makes this car fun, you really feel like you are wringing it's neck and blasting down the road, but when you look down at the speedometer, it is rare you are breaking any laws.

The transmission is a joy, the tight ratio six-speed gear box is more fun than it should be. The steering is ultra responsive, a slight muscle twitch and the car might be in the other lane. The suspension is softer than some might expect from a sports car, but as an everyday fun car it is perfect to absorb the harsher roads around here while still offering a ton of grip and feel.

The most fun I've had driving to work this year? No question.


Day 4

Woohoo! That pretty much sums up the new 2016 Mazda MX-5. I know a lot of MX-5 owners and of course they all wanted to drive this car to see if the fuss was all true. I gave the keys to a couple of them and let them drive around a parking lot, they drove around for two minutes, stopped, got out and quickly exclaimed "I want one!" Yup it's that good.

The 2.0L engine really is ultra-torquey feeling, the computer display informs you to shift from fifth to sixth gear at just 50 km/h -- it seems to work fine at 60 km/h but at 50 km/h you will be lugging the engine.

Because of the short gearing and torquey engine, it means you can run in a high gear all the time if you aren't in a hurry. The result? Amazing fuel economy. I beat on the car all week, zipping on and off the highway and around town, yet I still managed to average 6.5 L/100 km. Just imagine if I had tried to save fuel this week – ha, yeah right!

The new MX-5 is one of the most fun cars I have ever driven and certainly the most fun-to-drive car I've been in this year. Mazda certainly did get it right with this car.