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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata: A Closer Look

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author photo by Colin Ryan July 2015

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will soon be here. If you've just come back from spending a year on the International Space Station, the big news is that the new-generation Miata has been creating quite a bit of excitement leading up to its summer launch.

Soft Spot for a Soft-Top

As an affordable, rear-drive, 2-seater soft-top, the much-loved MX-5 occupies its own space in the car world. It's a perfect way to become acquainted with the joys of rear-wheel drive. With more than 950,000 sold over the past 26 years, it's the best-selling car of its kind in the world and a mainstay of grassroots racing. This fourth generation is lighter (by around 150 pounds) and smaller than its predecessor, with 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque (actually less than the previous car's 167 hp and 140 lb-ft) developed by its 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine.

The basic transmission is a 6-speed manual, which has fuel economy numbers that hit 27 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. If there's an absolute necessity to spend the extra $1,075 for the 6-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, then highway mileage improves by another couple mpg.

Lose Some, Win Some

There are plenty of contemporary features in the MX-5, such as Bluetooth, push-button start and LED daytime running lights. But we do have to bid a fond farewell to its glove box. There isn't one in the new model. There's a pretty short front overhang, which helps to make the steering feel as direct as possible and contributes to the design in a positive way. It does, however, mean pushing the engine back in the body, and there are knee-crush crash regulations to consider.

One more thing: The cabin has also headed rearward, which doesn't leave any room for a power retractable hardtop, as found in generation three.

These are sacrifices that keen drivers will be willing to make. Having the engine edged more toward the middle of the car and moving the seat of one's pants closer to the rear axle endows the car with an advantageous distribution of weight and a fine handling balance. Not having a power hardtop also means less weight, which is always a good thing, and the soft-top only takes a few seconds to drop down.

That's Infotainment

The Grand Touring trim is the first MX-5 to have standard navigation (using a 7-inch touchscreen), plus blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. It's good to see these up-to-the-minute safety features made available.

In Club and Grand Touring versions (the top two trim levels), a special 9-speaker Bose audio system comes standard and is optimized for top-down motoring. There's another setting for when the fabric roof is up. A pair of custom-developed speakers are placed in each headrest, one tweeter is set into each A-pillar, and a subwoofer is placed under the front-passenger footwell so the music doesn't get lost in all the whoosh that occurs when the roof is down.

This is a huge deal. Yes, other convertibles have sound systems tailored specially to overcome the inherent issues found in these kinds of cars. For example, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class also has a subwoofer in the passenger footwell (this is an excellent idea, by the way, and the Harmon Kardon setup in this generation of the SL was the first to have it), the Meridian surround system in the Jaguar F-Type has something called Trifield technology to envelop a listener, and the BMW 6-Series Convertible's Bang & Olufsen system gives the impression of a larger acoustic space. But it probably hasn't escaped your notice that all these other cars are far more expensive than any MX-5.

And So It Begins

This new MX-5 has already won the "Red Dot: Best of the Best" prize in Germany. This is an award for groundbreaking designs across many industries. It's also been voted the Best Small Convertible by the Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA). These will surely be just the first couple of many accolades to come. Others who have driven it are using terms such as "sublime," "awesome" and "drives better than 90 percent of cars."

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata starts at $25,735 (including $820 destination) for the Sport trim. At the time of this writing, the first shipment of cars had arrived from Japan and Mazda has promised deliveries "in the next several weeks."

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata: A Closer Look - Autotrader