2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

We have recently welcomed into our long-term fleet a 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata because, well, of course we did. Why wouldn’t we?

We’ve been enamored of this newest Miata from the moment we first got behind the wheel. But we’ve been enamored of Miatas for a very long time before that. Our parking lot is littered with first- and second-generation cars—some bone stock, others modified for track duty. The older members of our staff remember experiencing the first Miata as the rebirth of the simple, light British sports cars of their youth. The middle-aged among us remember going to the local Mazda dealership when we were in high school at the very end of the ’80s just to gawk at the newly arrived Miatas, resplendent in one or the other primary colors. And the young guys, well, they’ve never known a world without Miatas. It’s those guys, the ones without children, who own our back-lot collection of old Mazda two-seaters.

It should come as no surprise, then, that we ordered a new one at our earliest opportunity. Now it sits in our lot, all evil eyes and flared fenders, looking like the devious gremlin compared with the earlier Miata’s cute and cuddly Mogwai.

The Miata (er, MX-5 Miata) no longer is available in its original, happy primary colors or in the British Racing Green of special-edition Miatas of the past. Instead, it’s offered in gray and black and white. Heck, even the available red and blue paint colors are relatively dark and moody. We chose one of the grayscale options. It’s called Ceramic Metallic. But it’s actually very light gray. It’s like white with attitude. It is, in fact, a little like the color of the Ducati 899 Panigale superbike that passed us as we drove our Miata to the office one morning.

With only 155 horsepower, the Miata obviously is no match for a superbike, but we ordered our little roadster to be as sporty as a stock fourth-generation Miata can get. We started with the Club model, which sits between the base Miata Sport, with its 16-inch wheels, and the relatively luxurious Grand Touring, with its standard leather seats. The Club version, which starts at $29,420, brings a torque-sensing limited-slip differential, a strut-tower brace, and a sportier-than-stock suspension tune that includes Bilstein shocks. Well, the Club version includes those things assuming you choose the six-speed manual transmission, which—come on—of course we did. The Club also brings larger 17-inch wheels finished in gunmetal gray and wrapped with 205/45R-17 Bridgestone Potenza S001 summer tires.

To that we added the $3400 Brembo/BBS package, which includes, well, Brembo front brakes with red-painted calipers, handsome BBS wheels in the same gunmetal finish as the standard Club wheels, side-sill and rear-apron extensions, and, curiously, keyless entry. The Brembos are said to offer better resistance to fade and in our initial instrumented testing we noted exactly no fade. The forged BBS wheels are each about two pounds lighter than the standard 17s, according to Mazda. Because we live in Michigan and will be driving the car through the winter, we also grabbed a set of all-weather floor mats for $90. Total damage: $32,910. That’s less than the average price of a new car in 2015.
All models share the same 2.0-liter engine, making the same 155 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4600 rpm. All Miatas with manual transmissions share the same gear and final-drive ratios. So it’s not like we built a hellfire-fast Miata. But our 2324-pound car made it to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds at 94 mph. That’s quick enough for a car that’s not exactly built for drag racing. And despite being down on horsepower compared with the 167-hp, previous-generation car, it’s about a second quicker to 60 mph. The new Miata carries a slightly better weight-to-power ratio (15.0 versus 15.2) compared with the last previous-generation car we tested, thanks to an overall weight reduction of 216 pounds.

With 0.88 g of lateral grip on the skidpad, the Miata won’t be challenging any fat-tired pony cars or sports cars. But the Miata never has been about maximum grip any more than streetlight drag races. It turns in an excellent braking performance, stopping from 70 mph in 158 feet.

It’s a well-rounded performance package. But as ever, the Miata is about how all of those various parameters combine to generate fun. The steering is delectable. The shifter remains one of the better mechanical devices in any automobile. Clutch takeup is progressive and easy. Heel-and-toe downshifts are a breeze. The car just flows in a way that makes you wonder why more cars aren’t like this. It feels like the natural order of things.

We’ll see how natural it feels through the errand running, soul-crushing commuting, and winter nastiness that all of our long-termers must sometimes endure. Will the cranks on staff stop complaining about the car’s body roll? Will we be able to fit anything in that little trunk? We shall see. For now, we’ve only just accumulated enough miles on the car to safely take it testing and be free of the break-in restrictions.