First Drive: 2016 Mazda MX-5

Mazda prides itself on building cars that are fun to drive, and the Mazda MX-5 roadster, also known as the Mazda Miata, has been the purest expression of that principle for several decades. The original MX-5 was a huge hit when it was first released in 1989, and now Mazda has completely redesigned the roadster using the original version as an inspiration.

I had the opportunity to drive the all-new 2016 MX-5 on some incredible mountain roads just north of Los Angeles as Mazda introduced the new vehicle to the press, and it was by far one of the most enjoyable driving experiences I’ve had in the past several years. I had a smile planted on my face all day as I pushed the MX-5 through challenging turns through the scenic mountain roads. The MX-5 is a fine-tuned machine that will impress anyone who still appreciates the driving experience.

Exterior

Browse through the photos of the new MX-5 and you’ll see design that matches the impressive driving experience. After years of making incremental changes, the look of the MX-5 had grown a bit stale. It looked adequate but hardly inspiring.

Mazda went back to the drawing board and came up with a beautiful, modern design featuring sharp lines and curves worthy of this iconic roadster. I particularly liked the red Miata we tested with the black wheels.

Mazda designers created a lower and sleeker profile, giving the impression of a vehicle gripping the road, which perfectly represents the sensation you feel when driving the MX-5.

Mazda adapted its KODO – Soul of Motion design language to the MX-5. KODO is defined by a long hood, short overhangs, a cropped cabin pushed far back on the body and large wheels moved as far as feasible towards all four corners. The smaller scale of the Miata roadster presented a challenge but the result is a vehicle that looks beautiful from all angles. It looks powerful and agile and you can’t wait to drive it as soon as you see it.

Interior

With the interior, Mazda focused on the details that would enhance comfort and the driving experience. The new, patented seats are super thin and hug you like a hammock, providing a snug and comfortable feel even as you push the MX-5 through curves. These seats are unlike anything I’ve tested in other vehicles. I drove the MX-5 for several hours through some fun and challenging roads and felt perfectly comfortable the entire time.

Mazda made other improvements to the interior as well, adding some headroom and making other changes that added necessary room for larger drivers. The soft top is easy to operate while seated

Performance

There is such a thing as too much power. That may not be true if you’re only concerned with the straight-line speed of a muscle car, but it’s certainly true if you want amazing handling on mountain roads. The new MX-5 features a 155 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but the key to this roadster’s performance is the weight balance that gives it the amazing handling around corners coupled with the right amount of power for the size of the vehicle. Pros and amateurs alike will thoroughly enjoy pushing the MX-5 on challenging roads. Toss in a flawless shifter in the 6-speed manual and you have a roadster you can enjoy for years.

With an emphasis on aluminum in the body construction, the reduced weight leads to very impressive fuel economy as well. Mazda achieved an impressive 25% improvement in fuel economy over the previous generation, as the six-speed automatic models are EPA-rated at 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway.

Overview

The all new MX-5 is beautiful, affordable and very fun to drive. What more can you want from a roadster? If driving still matters to you, this is a car you definitely want to test drive.

At our drive event with Mazda, I also had the opportunity to drive one of the original 1989 Miatas. It drove home the point that the Mazda team was inspired to live up to the reputation created decades ago, and I can say with confidence they achieved their goal.

1989 Maxda Miata - blue

  

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