Car Review: 2016 Mazda MX-5


The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata has two things working against it.

First, my wife doesn’t like it. Second, it has the lamest cup holder on the planet.

Just for the record, I’m OK with both of those things.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The totally redesigned MX-5 Miata is a personal sports car. There isn’t a lot of room inside, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. My wife found it way too confining and not especially comfortable. But then this car wasn’t built for the passenger. The MX-5 was designed solely for the driver. It’s kind of like trying to put a second person in a glove.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Interior
This interior fits you just right

Over time, most sporty cars tend to grow. Not the MX-5. This new generation is actually smaller. The overall length is about three inches less, and the wheelbase is also shorter. I’m not sure what that means to cabin comfort, but I can tell you if you’re more than six feet tall, you’d better try one first. I’m not saying you won’t fit, but you’ll need just the right proportion between your legs and upper torso.

I’ve heard many people compare the MX-5 to the classic British sports cars of the late 50s and 60s. I owned one of those, and while it’s slightly true, the reality is that this car is a 100 times better in every way. There’s nothing delicate or fragile about it. You can thrash it around all day and still have complete confidence.

mx5 motor
2.0 liter engine delivers 155 horsepower

One thing the MX-5 Miata is not is a high-horsepower car. You’re going to have all your fun with just 155 ponies coming from that 2.0 liter Skyactiv four-cylinder engine. My test car had the six-speed manual transmission and that’s what I’d recommend for you as well. Not every sports car needs a manual, but this is likely one. It gives you the chance to wring every ounce of joy from that motor. And all that fun doesn’t come at a premium when you have to fill-up. I never tried to stretch the mileage and I still managed 33 MPG for the week. That’s probably a little on the high-end. Mazda says you should get 27 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway. It does recommend premium fuel.

Old and New MX-5 Miatas
Old and New MX-5 Miatas

Of course the most obvious change this year is the styling. The previous generations didn’t change a whole lot over time. While it evolved, it still had a distinctly rounded shape. For the first time, the MX-5 has some angles and they look darn nice. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of curves in all the right places, but it’s gone from cute to aggressive up front.

There is one thing that doesn’t impress, and that’s Mazda’s infotainment system. It looks like they just glued an iPad on the dash. That would be OK if it worked as well as an iPad, but it doesn’t. It just wasn’t simple and obvious. I’m sure you’ll get used to it over time. And heck, that’s not even why you’re buying this car. It’s just something that needs work. I did like the knob controller that sits on the center console. Ironically, this is one car where reaching up to touch the screen would be very easy because it’s so close at hand.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Cupholder
This cupholder won’t impress, and I’m OK with that.

Since I’m getting picky, in the previous generation MX-5 (reviewed here) I complained that the cup holder got in the way of shifting. Mazda solved that problem by getting rid of it. OK, they didn’t dump the cupholder¬†completely. After all, this is the 21st century. In the small cubby behind the seats you’ll find a little device that slips into a slot at the back of the center console. Voila, instant cupholder. Except that it’s pretty small and definitely not easy to reach. Can you say you have a cupholder? Yes. Will you use it? Not likely.

But once again, I’m OK with that. You just need to understand what you’re buying when you get an MX-5. It’s kind of like the MX-5’s trunk. Don’t plan on putting much back there. It has a whopping 4.6 cubic feet of cargo space. And that is down from last year’s 5.3. Apparently Mazda drivers were making too many trips to Home Depot so the designers made it very clear that trend must stop.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Trunk
Don’t plan on putting much in that trunk

But enough about the MX-5’s downside. The reality is if you’re after a car that will give¬†pure fun every single day, this car will deliver. You’ll find yourself smiling every time you throw it into a turn or accelerate through that twisty section that leads onto the freeway. Just don’t expect your wife to come along for the ride.



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