2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata First Drive

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

What’s an automaker to do when it’s time to redesign a car that is universally loved? Simple, give its fans more of what they love. In the case of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, more equals less.

Since it was introduced in 1989, the Miata has offered the fun, engaging driving experience that can only be achieved through light weight. With a 2016 redesign, Mazda has done its best to take even more pounds out of its featherweight roadster.

Employing a “gram strategy” that evaluates every component of the vehicle, Mazda engineers were able to make the fourth-generation Miata, dubbed ND internally, 150 pounds lighter than the third-generation, or NC, Miata. Forty-four of those pounds came out of the body thanks to slightly smaller dimensions and greater use of high-strength steel and aluminum. The ND Miata is about three inches shorter, 0.6 inch wider, and sits 0.4 inch lower than the NC Miata. The wheelbase is also 0.8 inch shorter and the front and rear track is a half-inch wider. While the NC used aluminum for the hood, decklid, center tunnel, and underbody crossbrace, the ND adds it in the front fenders, roll hoops, front and rear bumpers, and portions of the top and floor.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The less-is-more approach extends to the new engine. While the last model used a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produced 167 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque, the new Miata adopts the SkyActiv 2.0-liter four that made its debut in the CX-5. It weighs 18 pounds less than the outgoing engine and makes 12 less horsepower, but it provides better performance due to an additional eight pound-feet of torque, an improved torque curve, and the car’s lower weight. It also delivers about 25 percent better fuel economy, with EPA ratings of 27 mpg city/34 highway with the manual transmission and 27/36 with the automatic.

So how does all that engineering come together? We traveled to Westlake Village, California, to test the new Miata on SoCal canyon roads to find out.

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