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If you haven’t had your fill of 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata stories by now, you’re one of us. You’re perhaps not rich enough to be a Porschephile or to fulfill Corvette fantasies harbored since the days of “Route 66” (or watching the DVD collection). And you’re probably as worried as we that the last vestiges of affordable enthusiasm lie in the fortunes of the Miata and perhaps the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ as the rest of the world migrates to compact CUVs both commodity brand and premium, save for the rich guys who plan to take their Ferraris and McLarens to country club racetracks once autonomy rules the roads.
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Thanks to the 2008 NC Miata Grand Touring with a power-retractable hardtop that my wife, Donna, and I own, I was part of the four-car drive with two NAs and the new ND featured in David Zenlea’s wonderful story. Before that drive, I had already sampled a Japanese home-market ND Miata with the not-for-U.S. 1.5-liter engine, and prior to that, I covered the new car’s unveiling last fall in Monterey. Even after all that, I have a few more observations and loose ends to discuss about the new Miata:
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Why did it lose its glove box?
The cockpit lies farther back in the body than on previous models, and the engine also has been lowered and pushed back closer to the firewall for more of a front-mid-engine layout. I’m guessing the new engine location, which made it possible to slope the hood more dramatically at the front overhang, also pushed the HVAC tubing farther into the cockpit. A glove box would probably have to hang down too low to meet current knee-crush standards. That’s just a guess, and although it worried me initially, I can attest that the interior has more useful storage than the old Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky, which didn’t even have space for a parking garage entrance card. (And what’s more, the Solstice/Sky handled like a two-seat Pontiac Firebird.)
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Why there might not be another power-retractable hardtop (PRHT).
With the cockpit moved back in the body, as mentioned above, space is tight for a folding hardtop and its mechanism. You couldn’t fit all three sections of the top in the space provided at the rear cowl if two of the three pieces weren’t soft. The three pieces, which include a hard panel sewn into the portion that attaches to the header, fold tightly on top of one another, and they fit just above the gas tank. The only space for a PRHT’s mechanism would move back the vertical interior panel of the trunk. The 2008-’15 PRHT’s top mechanism almost magically avoided reduced trunk space; a new one would not.
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Why Mazda should offer the Club’s suspension as an option for the Grand Touring model.
In his drive of a new MX-5 Club , Rory Jurnecka divides Miata customers into two camps: “those who want a fun, sporty convertible to drive around town and those who want a fun, sporty convertible to carve up back roads and racetracks.” And Mazda says that with 60 percent of NC customers choosing the PRHT, the automatic transmission (yuck) take-rate rose to about 50 percent. But when my wife and I bought our ’08 PRHT, we were sure to get one with the bargain-priced sport suspension, a $500 option at the time that added the Bilsteins and limited-slip differential. We do not regret it, even when we swap in the Blizzaks for cold weather. Mazda says older, wealthier Miata buyers are more likely to choose the Grand Touring trimline and are more likely to choose the automatic, but some of us chose the GT for its heated seats, which enhances its appeal as a four-seasons sports car. We’d prefer both cars Jurnecka describes rolled into one. As Zenlea notes in his story, “If consumer demand were the primary driver behind the new Miata’s development, it probably wouldn’t exist.”
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What about all that kit?
The ND Grand Touring model is the first Miata to come with a factory navigation. It also has blind spot warning, a lane-departure warning of some kind (we had it turned off for the entirety of our “Miata Pilgrimage”) and rear cross-traffic warning. Is it fair to say that most, if not all, Miata drivers are more aware of their surroundings than other drivers on the road? (It’s a survival tactic, at least, when nearly everything else on the road is bigger than you.) I figure the cross-traffic alert would be the only of these I wouldn’t turn off for every drive.
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I stand by my initial observation.
The ND Miata looks and feels like a significant leap forward, like the MGA was to the MG TC, TD, and TF. There are some modern features I wouldn’t miss if removed, but in the end, it’s still perhaps the most driver-oriented car available, and it doesn’t suffer for its lack of voice command, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It has no cameras … yet.