Notes From The Driveway: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata drive, Southern California, July 2015

It was only a month ago that I drove the fourth-generation (ND) Mazda Miata on the canyon roads of Southern California and wrote a First Drive review for Motor Authority. In that review I concluded that the Miata is an absolutely fabulous car with plenty of power, brilliant handling, and a ride worthy of a family sedan.

Sometimes a second go-around tells you more about a car than an initial drive. For the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to drive the 2016 MX-5 Miata on the rugged streets of Chicago. The car I had was the Club model with the manual transmission and the somewhat overpriced $3,400 Brembo/BBS option package. The total? $33,120. After 220 miles behind the wheel, I’m happy to say that my first impression is confirmed: this is a great car. Here are some other observations from my week with Mazda’s outstanding sports car.

It’s easy to live with.

The problem with most sporty cars is the same suspension tuning that creates agile handling also results in a harsh ride. Not so with the Miata, even the Club model, which has stiffer Bilstein shocks and an additional strut tower brace. The Miata soaked up Chicago’s worst potholes and speed bumps without a complaint. The ride isn’t just impressive for a sports car. It’s better than most cars on the market today.

The top is also delightfully easy to use. By my unofficial count, it takes about five seconds to put it down or pick it up and latch it back into place. I see no need for a return of the power hardtop from the third-generation Miata.

It rotates well, maybe a bit too well.

In my initial review I commented that the Miata’s new rear suspension, which toes in when encountering dynamic inputs like corners, just served to make the car rotate even better than the last very agile model. While I still believe that to be the case, I did detect a bit of an issue when tackling sharp corners. It seems that the rear steer characteristic can be slow to react when the front wheels turn in the opposite direction. In other words, the rear of the car continues to turn in one direction while the front tires are either straightening out or continuing in the other direction. This tendency to over-rotate is minor, but some owners of previous generation Miatas might find it off-putting.

I want one, and you should, too.

That minor complaint aside, the ND Miata is pure joy. The smooth ride makes it comfortable enough for everyday use (provided the weather cooperates). The 155 horsepower put out by the 2.0-liter four-cylinder sounds modest, but it is more than enough to power this 2332-pound car. In fact, I never felt like I wanted more power…and I always want more power.

If you want a reasonably priced, comfortable, sporty car that will put a smile on your face every time you drive it, look no further than the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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