It’s no secret that whether you call it a Miata or an MX-5, Mazda’s pint-size roadster performer has always been one of our favorite rides. Now we’re heading to one of our favorite race tracks, Savannah’s Roebling Road Raceway. Is this a match made in heaven, or is this track too much for Mazda’s tiny terror?
Mazda’s MX-5 Miata has always punched above its weight when it comes to track performance. And this bantamweight’s nimble chassis has been able to augment the tiny 4-cylinder powertrain enough to be a real hoot to drive on a road course. Things only get better for 2016 as both extremes were approached. Less power, but also less weight.
For specifics, its 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G I4 has 12-fewer horses than before at 155, but spins up more torque at 148 lb-ft. Weight comes in at 2,332-lbs., a drop of about 150.
Of course, as in our earlier MX-5 street test, we opted for Club spec., which includes 17-inch wheels, limited slip diff, and Bilstein shocks with tower bracing; to go along with exterior and interior trim updates.
So let’s get to it, and the high speed Roebling sweepers, to see how the “little Mazda that can” does.
And at the risk of being disappointingly anti-climactic, there’s really nothing new to report. It’s still a very fun car to drive at its limits, which are actually attainable for even novice drivers.
It still has one of the best standard shifters on the planet to go along with the now 6-speed manual transmission; Please don’t upgrade to an automatic unless it is absolutely necessary to prevent a breakup.
But as you might expect with a low horsepower car, it’s all about keeping your momentum up through the corners; as it can feel a little gutless coming out of them if you’re starting from idle.
So thankfully that’s as easy as ever to do, with very linear power delivery, the near perfect balance that we’ve come to expect, and a neutral chassis that is more than willing to hold a line even when rough pavement gets thrown into the mix.
Trying to maintain that momentum means you’re not so much braking hard going into corners, just scrubbing off enough speed to get through them; and the upgraded Brembo’s on our test car proved up to that task and then some.
If there’s any negatives, the steering feel has gone soft, providing barely enough feedback; and there’s not much audio accompaniment from the engine as you dance around track.
Complicating things further are the very tight gear ratios, which are certainly helpful in acceleration; but here on this big track, there were a few places where we found ourselves either shifting mid-corner or having to enter a gear higher than we’d like.
But all is forgiven when you pull into the pits and realize you’ve had a smile on your face the entire lap. Is it the most capable car on the market? Not even close. Is it one of the most fun? Absolutely.
We found it very refreshing to just hop into a car, turn off the traction control, start pushing it like crazy, and not having to instantly fear for your life.
As for hopping off the line and getting to 60, our MX-5 did that in 5.9-seconds; on its way to a 14.6–second ¼-mile at 94 miles-per-hour.
Of course the MX-5 is also one car that keeps the fun going once you leave the track behind.
To some, the exterior design is still Disney-inspired. But to all, as it has aged, it’s less Toontown and more Hipster High.
Still, as before, clean and simple defines the interior. There’s just enough room to operate comfortably, but not much more. While not impressive to look at, seats walk the comfort and support for track work tightrope almost perfectly.
Not too many new vehicles these days have a driver’s position this low, yet there’s a great view of the hood lines down the right, while body-colored interior panels bring some of the outside in.
Top operation is all manual, and remains brilliant in its simplicity and ease of use. And there’s just enough trunk space to keep the MX-5 almost as practical as it is fun.
The now necessary Commander controller is intuitive, and easy to use without taking your eyes off the road; though it doesn’t exactly fall right to hand.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 27-City, 34-Highway, and 30-Combined. For a good Energy Impact Score of 11.0-barrels of oil consumed yearly with CO2 emissions of 4.9- tons.
But it’s the pricing that really sweetens this deal, starting at just $25,750; the track-ready Club goes for $29,435.
So at the end of the day, this track may have been a bit too much for the MX-5, as it is still more at home on tight autocross courses than high speed sweepers. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a blast to drive. And it’s not too often these days that you get more than you bargained for in a good way. This 2016 Mazda MX-5 continues to prove that more power and more money don’t always mean more fun. Call it another win for the little guys.
Long Term Updates
Date: July 2016
The fun is on with our 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata, as we quickly hit the road for a long weekend getaway to Gettysburg.
It is the perfect vehicle for checking out the many battlefields and monuments scattered across the countryside; soaking in as much history and sun as possible before heading back home and surrendering to the daily grind.
We love its simplistic and entertaining nature; feeling fully engaged when working both its great clutch and 6-speed shifter. It’s not the roomiest cabin, especially if you’re north of 6-feet. But, isn’t a real sports car about intimacy? On that score the newest Miata is perfect.
Mileage from the SKYACTIV 2.0-liter I4 is off to a good start at 34.3 miles-per-gallon over our initial 2,100-miles.
Date: August 2016
After a rainy Spring, our Mid-Atlantic Summer has been filled with sunshine.
So we’ve having plenty of top down time in our 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata, almost 3,000-mile’s worth since our last report.
And we’re still loving every minute of it. Though we have noticed a new rattle from the rear after hard bumps. We haven’t determined the cause yet, and nothing appears to be loose, but a trip to the dealer may be in our future.
Another surprise, fuel economy is actually up, now sitting at 36.0 miles-per-gallon of Premium. Maybe that’s not so surprising when you consider that this fantastically nimble machine’s 2.0-liter I4 only requires a moderate throttle; so you don’t have to rev it sky high to get some decent power out of it.
But we really don’t expect that to last, eventually the enthusiasts among us will win the day.
Date: September 2016
Parting may have been sweet sorrow back in Shakespeare’s time; but on this particular day, there’s nothing sweet about seeing our long-term 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata leave our lot for the last time.
We racked up just over 5,000-miles in our 4-month summertime fling with Mazda’s revivalist roadster, and we enjoyed every one of them.
Light weight, capable power, and excellent road manners; with great driving ergonomics, a simple to operate convertible top, and plenty of creature comforts, all make this our clear pick for affordable fun.
Little else at its price point offers that “connected to the road feel”, that makes driving a true pleasure to savor and not just a necessary task to endure. And the fact that we were able to have that much fun while averaging 36.8 miles-per-gallon, may be this Miata’s greatest feat of all.
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 148 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.9 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.6 seconds @ 94 mph
EPA: 27 mpg city/ 34 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 11.0 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 4.9 tons