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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata – Old-World Charm Comes at a Price

Is this modern Miata still stuck in the past?

Jonathon KleinWriterEric WeinerPhotographer

Underneath its glimmering Ceramic Metallic paint, our Four Seasons 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a purely classic sportscar. Things that made the original great—low curb weight, manual transmission, peppy engine—are to this day defining elements of the celebrated roadster. Yet we're not sure its old-world charm is really a feather in the Mazda's proverbial cap.

Though we clearly appreciate Mazda's latest MX-5 enough to name it a 2016 AUTOMOBILE All-Star, we can't help thinking that Mazda's engineers might have hewed a little too close to the original NA-generation Miata. After all, there isn't a huge difference in performance characteristics spanning the 25 years the nameplate has been around.

For one thing, you'd think in 2016 the Miata would have a telescoping steering wheel. The column itself moves up and down, but not in or out. It is a frustrating oversight for those of us who have longer legs and need the seat as far back as possible. Features editor Rory Jurnecka agrees. "I can't get close enough to the steering wheel and still have the pedals at ideal length," he added.

Another holdover from classic Miatas is body roll. While many chalk up the pitchy behavior to good character and important feedback, executive editor Mac Morrison does not enjoy it. "I don't like the amount of roll you get when cornering hard; this was an issue on the racetrack at All-Stars as well. It's quite the compliant chassis, and the setup makes everything seem as though it is happening in slow motion," says Morrison. "Too much load transfers to the outside and then rebounds back the other way."

The Miata also is physically unable to house anyone over 6 feet. Once again, here's Morrison: "At 6-foot-1, I don't have any trouble with leg room or shoulder room or hip room, but I can't quite get the seat low enough. So there are times I feel like I'm half-looking through the top of the windshield frame, notably when I'm first in line at a red light."

An added detriment are the side window controls, which, if you're tall, are placed in exactly the correct position to give you purple bruises on your calves whenever the roadster is hurled into a corner. This makes those canyon roads we love taking the MX-5 to somewhat of an excruciating experience.

There's still lots to love about the Miata, particularly coming from those not vertically gifted.  "Mazda just nails the details on this car," says road test editor Eric Weiner. "I love that the seat is on an inclined track. It puts me at the perfect height and also saves weight." Even with its roly-poly nature, the grip you feel from the Miata is superb. The tight manual transmission makes for a thoroughly satisfying drive, even in the worst of Los Angeles traffic. The MX-5 has also been great for demurely sipping fuel, averaging 28.6 mpg.

"I do wish that at least in certain variants you could get more power," says Weiner. "It's very, very good at what it's supposed to do, but with 200-220 horsepower it would reach a whole new market of enthusiasts. At the same time, people have been saying the Miata needs more power since its inception. Miata buyers will keep calling those people horsepower-craving Neanderthals who don't appreciate balance and restraint, and the world will keep spinning 'round and 'round."

Morrison also thinks the Miata could use a little more zip. "I know this chassis could be tuned easily to cope with some extra mojo. It's a lot of fun as is, but I imagine what the experience could be like if Mazda gave it more power, and then I'm disappointed I don't have that."

Top down, the MX-5 reveals the sights and sounds of life in Southern California. Seagulls, crashing waves, unencumbered sun, and intermittent car horns are all welcome. We rarely put the top up, but when we do want a break from outside stimuli, the Miata could use better insulation from wind and road noise. When it comes out later this year, it'll be interesting to see how the Miata RF fares with its added sound-deadening insulation.

So far our 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata has a handful of old-school quirks, but that hasn't stopped us from looking forward to driving it every day. It doesn't hurt that it never rains in California either.


  • Body style 2-door front-engine RWD convertible
  • Accommodation 2-passenger
  • Construction Steel unibody
  • Base price (with dest. ) $29,420
  • As tested $32,820


  • Engine 16-valve DOHC I-4
  • Displacement 2.0 liters (106 cu in)
  • Power 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque 148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
  • Transmission 6-spd manual
  • Drive rear-wheel
  • EPA Fuel Economy 27/34/30 (city/hwy/combined)


  • Steering Electrically assisted
  • Lock-to-lock 2.7 turns
  • Turning circle 380.8 ft
  • Suspension, Front control arms, coil spring
  • Suspension, Rear multilink, coil springs
  • Brakes F/R Vented front discs, solid rear discs
  • Wheels 17-inch aluminum
  • Tires F/R Bridgestone Potenza S001
  • Tire size F/R 205/45R 17


  • Headroom 37.4 in
  • Legroom 43.1 in
  • Shoulder room 52.2 in
  • Wheelbase 90.9 in
  • Track F/R 58.9/59.17 in
  • L x W x H 154.1 x 68.3 x 48,8 in
  • Cargo capacity 4.6 cu ft
  • Weight 2,332 lb
  • Weight dist. F/R 52/48 %
  • Fuel capacity 11.9 gal
  • Est. fuel range 404 miles
  • Fuel grade 91 octane (premium)


  • standard equipment

    • Sport suspension with Bilstein shocks, shock tower brace
    • Limited-slip differential
    • LED headlights with LED daytime running lights
    • Manual air conditioning/climate control
    • Black cloth bucket seats with red stitching and manual adjustment
    • 3-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel
    • Leather-wrapped shift knob and parking brake handle
    • Mesh-board windblocker
    • Touchscreen infotainment with rotary knob control
    • Remote keyless entry
    • Bose 9-speaker audio system
    • Bluetooth phone and audio, AUX port, CD player, USB connectivity
    • 17-inch aluminum wheels
    • Cruise control
    • Pushbutton start


  • options for this vehicle:

    • Brembo/BBS Package ($3,400)
    • Brembo front brakes with red calipers
    • 17-inch forged aluminum BBS wheels
    • Advanced keyless entry
    • Aero kit: side sill extensions and rear bumper skirt
    • Ceramic Metallic paint: $0
    • Appearance package for Club ($0)
    • Front air dam
    • Rear lip spoiler