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2016 Mazda MX-5 First Drive

When Mazda took the wraps off the forthcoming MX-5 early last September, the enthusiast world breathed a sigh of relief: They didn’t screw it up. Last week we drove the new car, and we can reiterate that statement: Mazda definitely didn’t screw it up.

In creating the ND-chassis MX-5, Mazda has managed to reincarnate the original Miata. All of the behind-the-wheel sensations have been brought back, from the location of the shifter to feel of the pedals. You want numbers? Compared to the outgoing NC-chassis car, the ND occupants sit 20mm lower and 30mm closer together. Overall length is 2 inches shorter than the original Miata.

A 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four blessed with Mazda’s Skyactiv technology comes standard. The power isn’t going to rip your head off, though, forcing you to nail each and every apex and brake marker. The MX-5 isn’t going to mask poor driving with horsepower.

There have been some updates in the name of progress, though, as not everything recalls 1990. A six-speed manual gearbox replaces the five-cog unit we welcomed a quarter-century ago, while the base MX-5 gets 16-inch alloys instead of 14-inch steelies. Then there are the features that have become standard across much of today’s market: power windows, power door locks, air-conditioning, six-speaker sound system, stability control, LED headlamps and more.

The new MX-5 also feels stiffer and more upmarket than any of its predecessors. No creaks, no rattles. Where the original Miata’s top wasn’t anything more than fabric stitched over a metal frame, the new MX-5 uses an aluminum structure plus computer aided engineering to reduce noise. It doesn’t buffet when up at highway speeds, and looks great when lowered into position.

More upmarket features: Our Grand Touring model’s stitched leather interior looked like something from a higher price point.

The advancements don’t come with penalty points, however. According to Mazda, an ND-chassis MX-5 fitted with a manual transmission weighs 2332 pounds. That’s only a single pound more than the 1994 Miata. One. Single. Pound.

More evidence of keeping things old school: The original Miata had a retail price starting at $13,800, and that didn’t include air conditioning, alloy wheels or even a radio–things that now come standard. In today’s dollars, that price would equal $24,981. The price of the new car? It starts at $24,915.

In a world of 700-horsepower Hellcats, perhaps a redo of the original Miata is all that you really need.

Coming Next Month: Full ND-Chassis Mazda MX-5 Report

Our initial visit with the next Mazda MX-5 wasn’t limited to 45 minutes of drive time and a drawn-out PowerPoint presentation. No, we conducted some independent study.

We picked up the car in South Bend, Indiana, home of the Tire Rack. The Tire Rack is also home to Chris Harvey and his NC-chassis Mazda MX-5–likely the fastest one in today’s SCCA Street-class autocross scene. Face-off using the Tire Rack’s own autocross course? Yes, please. To keep it fair both cars were fitted with fresh BFGoodrich Rival-S tires, and the new car received a performance-tuned alignment. The Tire Rack’s Woody Rogers, another nationally ranked autocrosser, managed data and provided additional feedback.

“Despite the body roll programed into the MX-5 by Mazda engineers, it makes high levels of grip, slaloms well and is happy to brake and turn at the same time on the autocross course,” Chris explains. “Once the car travels to the bumpstops, as the lateral G forces build, it takes a balanced set and just flat works.”

From there we headed south to Florida, including a trip down Tail of the Dragon, one the country’s most famous driving roads. Its 318 turns crammed into 11 miles gave the car plenty of time to shine.

Short answer: If you have been considering the new MX-5, you might want to schedule that test drive now.

Read all the nitty gritty details on the new MX-5 in the October issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Subscribe now.

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Comments

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Sultan
Sultan Dork
6/1/15 7:03 a.m.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce PowerDork
6/1/15 7:08 a.m.

Any word from Mazda on the availibilty of a factory hard top for the car at the time of launch? I kind of want one, but not having a hard top to snap on limits where I can play.

DaveEstey
DaveEstey PowerDork
6/1/15 7:13 a.m.

Time for a drag race of all generations

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 7:19 a.m.
mazdeuce wrote: Any word from Mazda on the availibilty of a factory hard top for the car at the time of launch? I kind of want one, but not having a hard top to snap on limits where I can play.

I haven't heard anything on a hardtop but I can ask.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce PowerDork
6/1/15 7:27 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens:

I would appreciate it. This is a Miata my wife might finally agree to. Availability of a hardtop could be the final piece of the puzzle.

captdownshift
captdownshift SuperDork
6/1/15 8:02 a.m.

Sounds even better then Duran Duran!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 8:17 a.m.

Duran Duran was pretty cool. This trip was more cool, though. Plus, of course, there was a stop at a used record and book store.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
6/1/15 8:23 a.m.

Sounds like Mazda has nailed it. Good for them!!! So many manufactures screw up cars in the name of progress.

CrashDummy
CrashDummy Reader
6/1/15 8:25 a.m.

What's the RPM in 6th gear at 75mph? I love my NA track/autocross Miata but the high RPMs on the highway really annoy me. It would be a fine highway cruiser if it just had a taller top gear.

captdownshift
captdownshift SuperDork
6/1/15 8:26 a.m.

I for one welcome the idea of a second generation Elise versus a ND comparison feature

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
6/1/15 8:36 a.m.
CrashDummy wrote: What's the RPM in 6th gear at 75mph? I love my NA track/autocross Miata but the high RPMs on the highway really annoy me. It would be a fine highway cruiser if it just had a taller top gear.

3050 for the factory 16" package, slightly less for the factory 17" package. I'd be surprised if Mazda calibrates the speedo differently.

z31maniac
z31maniac UltimaDork
6/1/15 8:40 a.m.
Swank Force One wrote:
CrashDummy wrote: What's the RPM in 6th gear at 75mph? I love my NA track/autocross Miata but the high RPMs on the highway really annoy me. It would be a fine highway cruiser if it just had a taller top gear.

3050 for the factory 16" package, slightly less for the factory 17" package. I'd be surprised if Mazda calibrates the speedo differently.

Are the 17s lower in profile so they end up with essentially the same OD? If so, there would be no point.

Then again, I believe I've read many newer cars just read the ABS sensors to determine MPH.

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
6/1/15 8:41 a.m.
z31maniac wrote:
Swank Force One wrote:
CrashDummy wrote: What's the RPM in 6th gear at 75mph? I love my NA track/autocross Miata but the high RPMs on the highway really annoy me. It would be a fine highway cruiser if it just had a taller top gear.

3050 for the factory 16" package, slightly less for the factory 17" package. I'd be surprised if Mazda calibrates the speedo differently.

Are the 17s lower in profile so they end up with essentially the same OD? If so, there would be no point.

Then again, I believe I've read many newer cars just read the ABS sensors to determine MPH.

17" package is a larger diameter overall by a little bit. 3050 with the 17" package gives 77mph.

195/50-16s vs 205/45-17.

You're probably right on the ABS sensor thing. Myself, i just get confused by anything that doesn't have a speedo gear/cable.

clutchsmoke
clutchsmoke Dork
6/1/15 9:02 a.m.

I like what I'm reading thus far..

Rupert
Rupert Dork
6/1/15 9:18 a.m.
Swank Force One wrote:
z31maniac wrote:
Swank Force One wrote:
CrashDummy wrote: What's the RPM in 6th gear at 75mph? I love my NA track/autocross Miata but the high RPMs on the highway really annoy me. It would be a fine highway cruiser if it just had a taller top gear.

You're probably right on the ABS sensor thing. Myself, i just get confused by anything that doesn't have a speedo gear/cable.

Swank, get used to it. As the gray hair piles up, or worse falls out, it just gets worse!

Since the oldest car I currently own is an '02. I'm still trying to figure where to hook my Halda Twinmaster up.

Rupert
Rupert Dork
6/1/15 9:30 a.m.

I just looked at the video. It's a shame it was narrated by a paid PR guy! But it did show more detail than I had seen previously.

I was thrilled to see the dash-screen wasn't nearly as intrusive as it is on many cars (think Tesla or Ford). It looks about like the one in my 2014 Mazda 3. Just gauges and forget the screen will always be my preference, but I guess that's not going to happen anymore.

And there's still probably no handy cable to hook my Halda up to.

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
6/1/15 9:36 a.m.

All it lacks is a hardtop version with larger tires and a turbo!

captdownshift
captdownshift SuperDork
6/1/15 9:38 a.m.

In reply to Kreb:

That's all it needs to ruin it

Mitchell
Mitchell UltraDork
6/1/15 9:45 a.m.

How sharply will NC prices dive?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/1/15 9:49 a.m.

Interesting note: the NC with ABS used the ABS sensors for wheel speed. The non-ABS version used a sensor on the transmission. The hole is there on the ABS cars, but there's a pin missing inside the trans that is the trigger for the sensors so you can't just install one. We had a fun time hooking up the Terratrip on that car. Meanwhile, to hook up the Coralba on my NA, I used...the ABS sensors

Miatas haven't had mechanical speedometers since 1997.

I think this car will appeal to a very different crowd than the NC, so each cohort will continue to prefer their preference. In other words, the NC prices may not drop as much as you think, especially with no power hard top option.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 9:50 a.m.
Rupert wrote: I just looked at the video. It's a shame it was narrated by a paid PR guy! But it did show more detail than I had seen previously.

You'll see the video that I narrated shortly.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 10:01 a.m.

I asked about a hardtop. Nothing yet has been announced. Considering that the hardtop (both stick-on and power folding) has been popular, my guess is that we'll eventually see one.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 10:04 a.m.

Also, I'll add that Dean is more than a "PR guy." He's an old friend and he volunteered to make the trip with me. We travel well together.

He's also an engineer by trade and his first job out of college was working on the NA Miata. Before the NA was released, he drove one across Route 66. So on a few levels this trip was a bit personal.

TGMF
TGMF New Reader
6/1/15 10:28 a.m.

Sounds good...but can people, who can reach the top shelf at the store without a ladder, fit in it?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 11:02 a.m.
TGMF wrote: Sounds good...but can people, who can reach the top shelf at the store without a ladder, fit in it?

Maybe, and I realize that's a weak answer. I'm 5-8 and fit just fine. Dean's about the same height. Ditto Chris and Trent at the Tire Rack. Killboy sat in the car with no issues, and while he's fairly tall he noted that he's all torso.

sjd
sjd New Reader
6/1/15 11:29 a.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: I think this car will appeal to a very different crowd than the NC, so each cohort will continue to prefer their preference. In other words, the NC prices may not drop as much as you think, especially with no power hard top option.

Interesting point Keith. What makes you say that it will appeal to a different crowd? I mean I do love my modded NC2 and have no plans to give it up but do want to drive a new one.

Can't wait for the next issue of GRM!

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 SuperDork
6/1/15 11:40 a.m.
David S. Wallens wrote:
TGMF wrote: Sounds good...but can people, who can reach the top shelf at the store without a ladder, fit in it?

Maybe, and I realize that's a weak answer. I'm 5-8 and fit just fine. Dean's about the same height. Ditto Chris and Trent at the Tire Rack. Killboy sat in the car with no issues, and while he's fairly tall he noted that he's all torso.

This is something I was getting ready to ask also. I'm 5'11" and fit in my NB but have friends that taller that don't fit but are interested in Miata/MX5.

Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
6/1/15 12:36 p.m.

According to Mazda, an ND-chassis MX-5 fitted with a manual transmission weighs 2332 pounds. That’s only a single pound more than the 1994 Miata. One. Single. Pound.

I know I have have put on more than a pound since 1994, about 30 of them.

I pray I fit in the new car. This is the first new car I have wanted in a very long time. I could fit in the NA with a foam-ectomy, barely.

please let me fit, please let me fit, please let me fit.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 12:39 p.m.

You fit.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/1/15 12:41 p.m.
sjd wrote:
Keith Tanner wrote: I think this car will appeal to a very different crowd than the NC, so each cohort will continue to prefer their preference. In other words, the NC prices may not drop as much as you think, especially with no power hard top option.
Interesting point Keith. What makes you say that it will appeal to a different crowd? I mean I do love my modded NC2 and have no plans to give it up but do want to drive a new one. Can't wait for the next issue of GRM!

The demographics of the NC are older than any other Mazda model, and Mazda has said publicly that they need to change this with the ND. We've seen it in the purchasing patterns of aftermarket parts. NB owners with new NBs acted very differently from NC owners with new NCs. The NC has options aimed more at the older crowd, things like chrome windshield surrounds, power hardtops and seat height adjustments. The ND has no glovebox.

We are seeing a shift in the NC owners as the cars move on to second and third owners. They're getting younger and more willing to modify the cars.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 12:41 p.m.

Also, somewhere there's a photo of our ND tester parked in my garage. My wife graciously let her new Civic Si sit outside that night.

That's when it really hit me: The new MX-5 is tiny. Suddenly that side of the garage got really big.

stanger_missle
stanger_missle Dork
6/1/15 1:01 p.m.

I'm impressed with the dimensions. 2 inches shorter than the previous car. One pound heavier than the NA (not a small feat given today's model bloat). On top of that - perfect 50/50 weight distribution. I also heard that they improved the driving position by lowering the seats by 20mm and moving them inboard a bit too.

One thing I was surprised by was the sound. I watched a few videos of different jornos driving around Lime Rock. It sounded pretty snorty! I also noticed in the underhood pics that there seems to be a sound pipe coming off of the intake to pipe sound into the cabin. Any opinions about that David? Also, the suspension was noticeably "compliant". It seems to have a fair bit of body roll but everybody has said that it handles well. I'm sure the aftermarket will take care of that

The Miata has always been one of those "meh" cars to me; it's never really been on my radar. I admit that I have never driven one. None of my friends own one. BUT, the ND has definitely piqued my interest. I want one. Badly.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 1:08 p.m.

On the autocross, yes, the GT is a bit soft. The bumpstop quickly come into play. Once the chassis takes a set, though, it grips.

Everywhere else, to be honest, it felt fine. It didn't feel soft on Tail of the Dragon. After 1200 miles, it's also comfortable enough. I'd do that drive again in a heartbeat. (This time with 8 hours of sleep per night, though.)

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
6/1/15 1:15 p.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: I think this car will appeal to a very different crowd than the NC, so each cohort will continue to prefer their preference. In other words, the NC prices may not drop as much as you think, especially with no power hard top option.

Considering this is the first car my ex has seriously considered buying since her 2003 Cooper S (which she still owns), I can agree with this. She generally dislikes all Japanese cars, so when she exprressed interest in the ND as her next daily driver, the rest of us in our group were stunned.

MCarp22
MCarp22 Dork
6/1/15 1:17 p.m.
stanger_missle wrote: Also, the suspension was noticeably "compliant". It seems to have a fair bit of body roll but everybody has said that it handles well.

I read somewhere that the body roll was so that the car doesn't seem "bored" during 50mph back-roads driving. It's likely a better solution for driver engagement than Prius OE tires.

Box_of_Rocks
Box_of_Rocks New Reader
6/1/15 1:18 p.m.

How was it out on the highway? I mean, I know it's never going to be all cushy like a Park Avenue (thanks be for that), but 75 MPH in 6th gear - could you do that for 6-8 hours and be OK at the end of the day?

Advan046
Advan046 SuperDork
6/1/15 1:31 p.m.

I owned an 89/90 Mariner Blue with factory installed hardtop. Never should have sold it. If I find that I am allowed to by a car someday soon it may well be this ND. I love everything I have heard except the silence about a hardtop. ND or FRSBRZ we will see.

Rupert
Rupert Dork
6/1/15 1:36 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: Also, I'll add that Dean is more than a "PR guy." He's an old friend and he volunteered to make the trip with me. We travel well together. He's also an engineer by trade and his first job out of college was working on the NA Miata. Before the NA was released, he drove one across Route 66. So on a few levels this trip was a bit personal.

Mr. Wallens,

I in no way intended to besmirch the talents or honesty of any Mazda or other company P.R. guy/girl. In fact, I first knew what his job was when I read it on the film clip. Having worked in the auto manufacturing industry for over 20 years taught me that having contacts is the best way to operate. And having an "old friend" almost certainly helped you get a car that soon. Which is great Also I'm thrilled you both had a good trip and enjoyed the car. That's a good sign for the rest of us.

However, all creatures tend to favor what they understand is in their best interests to favor. It's in our survival instincts. My comment on the film clip meant I wished someone without a vested interest in the car's success had been the speaker.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 1:46 p.m.
Box_of_Rocks wrote: How was it out on the highway? I mean, I know it's never going to be all cushy like a Park Avenue (thanks be for that), but 75 MPH in 6th gear - could you do that for 6-8 hours and be OK at the end of the day?

It was way, way more comfortable than my NA. The top doesn't flap when up, and the wind didn't beat us up when down. We did 1200 miles in a little more than two days. I had no trouble while napping while on the highway. (Note: Dean was driving.) I probably would have napped longer, but Dean woke me to let me know we missed our exit.

At the end, yes, we were tired. It was more our schedule than the car. The night before my flight up, my wife and I saw Rush in Tampa--more than two hours away. Got home late and then got up early to pack and stuff. Then my flight was delayed so I got in late. Dean flew in from L.A. for the trip, so he was on West Coast time. That was pretty much our schedule for the entire trip: asleep around 2:00 or so, up at 6:30. Still, we'll do it again in a heartbeat.

Jaynen
Jaynen Dork
6/1/15 6:24 p.m.

David, do you know if its possible to get the LSD as an option on anything but the club trim? Can I get a sport with LSD for example?

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
6/1/15 6:53 p.m.

I still say the old pilot addage: Never fly the A model of anything.

I'd wait a year and see if anything creeps up.

JohnyHachi6
JohnyHachi6 Dork
6/1/15 7:10 p.m.

I'm sure this info is out there somewhere, but I couldn't find it quickly - does the ND continue Mazda's legacy of suspension/alignment adjustment hardware? Looks like it's double a-arm up front and multi-link rear like the NC/RX-8. Does it keep with the tradition of factory-installed eccentric bolts for camber/caster adjustment?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 7:21 p.m.
Jaynen wrote: David, do you know if its possible to get the LSD as an option on anything but the club trim? Can I get a sport with LSD for example?

Media kit only shows the limited-slip diff on the Club (manual trans, only).

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/15 8:49 p.m.
JohnyHachi6 wrote: I'm sure this info is out there somewhere, but I couldn't find it quickly - does the ND continue Mazda's legacy of suspension/alignment adjustment hardware? Looks like it's double a-arm up front and multi-link rear like the NC/RX-8. Does it keep with the tradition of factory-installed eccentric bolts for camber/caster adjustment?

Our friends at Tire Rack were able to do a pretty good "autocross" alignment on the ND for us. I have the figures at the office and am now home, but I want to say it was more than 1 degree of negative camber up front. That was using the stock hardware, too. We'll have all of those details in the NC v ND face-off article, too.

TGMF
TGMF New Reader
6/2/15 7:23 a.m.
wlkelley3 wrote:
David S. Wallens wrote:
TGMF wrote: Sounds good...but can people, who can reach the top shelf at the store without a ladder, fit in it?

Maybe, and I realize that's a weak answer. I'm 5-8 and fit just fine. Dean's about the same height. Ditto Chris and Trent at the Tire Rack. Killboy sat in the car with no issues, and while he's fairly tall he noted that he's all torso.

This is something I was getting ready to ask also. I'm 5'11" and fit in my NB but have friends that taller that don't fit but are interested in Miata/MX5.

That doesn't sound promising. at just over 6'3" and all limbs I'm probably still screwed. I'll try anyway at some point, but not going to bother getting my hopes up. I do fit in the FRS/BRZ so all hope is not lost.

Argo1
Argo1 SuperDork
6/2/15 7:50 a.m.

I'm 6'3" and owned an NA. Fit fine. However, the NC was very uncomfortable for me. I guess we have to wait and see on the ND.

Toyspyder
Toyspyder New Reader
6/4/15 1:00 p.m.

Wow! We have to wait until October to read all the testing goodness. That is a little disappointing. At least the GRM testing should be a little more "sports" car oriented than those from most online sites and magazines.

Harvey
Harvey HalfDork
6/4/15 1:19 p.m.

I love the look of this one and how it has gone back to a much lower weight (I mean 100+lbs less than the lowest weight NC).

I have always found the NC looks unappealing.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/4/15 1:29 p.m.
Toyspyder wrote: Wow! We have to wait until October to read all the testing goodness. That is a little disappointing. At least the GRM testing should be a little more "sports" car oriented than those from most online sites and magazines.

The October issue mails in July (I know), so it's not as long as it sounds. It's basically the first issue to be produced after our testing. My understanding is that cars will not arrive at dealers until August.

petegossett
petegossett PowerDork
6/4/15 5:49 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: After 1200 miles, it's also comfortable enough. I'd do that drive again in a heartbeat. (This time with 8 hours of sleep per night, though.)

Forget that, you & JG need to borrow it again for One Lap next year. Talk about the Most. Epic. Story. Ever.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/4/15 9:26 p.m.

That would be pretty rad. JG and I need to do another epic road trip. It's been too long.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/4/15 9:36 p.m.

I will add that Dean and I are discussing a follow-up road trip. We just to ask an adult to borrow another Mazda.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce PowerDork
6/4/15 10:21 p.m.

The One Lap idea is a good one. It's fun. Toyota and Honda had 'factory' teams. Mazda should too.

Toebra
Toebra New Reader
6/5/15 1:25 a.m.

That would be a great promo for the ND to do a One Lap in it. You can use the long term tester you are going to talk them into. Enthusiast car, enthusiast magazine, hello match made in heaven.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim UltimaDork
6/5/15 9:03 a.m.

David, this may be a silly question but do you know/remember if the steering wheel on the ND is adjustable at all or if it is fixed like in the NA/NB?

captdownshift
captdownshift SuperDork
6/5/15 9:40 a.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim:

it's fixed

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/5/15 9:42 a.m.
Toebra wrote: That would be a great promo for the ND to do a One Lap in it. You can use the long term tester you are going to talk them into. Enthusiast car, enthusiast magazine, hello match made in heaven.

You forgot "major sponsor of the event" as well

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim UltimaDork
6/5/15 9:56 a.m.
captdownshift wrote: In reply to BoxheadTim: it's fixed

Thanks. Fingers crossed...

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