2016 Mazda MX-5 First Drive

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Jun 1, 2015 | Posted in Features | Never miss an article

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

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 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 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 GRM+ Memberand 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 GRM+ Memberand 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 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 GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/1/15 8:26 a.m.

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

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