Are you tired of all the gushing reviews of the 2016 Miata? Are you tired of the slow-car-fast mantra? Do you feel that Miata is NOT always the answer? Are you a cars-and-coffee-attending-curb-crushing-Mustang Owner who wants someone to tell the world the Miata is an underpowered hairdresser’s car that won’t do a proper burnout? Be prepared for disappointment. While it’s true that the Miata may not actually ALWAYS be the answer, it certainly can be in many cases. Assuming, of course, you’re not much taller or wider than the average horse jockey.
Consumers can be a funny sometimes. At least monthly someone will come in just to sit in the car and see if they can fit. Fortunately the folks that typically do this know their limitations and while they are disappointed they don’t fit, they aren’t surprised. Those people I get. The one that always gets me though, is “Ohh, it’s low!!” So, to those people, when I say “Yes, it is low! Keeping the center of gravity as low as possible helps to make the handling as good as it can be!” what I really mean is “No shit, it’s low. It’s a fucking sports car, what did you expect? Perhaps a Raptor would be more to your liking?”
It was mid-morning in Concord, NH when my journey began. The sun was up and there was nary a cloud in the sky. The perfect day to drive a convertible the 150 miles it takes to get back to Burlington, VT. The catch, however, is that it’s late April - and this means that while it looks perfect, the highest temperature I saw through the entire drive was 47 degrees. There was, as we New Englanders put it, a slight nip in the air. No matter, I was prepared for just such an occasion. When the top went down, the collar went up and a hand-knit hat courtesy of my Great Grandmother kept my head comfortable since I don’t have magical Trump hair. The majority of my drive was with the cruise varied between 65 and 70 mph and with the heater on a medium fan setting and the windows up, I was perfectly comfortable in the car for the entire trip. The airflow around me was perfectly manageable. I probably shouldn’t say perfectly any more, huh?
Let’s deal with the whiny parts first: Whoever approved putting a reflective chrome surface inside a convertible’s interior needs a quick slap to the back of the head, Gibbs style. Every time I rounded a left-hand corner, the sunlight was perfectly (whoops) reflected off the Mazda logo in the center of the steering wheel to my eyeball. Can we have a satin finish there, please? Next are the cupholders. There are two of these weird little cupholder pods that can either clip in between the seat rests where they will likely be in your way every time you change gear or one can go on the passenger side where the center stack and console meet in order to be exactly where your passenger would rest his or her knee. These seem odd to me. Speaking of knees...mine rests squarely where the center console and center stack meet. But, since it’s basically all hard plastic, it can get old after awhile. Perhaps just a little bit of padding there would be helpful, if it’s no trouble? Finally, the interior storage puts me in mind of a well-known Jalopnik writer’s experiences with an Alfa 4C. The door pockets aren’t substantial. The center armrest opens but is shaped in such a way that it would only be best at holding your sunglasses. Or, perhaps a random stick (provided it’s very small), or your pet pebble. For everything else, you have: The Box. Nestled between the seats and above the CD player, this cubby can hold many things - like a small bag of chips (assuming you open the bag and pour the chips in), the cupholder pods when they aren’t in use, or the owner’s manual. On the plus side, there are two other secret boxes! Hidden behind each seat are cubbies large enough for a hat and pair of gloves. Though, they’re only accessible by getting out of the car. The only other thing I’ll complain about is the area to the left of the tachometer. It’s just a little too busy. It constantly displays the following: engine temperature in “gauge” form, fuel level in “gauge” form, outside temperature, trip computer (cycles between avg. speed, fuel eco, current eco and range), and the odometer readings. I feel like this could be simplified greatly, especially given the rest of the instrument cluster’s cleanliness. Give me the fuel and the odo constantly, but, let me cycle between the rest of it. And you also have a engine cold and engine hot light on top of the gauge, so, how about the gauge only comes on when the car is in a problem area? Unless it’s either at “Ice block” or “Ferrari on a hot day” I’m not sure that I need to know about it. It’s a Mazda, not a Triumph...it’ll be fine more often than not. At least there’s a trunk release on the key fob.
That’s pretty much all I have for things to complain about. The design is gorgeous. The aggressive angles and sharp nose will go a long way toward rectifying the image issues of previous iterations. The interior layout with it’s big tachometer right in front of you and radio pod/screen set gently atop the dash make me happy. Utilizing a new design with webbing instead of foam and springs,the seats are thinner and remarkably comfortable. The leather wrapped wheel fits nicely in your hand and the perfectly (there it is again) designed shifter feels top notch. The buttons all feel right and are pretty much where you’d expect them to be and most of it feels like it was put together with nice enough materials to ensure it’ll be a fun little sports car long after you’re gone.
The ergonomics are spot on. The pedals are perfectly (uggh) placed for the heel-toe enthusiast, the wheel is perfectly (really!?) weighted so you can place the car exactly where you want it to be and the shifter is perfectly (dammit.) designed to provide these great, short, satisfying shifts. It’s an absolute joy to control.
The handling comes through with a bit more body roll than one might expect, but, it feels, as they say, grounded to the ground. The quick steering rack and 50/50 weight distribution help it go around corners as sure-footed and planted as anyone would need on the public roads. While that body roll does show, it doesn’t detract from the driving experience and man does this thing ride nice. Like, it handles bumps about as well as my V50.
The 2.0L Skyactiv engine gives you 155hp to play with and while that doesn’t sound like much, especially when you consider the previous car had 167hp, it makes the best of it. Acceleration is quick and with that exhaust note and slick shifter, you’ll be spending lots of time doing just that with it. Power delivery is very linear, which means that there are no surprises. No lag, no jumps in speed, making it much easier to drive quickly. This car can be driven hard, almost immediately by nearly anyone, and it’s so free of bad traits that you’ll just push it more and more. While it may be the same engine as your Mazda3, it feels even more lively and responsive. I was able to muster 31mpg on a mostly uphill highway drive.
This is a car that will egg you on. It starts up with the push of a button (take that Whiz Kahlifa) and immediately gives you a growling rev, eager to please and ready to make you smile. The Miata is and always has been about “accessible performance”. It’s cheap to own, cheap to run, and nothing in it say’s Lucas, so you know that when the mood strikes, it’ll start. But, it’s more than that. The limits of grip and power are relatively low. You can explore the limits of these things on normal roads in normal places at normal speeds. It can help you learn how a car handles, what happens when you reach the tires’ limits of adhesion, about weight transfer and throttle usage. It helps you hone those basic skills. Put that all together, and it increases your chances of being able to keep your cool when it happens in your buddy’s Mustang when the car show is over. It’s the marijuana of cars. It’s the gateway drug. It makes you high and it’s mostly harmless. Right up until your dealer comes to you and says, yeah, the Miata is great and all, but, you should try this 911. It’ll melt your mind!
So, obviously, you should buy one. But, the question begs, which one? If you spend any time at all with it on a track, there’s no contest - it has to be the Club. With its improved suspension, the added control of a limited slip rear differential and the optional Brembo stopping power up front, you’ll have everything you need but the rollbar for all your track-day needs. The Grand Touring is the one you get for cruising. The heated seats will keep your ass warm and it also includes the added safety of blind spot monitoring (for when the top is up obviously), lane departure warning and leather seating surfaces (for those extra sticky days). However, for most of us driving most of the time on twisty back roads - the Sport just about perfectly (last time, I swear!) fits the bill. All the same power, the same slick shifter, the center tachometer, the same cloth easy-as-pie-to-flop-down top, comfortable and supportive seats, bluetooth, a heater (for those cold days) and less distracting radio make it a great balance of fun and comfort. A car you can drive every day - unless you carry a lot of stuff.
I’ll take mine in red, please.
Perfectly. (couldn’t resist…)