With today’s stringent safety regulations and emphasis on technology-driven creature comforts, it’s almost a given that any new generation of a particular model of vehicle is going to be bigger and heavier than the last. Not the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Both lighter and smaller than ever expected, buyers can finally start getting their hands on the fourth iteration of the legendary roadster first teased to the world last year. One of the final badges in the current Mazda lineup to get the efficient SKYACTIV/flowing KODO Soul of Motion makeover, enthusiasts will be pleased to see that while almost all the styling is drastically different, the “smiley face” front bumper opening has been retained.
During my time with a Blue Reflex Mica press vehicle in GT trim, I came across a 1990 to 1997 NA chassis, and of course I just had to line them up side-by-side. Then came the shocking revelation: the new ND is actually shorter than the original, by about 33 millimetres (and shorter than the outgoing model, by 81 mm), although it does look significantly more muscular and filled out.
The 2016 has made bold moves in the interior as well. Previous Miatas all had similar layouts: the classic multi-dial instrument cluster with a front and center oil pressure gauge, the centre cubby harbouring a fuel door release lever stealthily hidden inside. Neither of those exists anymore - hit the door unlock switch to release the gas lid.
To keep the weight down, there aren’t very many heavy electrically-assisted creature comforts. Power windows, sure, but in true throwback fashion, seat adjustment and even the top is completely manual. I was at first taken a little aback by the absence of the power retractable hardtop that I grew quite fond of during the last go-round, until a colleague assured me the soft top operation is not like what I was imagining.
On the original NA, putting up the top usually involved getting out of the car, hoisting it up, getting back in the car and then securing two spring latches. Now, you can release the single clasp, reach behind you while still sitting in the driver’s seat, and fling the lightweight top one-handed and clamp it down, all in a matter of seconds.
Press the engine start button and the twin tailpipes at the rear emit a pleasant burst of sound as the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre four cylinder engine fires up. Miatas have always blessed drivers with great ergonomics and seating position, and this one is no different. The hood is lower than before, so all you see are the creased ridges flaring up on either side. The wheel, shifter and pedals are situated where it feels perfect when your hands and feet are at the ready.
A lot of naysayers say, “Oh, well it’s only got 155 horsepower.” And yes, that’s true. Let’s not forget that Mazda has managed to drop about 68 kilograms of weight, making it only about 83 kg heavier than the first gen. The motor is situated lower and deeper in the engine bay, giving the car an uncanny feeling of balance when you’re pivoting the car around corners.
The ND begs to be revved up and tossed around. It’s not a loud car, but the high-pitched whine of the engine is paired perfectly to rapidly rising rpms, providing peak power at 6,000. And no matter how much I wringed it out in city or on long stretches of highway, the fuel consumption never crept past 9.3 L/100 km. The suspension set up is familiar: double wishbone front and rear multi-link that is smooth and always surefooted.
The base GX trim starts at $31,900, and the grade-topping GT is priced at $39,200.
Motor: 2.0 L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder
Horsepower: 155 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 148 @ 4,600 rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed manual transmission
Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 9.3 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)