Here’s the thing with the Miata… and it’s been this way since conception: If you want to like it, then you’re going to like it. If you want to hate on it, then sure – you can find your reasons. But just because the Miata Nation can’t convince you it’s cool… doesn’t necessarily mean you’re right & they’re wrong.
I went into driving the new 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 interested & open-minded. On the 1st day – I loved the fact that the top came down. But driving wise, I just didn’t get it.
I complained about the large amount of body roll for a little roadster sports car. I complained about the lack of power. Sure – I understand & support the idea that the Miata isn’t supposed to be a powerhouse, but I just couldn’t understand why Mazda didn’t put a small turbo on the car… or better yet, some sort of Vtec-like variable valve timing to liven up the power band. There was no thrill as you climbed through the RPM range… nothing to anticipate & get excited for.
One of the large car review mags & Youtube channels was talking about how great the 2016 sounds. Those guys must be driving too many hybrids… because the new Miata sounds pretty sackless with the stock exhaust. It sounds like a little boy who doesn’t want to clean his room, but doesn’t get to play outside until he cleans his room. Basically – you better keep an eye on the tach, because the breeze with the top down is about as loud as that engine.
So by the end of Day 1, I kept looking outside at the car as the sun set, because I really wanted to like the new Miata. I wanted to see what so many MX-5 enthusiasts saw in their cars. But at $30,000, there are a LOT of cars you can buy new or gently used… and almost ALL of them have more horsepower. And also more cargo room. So you kind of have to ask, how does the Miata stand out when it only brings 155hp to the table. And even if you want one, can you justify buying it? Especially when there are $3000 NA Miatas out there… and $8000 S2000s.
My wife is in real estate. And we were in the Miata running some of her errands, running from house to house & checking out properties. We were on winding backroads – about 45-55mph speed limits. Lots of elevation, lots of twisties, lakes, cool scenery, and just the right amount of country stop signs & left/right turns to accelerate from.
All the sudden it started getting clear. My eyes squinted, game face came on, and I fell into the zone. The more houses/properties we had to drive to – the better… so long as we stayed on the squiggly’s. After a little while, I snapped back into real life, looked over at my wife and said, “Holy crap I think I just fell in love with this Miata.”
Yep – the ‘Miata smile’ was on my face… and there it stayed. Kind of like when the Grinch’s heart grew 3 sizes. The short gear ratios were perfectly matched for backroads… you couldn’t wait to snatch the next gear. Every gear feels like another 1st gear – if that makes sense (in a good way). It all the sudden made up for the boring power band I complained about on Day 1 – and made it not boring anymore. The car becomes incredibly agile & maneuverable once you get it into a rhythm. It absorbs road imperfections without having to slow up & tippy toe around. The momentum stayed in full swing.
The MX-5 is quick enough to keep you 100% engaged, entertained, and smiling. While being just slow enough to keep you mostly on the right side of the law & out of trouble. In other words, you can keep your foot in it – a lot.
The reality is – higher horsepower sports cars are enticing. But they don’t get fun until you’ve blistered the speed limit. And a lot of more experienced drivers/enthusiasts eventually come to terms with the fact that their ‘fast’ car is keeping them chained to a leash. 1st gear, 2nd gear, a little of 3rd – then you hit the end of the leash, or you go to jail. The Mazda MX-5 is designed for you to get the most out of the MX-5.
And once I got what the 2016 Mazda Miata was all about, you couldn’t get me out of it. For the rest of the week it was like I was 16 again. At 11pm, my wife would say something like, “Oh no, we’re out of milk.” And like the Tasmanian Devil, I was out the door in a whirl, with my shoes half on, one-handing the convertible top, zoom-zooming into the night.
Bottom line: you’re gonna want to do bolt-ons and lower suspension asap. But honestly – I think that’s all you need to do to have one great car for a long time… making the $30,000 price tag not unreasonable. People out there in Instagram-land are going to turbocharge it, motor swap it, and make major power… and I’m happy for them. Hell – we’ll probably end up featuring some of those in the magazine. But for me – if the ND Miata was mine… I would be careful not to exceed that horsepower range where you can have real fun with it – every time you get in it. Not just every once in a while. There’s something to be said for that.
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