New Miata sports timeless design, enjoyable ride

Dave Kunz Image
Sunday, July 26, 2015
New Miata sports timeless design, enjoyable ride
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Mazda's latest chapter is the 2016 edition of the Miata. It's still as simple as a car can be these days and still lots of fun.

It's an open-top sports car. It's also a legendary automotive milestone. The Mazda Miata is a car that first took the auto world by storm more than 25 years ago.

"It's the most popular, best-selling roadster in the United States. We're at 940,000 sales globally," said Rod McLaughlin, the Miata's vehicle line manager for Mazda's North American operations.

In 1989, the first Miata debuted as a simple, fun roadster. It soon became a cult car.

Former longtime Road & Track magazine editor Thom Bryant was along for the ride from the beginning, and recently compiled a book about the Miata's history, "Mazda MX-5 Miata, Twenty Five Years."

Mazda's latest chapter is the 2016 edition. It's still as simple as a car can be these days and still lots of fun. Base price is just under $25,000.

As before, the Miata's folding soft top opens with little more than a flick of the wrist. No waiting for a motor like you would with a power top mechanism.

It's just a tad smaller than the previous third-generation car and about 150 pounds lighter, packed into a much more striking design.

"We wanted to make it a little bit more aggressive and we wanted to make it a little more timeless design, so this design can last for years in the future," added Mazda's McLaughlin. "We want this car to look good 25 years from now, not just two or three years from now."

The rear view has a hint of the Jaguar F-type, looking a bit like a scaled-down version of the British super sports car, which carries a base price of $68,100. Overall, the new Miata design is the boldest ever seen on the two-seater, a car that previously was often described as "cute."

One thing that hasn't changed in 25 years is the mechanical formula for the car: a four-cylinder engine in front driving the independently-suspended rear wheels. In between, you can still shift your own gears with a conventional six-speed manual transmission.

You can still choose an optional automatic transmission, but, in a car like this, the shifting of gears just feels right -- especially with the top down on a sunny day and on an empty, twisty road.

The Miata isn't the most powerful sports car you can buy. It never was and it never will be. This car isn't about getting there sooner, it's about getting there more enjoyably.