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Car Review: 2016 Mazda MX-5

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The original Mazda MX-5 (Miata) was first introduced to the public at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. It was a Japanese interpretation of the classic British roadsters from the sixties. Those roadsters from MG, Austin-Healey, Triumph and others had a philosophy in common: “Less is more”. Compact lightweight two-seater cars with a small engine. The power they lacked was made up for with driving pleasure. These cars were quite succesfull until the oil crisis in the 80’s. The crisis hurt the demand for these kinds of cars because oil became  scarce. So people were reluctant to drive for pleasure.

At the end of the 80’s the Japanese decided it was time for a roadster revival. After all everybody loves a comeback. They hit it spot on with their MX-5 and the rest is history.

Flash forward to 2016: With the launch of the fourth generation, Mazda will surpass the mark of 1.000.000 produced MX-5 Roadsters. This will solidify their number one position for bestselling two-seater in the Guinness book of records.

This fourth generation MX-5 is going back to the roots and is re-focusing on the “Less is more” aspect of the concept. It is smaller and lighter than the previous generation. The overall styling matches perfectly with the other Mazda cars available. They are all redesigned with Mazda’s Kodo philosophy: “Soul of Motion”. Inspired by the movement of wild animals.

It does look feistier than the previous models. The only thing I don’t really like about the new design is how tiny the headlight units are. However this is one of the defining features to instantly recognize the new MX-5.

We got our hands on the 2.0 liter model. The most powerful of the two engine types available. The 2.0 liter has 160 HP and emits 154 grams of CO2, the 1.5 has 131 HP and emits 131 grams of CO2.

The car we tested was a full option: including the very good looking: “Soul Red” paintjob, leather Recaro seats, light- and rain sensor, 17 inch gun metallic alloy wheels, sports suspension, limited slip differential, blind spot & parking sensor.

You name it, they got it!

I left the dealer with the roof down, after all it’s a cabriolet. Sadly I didn’t get far before the rainclouds caught up with me. Right when I was having my “hair in the wind” moment. To be fair it’s not that windy if you are just cruising. If you are covering long distance on the freeway, the wind noise will bother you after a while.

The good thing about the MX-5 is that even when it looks like it might rain, you can still drive top down till it actually starts to rain. It’s so easy to close the roof in 2 seconds while you’re stopping at a red light. Piece of cake!

In rainy conditions you do notice that the power is delivered to the rear wheels. But it’s not problematic; the car electronics help you out if necessary. Adjusting your driving style just a little bit should suffice to avoid trouble. Overall the car feels very civilized. When you slam your foot down the car truly comes to life. The standard exhaust sound isn’t great , but it’s not horrible either. Aftermarket exhaust upgrades are available should you desire one.

All of this attributes to the immense popularity of the MX-5. Mazda appeals to both the casual driver as to the more intense sporty driver. The reasonable price makes fun driving accessible to everyone.

Worth mentioning in times of emissions scandals: In consumer tests Mazda cars mostly score a lower fuel consumption than indicated by Mazda. This is very rare in the world of car marketing.

The car begs for winding countryside roads. For example “de Ardennes” in Belgium is the perfect place to drive your MX-5. These types of roads will put a big smile on your face. It’s just so easy to steer in and out of corners, the car is super nimble. Also the car gives you very nice feedback through the steering wheel and the shifter. If you push the car hard, it will gradually lose a bit of control. Thanks to the perfect 50/50 weight distribution it takes real abuse before it slips out of control.

The car we tested drove a bit firmer than the standard model due to the 17 inch wheels and sports suspension. But nothing we couldn’t handle.

The thing we loved the most about this car is its amazing gearbox. Shifting feels very organic. It shifts super smooth even when new, I can only imagine how smooth it’ll be with more miles on it. The shifter is very compact with nice short shifts. You can shift with the movement of a wrist. This has always been a key ingredient to the successful MX-5 formula.

The difference between the 2.0 liter and the 1.5 is mainly in how much you have to shift to utilize maximum torque. The 2.0 liter needs less shifting. The engine never really struggles, even when you are one gear up or down from the ideal gear. It’s easy to overtake someone on the motorway in 6th gear without downshifting.

At the moment Mazda does not have any real competition: The Scion FRS, Toyota GT86, Subaru BRZ is not a cabriolet and feels so much larger. The Lotus Elise is more expensive and is 100% focused on the “Less is more” principle so it feels more brutal. The Porsche Boxster is twice as expensive.

Personally I would go for the 1.5 liter with the Skydrive option packet:

  • Doorpanels (upperside) & Mirrors in matching paintjob
  • Bluetooth, 2 USB ports, an AUX poort ans SD slot.
  • Audio adjustment buttons on the steering wheel
  • Cruise control (might be useful on a long drive home on the motorway)


Finding a better funfactor car for that price is close to impossible (taking secondhand cars of the equation)


The only real downside to picking the 1.5 instead of the 2.0 is the lack of a limited slip differential.

No easy manageable drifts… But that downside has an upside: you’ll burn through less tires.


Plus points:

  • Reliable fun car
  • Low fuel consumption and overall costs
  • Perfect 50/50 weight distribution
  • Gearbox


Plus points for the 1.5 liter

  • Super value for money


Plus points for the 2.0 liter

  • Perfect as a daily driver
  • Limited slip differential
  • All most full option is included for this model


Minus Points:

  • Takes about 4 months for your car to be delivered
  • Barely any storage space (it’s a roadster, what did you expect?)


Overall conclusion: The new MX-5 is another step towards the perfect, affordable roadster, a great driver’s car! The new generation has the looks to go with the driving fun! A job well done Mazda!

Pictures and Review: Jonas

Review was made possible by Stefaan Decock and his team at Deco Cars Kuurne

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