Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan
I never liked the MX-5 Miata. I never saw the charm, the allure, or the cult-like affection. It was just a small cramped roadster with a trunk the size of a peanut. The MX-5 didn’t tickle my fancy like it did to my other colleagues. I thoroughly enjoyed the top down motoring and scalpel sharp steering that it provided and was famous for, but I just couldn’t get over the miniscule power outputs and pint-sized stature – just one man’s opinion.
However my main issue with the last generation MX-5 (NC) was the uncomfortable ride and cramped driving position. Standing 6'1, I would open the driver’s door, bend down to the limit of my pant’s stretchy fibres, and sort of just, fall in. Nine times out of ten, I would bump my head against the fabric roof. Once inside, I would shut the door and instantly feel confined. My left elbow would nudge the door panel while my right hand would fumble about adjusting the steering wheel that refuses to telescope.
But here comes Mazda’s latest iteration, the fourth-gen MX-5 dubbed the ND, and it’s aimed to solve all of my problems. Maybe the fourth time’s the charm for the world’s best selling roadster, and I’ve been given the keys to a brand spanking new one for the week. Who knows? Like an arranged marriage, I might just fall in love if I give it a try.
The big theme for the 2016 MX-5 is weight loss. In a world where cars are getting bigger by the second, Mazda decides to do the opposite and downsize their roadster, which is like asking for a smaller television because you want to see less. At first glance, the new MX-5 seems to follow this analogy. It’s been redesigned from the ground up and is now smaller and produces less horsepower. The ND MX-5 sits lower to the ground and also has a shorter wheelbase than the NC. It doesn’t seem like the typical sports car formula does it?
You can see why I wasn’t exactly excited to drive one. But when you squint at the fine print and realize that it weighs 124 kg less than the last generation MX-5 and that it generates 8 lb-ft more torque, you start to see it all come together.
Mazda lowered the height of the front hood for better visibility and also made the front windshield much thinner to save weight. The gearbox was also given a hasty Jenny Craig diet and the new suspension comes lighter and more rigid. Bilstein shocks are standard on the GT trim level, as is a limited slip differential.
Now, the main reason why Miata enthusiasts flock incestuously towards it is because of the way the MX-5 handles. Even with a paltry 155 horsepower, the MX-5’s new gearbox is so well tuned with short gearing that it feels faster than the numbers suggest. Before you know it you’ll be up and over the speed limit into impound-territory.
The MX-5 performs nimbly, well balanced, and it feels neutral in the bends. The renowned hydraulic setup from the NC has been exiled and in its place is an electric steering rack. If the automotive world started with electric steering like this, I don’t think it would have received as much hate as it does today.
The feedback is wonderful and you can dance your way through corners like a ballerina. It’s never too tail-happy or front-end biased. Accompanied by a lovely engine note out its double-barrel shotgun exhaust pipes, the new MX-5 provides quite a joyous motoring experience.
As expected from a naturally aspirated four-pot, the soundtrack is similar to the old one. It feels just as fast too despite delivering less power. Mazda’s Induction Sound Enhancer feature also makes an appearance and takes the intake manifold pipes and delivers the engine noise closer to the front of the windshield – no fake speaker noises here.
The short-throw shifter on our 6-speed manual gearbox worked brilliantly and you can shift without even moving your wrist – it’s that light. A 6-speed automatic transmission is also available at no extra charge, but would you? It adds a drive selector switch and paddle shifters but it deletes the Bilstein shocks, LSD, and adds a 27 kg penalty. If you ask me, that’s hardly worth the trade for an easier downtown commute.
But one of the best attributes of this lightweight MX-5, and I’ve saved it for last, is that you can drive as spirited as you like and still achieve good fuel economy. Throughout the entire week, we didn’t even have to stop for gas despite the miniature 45 L tank. And we weren’t driving slow either. We managed 8.2 L/100km. Fun to drive and good on gas? Those are words you’d never find in the same sentence.
I’ve also come to love the soft-top folding mechanism. There are no electrical levers here, just a trusty throwback fabric blanket. You can pull the roof up or push it down in a matter of seconds, and you don’t need an arm the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s to operate it smoothly. Even if you're on the road and it starts raining, you can throw the roof up with ease – no more pulling over in embarrassment.
I don’t particularly agree with the arrangement of interior features. For the sake of a simplistic and clean dashboard, the cup holders are now placed far back in the center console, there’s no passenger side glove box, and audio controls are now placed where your right elbow normally rests – so it’s an easy accidental nudge before your favourite tune changes to the static voices from 680 AM NEWS.
On the bright side, there’s an abundance of interior space in the new ND MX-5, much more than the previous generations - I finally have enough headroom with the roof up. Thanks to clever packaging, you also get more legroom, the seat reclines to a higher degree, and you sit a whole 20mm lower to the ground.
The materials are solid, the infotainment system is responsive, and the steering wheel feels snug in your hands, even if the center of it eerily resembles those Rockets candies. The driver’s gauges are beautifully lit in a white glow and you even get integrated speakers on the headrest – how cool is that? The only time I’ve ever seen anything remotely similar was on our 2015 Infiniti Q70 tester that had Bose speakers on the seat’s shoulders.
The trunk magically grew too, stretching out 35mm longer and 36 mm deeper. You can now fit more luggage back there and there’s enough room for a pair of mid-size suitcases.
There are three trims available for the MX-5: GX ($31,900), GS ($35,300), and GT ($39,200). Our tester was the fully loaded GT trim that came with 17’ high lustre gunmetal alloy wheels, a convertible top cloth liner, leather seating surfaces, heated seats, a Bose premium audio system with 8-speakers and a subwoofer, air conditioning with auto climate controls, the multitude of aforementioned safety equipment, and heated exterior mirrors.
You don’t need all of that. The GT trim becomes too distracting with all the luxury and safety gizmos. I’d save the money and opt for the mid-way GS trim that already includes navigation, leather wrapped interior bits, an LSD, Bilstein shocks and 17-inch wheels.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive changes to the new MX-5, there are still a few items that annoy me: the uncomfortable and stiff ride, the overly clicky rotary dials, the unergonomic interior design, and the loud cabin. But I’ve come to realize that these aren’t reasons that would sway prospective MX-5 owners to another showroom. They’re looking for the pure, simplistic, and focused everyman’s roadster, and the MX-5 provides just that.
The Miata feels like any other open-top 2-seater on the daily 60-80 km/h commutes, but when the roads start to get twisty and the bends get sharper, the MX-5 comes alive. Though it doesn’t set my heart on fire, I finally see why people love it the way they do. It’s not trying to be a high-speed Ferrari, nor is it trying to wrap you snugly in the seats like a Mercedes-Benz. The new fourth-generation MX-5 doesn't try to be anything more than a fun and usable toy for the everyday motorist.
型号 Model: 2016 Mazda MX-5 GT
顏色 Paint Type: Soul Red Mica ($300)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $39,200
試車售價 Price as Tested: $39,500
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,309
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 3,914 / 1,918 / 1,234
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,058
引擎 Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.0L inline 4-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: Independent, double wishbone with coil springs and stabilizer bar
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Independent, multi-link with coil springs and stabilizer bar
煞制 Brakes: Power-assisted 4-wheel disc brakes with dual diagonal hydraulic circuits
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ): 8.8 / 6.9 L/100km
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption: 8.2 L/100km
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 205/45R17