2016 Mazda MX-5 GS Review and Road Test

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS

We take another look at Mazda’s iconic sports car

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Miata Is Always The Answer.

For years, enthusiasts have always claimed that Mazda’s Miata (now known simply as the MX-5) is an acronym that proves no matter the situation, no matter what automotive conundrum is being explored, the answer to any question is always the MX-5. If you were asking what’s the best vehicle to tow 10 tonnes of roof shingles, or how to get eight hyperactive kids to a birthday party, we’d probably not answer “the MX-5 should do the trick.” If, however, the question asked has anything to do with having fun or establishing that intangible connection between driver and machine, it would be difficult to answer anything but MX-5. As of this writing, one million people agree- they recently reached that production milestone which makes it the most popular roadster ever.

Well, racers have always liked them.

Indeed. It’s been said that the MX-5 is the most raced car across North America, and show up to a local sports car club track day or likewise sanctioned event and we’d bet dollars to doughnuts that there will be at least a few MX-5’s sprinkled throughout the paddock. It is not difficult to see why; even in bone stock trim, the MX-5 is one of those cars that is impossible to avoid a smile spreading across your face. They can be made even better for the track with a few simple (and affordable) modifications.

How’s this one different from the last ND MX-5 that was in the Carpages Garage not so long ago?

While we look for any excuse we can to ask Mazda for the keys to this little funster (“Hey, they’ve got a few new colours on offer- time for another Road Test!”) this time around we wanted to try one out with the Sport package ($4,400). It includes tasty bits like a limited slip differential, Bilstein shocks, sticky Bridgestone Potenza SO-1 tires mounted on handsome black BBS wheels and Recaro buckets that somehow remain comfortable after long stints behind the wheel but hold occupants firmly in place when the road gets squiggly. Driving around town, you’d never notice the difference these gubbins impart. But take the MX-5 out on some curvaceous tarmac and you can certainly feel the impact they make. When powering out of slow corners, the limited slip diff apportions the power much better than stock and allows you to get back on the gas earlier and harder. The brakes are modulated by a pedal with great feel and are utterly unfazed by the MX-5’s svelte curb weight- we never detected even a hint of fade. There’s still a lot of body roll, but the Bilsteins help to make sure that once the chassis takes a set, it stays there, only deviating from your intended line if you play with steering input or breathe on or off the throttle. It’s hard to describe how rewarding it is to drive something that responds so faithfully to inputs without layers of electronics second guessing the diver’s decisions in favour of pre-programmed algorithms.

 OK, understood- it’s a fun car to drive.

While that sums up the MX-5 fairly well, a deeper dive into what makes this car so memorable is necessary. Take the controls, for instance. The steering, shifter and pedals all operate with a slick precision and yet they have a delicate feel to them. Not delicate as in, “it feels like the gear lever will break off in my hand” kind of thing, just that you don’t need to hamfist your way through gearchanges or require anything more than a twitch of the wrists when changing direction. Speaking of the gearbox, its one of the true gems found across the automotive landscape. If there’s a car out there for sale today that allows for such an intimate connection between car and driver, let us know; we’d like to see it. There’s no Sport Mode, no adaptive suspension. Even while manufacturers increasingly offer stability control with varying degrees of aggressiveness and intervention, the MX-5’s offers just two settings- On and Off. The engine, which sees duty in other Mazda products from the Mazda 3 to the CX-5, feels special in this application. It sounds inspiring and feels like it has flypaper for a flywheel- it’s that eager to build revs. In fact, the redline in only 6,500 rpm but it feels like it could wind itself out way beyond that spot on the tach. The 2.0 four seems happiest in the MX-5, and it only has 1,058 kilos to move around so it never feels stressed.

What might go wrong?

If you’re over 6”2, we urge you to head to your local Mazda dealer to see if you can fit in the thing before you break out your cheque book. The seats only have so far to slide back, and you might find yourself at eye level with the top of the windscreen. On sunny days, make sure you wear a hat or you’ll get a very narrow area of forehead painfully sunburned. Speaking of getting comfortable in the MX-5 cockpit, we’d add a telescoping steering column to our wish list too. And as is the case with every MX-5 that has proceeded our tester, pack light for long trips- there isn’t much room to take stuff along. A heads up to golfers- you’ll be heading the course solo because your golf clubs will be riding shotgun.

Should I buy an MX-5?

While it will work for some, the MX-5 is not perhaps your ideal daily driver if you put an emphasis on practicality (but you could for most situations.) It might not be the best choice to use as a means to pick up a bunch of dry cleaning or a week’s worth of groceries, nor would it be ideal to head on a Canadian coast-to-coast journey with your significant other (unless you both can stuff your worldly possessions and clothing into a gym bag.) But on a sunny day, top down, your favourite road or racetrack unfurling in front of you, there are few cars that have the MX-5 beat. If it’s an enthusiast asking the questions, then the answer really is always Miata.

2016 Mazda MX-5 GS- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $41,795
  • Body Type: 2-door, 2 passenger roadster
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear wheel drive
  • Engine:  2.0-litre inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower: 155 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 148 @ 4,600 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Curb weight: 1,058 kg (2,332 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 9L/100km (26 mpg)