2016 Mazda MX-5 GS
Mazda’s 4th generation roadster continues to delight
So the world has a new MX-5. What’s the big deal about a car that only 511 Canadians bought last year and has almost no room to put stuff?
If you judge the goodness of the MX-5 based on sales numbers or how practical it is, please move on- this car isn’t for you, not to mention that the point of this little funster has been missed entirely. The MX-5 holds steadfastly to the fundamental recipe old-school British roadsters brought to the motoring world decades ago: build a light weight car whose sole focus is to enjoy the act of driving. The major difference here is that the MX-5 actually works instead of quietly rusting away while leaving a pool of oil on the garage floor. The MX-5 then, is a direct descendant of the original niche vehicle. And while there is scant space to put your stuff, there are ways around this problem. Golf clubs can be wedged into the passenger footwell and we’ve seen ingenious racking systems that’ll let you take a couple of bikes along to your destination.
Is it any better than the last generation?
Yes. Admittedly, we were a bit disappointed to hear that the current model has less power than the outgoing one (155hp vs 167) but delighted at other things it didn’t have- turbos, unnecessary weight gain, ridiculously sized wheels and tires. Those are all things that are so en vogue with automakers these days in the relentless hunt for more efficiency and lower L/100km consumption figures coupled to a “sporty” experience. Almost 100% of the time when a car is replaced by a successor, said car has usually grown in every dimension, including weight. Not so with the MX-5. Not only does it retain the same overall footprint (actually getting a bit smaller in some areas) but the engineers were somehow able to find further weight savings. This strategy bordered on the obsessive, with stuff like changing the bolt pattern on the wheels to 4 lug instead of 5 in the name of whittling away a few extraneous grams. Fun Fact: The MX-5 is perhaps the only car on the road today that is impossibly close to the version that started it all back in 1989. In an era of increased electronics, higher crash standards and the general bloat that’s effecting all cars these days, this is a particularly noteworthy feat. Speaking of electronics, Mazda fits each MX-5 with its excellent HMI infotainment system that is a stress-free joy to use.
So it makes less power than before, but is the Skyactiv engine really suited to the MX-5?
Donated by the Mazda3/CX-5, the 2.0 litre four doesn’t come from stock that inspires a thorough wringing out while storming a favourite back road. Still, it changes its character dramatically when installed under the hood and tuned longitudinally for rear-drive. Drivers will find the engine is eager to rev and despite a deficit of low end torque, feels happy just about anywhere in its operating range. It even sounds pretty good, too. We mentioned that the new 2.0 litre is less powerful than the previous version, but bar stool racers, take heart- it’s the quickest MX-5 to date, even breaking into the high five second bracket on the sprint to 100km/h. It’s efficient as well; during a week of frequent charges to the redline, we saw a thrifty 8.1L/100km.
What, no power top?
While the last version did have the option of a power retractable hardtop, the 2016 MX-5 will go without. Guess what? It doesn’t need one at all. Not only is the top super easy to lower (flip but one latch) but it can be done while sitting in the driver’s seat. It doesn’t get much easier than that, folks. It even keeps the cabin reasonably quiet when cruising with the top up, and you save weight and the complexity of having a power mechanism.
OK, but what’s it like to drive?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the MX-5’s raison d’etre is how rewarding it is to drive. We often fret about the relentless march of automotive technology and how it dulls and insulates drivers from the most interesting feedback from tires, suspension and chassis. That isolation is nowhere to be found behind the wheel of an MX-5. It’s a tried cliché, but every component of the car hardwires itself into your nervous system until it feels like an extension of your body. The shifter is typical snick-snick precise, the pedals are perfectly spaced and the steering wheel falls perfectly to the hands- it’s connected to one of the most natural feeling electronic power steering racks on the road today. During our short late-summer tenure with the car, we experienced one of life’s perfect moments for a car enthusiast- snaking the MX-5 up a sinewy road, scything from apex to apex as the sun disappeared behind the horizon while the perfume of freshly cut grass permeated the cockpit. It really was one of those “everything comes together” moments. This automotive nirvana makes it difficult to complain about the fact that taller drivers really have to shoehorn themselves into the thing, that it emits more wind and tire noise than we’d like or that the interface for the infotainment system is a bit of an awkward reach. After a few kilometers of driving one of these, the biggest concern you’ll have to deal with is how to wipe that silly grin of your face.
2016 Mazda MX-5 GS- Specifications
- Price as tested: $37,295
- 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: 1,058g (2,332 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 8.1L/100km (29 mpg)