One in an occasional series reviewing consumer vehicles that are powered by water, natural gas, electricity, hybrid motors, high-efficiency gasoline engines or some other alternative source.
After a week and one day with a 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata—in Soul Red Metallic with a black cloth convertible top, no less—I have concluded it should be the box that holds my midlife crisis.
Even my long-retired neighbors remarked that the two-seater was the best-looking car that has been dropped off in front of my house for these reviews.
Yes, how I must toil for you, the home viewer. Speaking of which, I hereby decree the MX-5 fit for this column because of its 30 mpg fuel economy (34 highway, 27 city) and score of 7 out of 10 on the EPA's fuel economy and greenhouse gas rating. Besides, you know how daddy loves him some convertible.
But this Grand Touring MX-5 looked smaller than the one I remembered at April’s Grand Prix, proving my theory that everything looks bigger inside the Long Beach Convention Center. The smallness was compounded the first time I took it down the 73 freeway and shifted the Skyactiv manual transmission from fourth to fifth gear, as my right pinky finger wrapped around the leather-handled shifter brushed up against the leather-wrapped parking brake handle.
My notion that I was in a slightly larger version of a Matchbox toy was immediately forgotten thanks to the burst of power I experienced going from fourth to fifth and then from fifth to sixth. Actually, shifting from first to second and then second to third pack their own awesome bursts of power, despite the RPM dropping each time.
In case you haven’t noticed, Mazda has gone from the ads years ago about the rotary engine that goes “mmmm” to highlighting the enjoyable driving experience ala the current catchphrase “zoom-zoom.” A little digging reveals that for the ’16 MX-5, the motoring jonesing comes courtesy of turbocharger and supercharger improvements, gaining power through an entirely new exhaust system and increasing the air intake flow to add torque, horsepower and increased acceleration.
Despite those boosts to further push the Skyactiv-G, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, the ride is surprisingly stable. I took those curves near Fairview Park in Costa Mesa as fast as I could get away with and never felt any skidding skittishness. Chalk that up the Dynamic Stability Control, a Traction Control System, front and rear stabilizer bars, Double-Pinion Electronic Power Assist Steering, front double wishbone suspension and rear multi-link suspension.
Meanwhile, the 17-inch alloy wheels and high performance tires gripped the road—and brought the lil' beast to a stop. Credit an anti-lock braking system, with front ventilated disc brakes, rear solid disc brakes and a new, lighter flywheel that makes downshifting and stopping quite smooth. And precise. The last manual transmission I drove (about a year ago) required giving oneself ample room between that sedan and the vehicle in front of it. The first time I quickly downshifted and braked in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 405, expecting the same roomy performance, the MX-5 instead stopped on a dime. I was not ready for it but learned to love and appreciate it, especially while putting the car through its paces.
Needless to say, it’s a helluva fun car to drive. It actually made me want to go to work—and make up ever more detours for longer rides home. "Keep the dinner warm, honey, I'm in TJ!" Heck, if I had an MX-5, I’d chuck all this ivory tower journalism lavishness for a gig as a traveling salesman. Anyone still buying encyclopedias?
Vying for your attention inside the car is the Bose AM/FM/CD high definition sound system with nine speakers and two USB jacks and Sirius/XM satellite radio, which you can unwind to in comfortable (and heated, if necessary) leather seats.
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It’s amazing how many goodies are packed into such a small ride. Mine included: a trip computer, cruise control, air conditioning, power windows, power-lock doors, power-side mirrors, remote keyless entry, push-button ignition, dual vanity mirrors, heated side mirrors, auto-dimming rearview and driver side mirrors, carpeted floor mats, rear-glass window defogger, rain-sensing windshield wipers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, front and side air bags, anti-theft engine immobilizer, side impact door beams, a lane departure warning system, Bluetooth hands-free audio and phone controls and the Mazda navigation system with 7-inch touch color display.
There are even two cup holders about mid-shoulder level and, behind that, a center console storage area making up for the lack of a glove box. Headlights, taillights and daytime running lights are all LED. The MX-5 comes with 24-7 roadside assistance, an anti-theft alarm, blind spot, tire pressure and rear cross traffic alert monitoring systems, a 60-month or 60,000-mile powertrain warranty and a 36-month or 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
The total retail price for all of that would be slightly over $30,000 but my loaner had other options—including an interior lighting kit, an advanced keyless entry system, interior design features and that aforementioned Soul Red Metallic paint—that added just over another grand. Total retail price plus delivery, processing and handling fees for my ride: $32,090.
That's pretty reasonable when you consider much more expensive mid-life crisis options.