WASHINGTON — It wasn’t long ago I was basking in the sun driving the new Mazda MX-5 Miata before it went on sale to the public. I enjoyed the nimble handling and peppy acceleration from a small four-cylinder engine and sweet shifting manual transmission.
But summer ended, and now it was time to spend a week with a convertible — not prime top-down weather.
Luckily, the 2016 Miata Grand Touring has a more supple suspension than the Club model I drove over the summer. The Grand Touring is set up for long drives on winding roads and has heated leather seats and a good heater that allowed me a few days of top-down driving. Wind noise and buffeting is improved from previous generations.
It felt a little strange to have NAV in a Miata. It’s standard if you choose the top-of-the-line $30,065 Grand Touring trim level. You also get some new safety features such as rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor and lane departure warning, but be warned — you can’t hear it with the top down at 65 mph. Having all these features and options is very different from early Miatas that could be bought with no AC and steel wheels in the early 1990s.
The look of the new Mazda MX-5 Miata is also a big change from the past. The new car looks a bit angry in the front end, whereas past Miatas looked like happy, smiling cars. I have to say I like the look of this car, but a few colleagues, including a first-generation Miata owner liked the old look better. But another Miata owner I work with loved the style and wanted to take it home.
The new styling looks more athletic and toned than before; it’s a more down-to-business small, sporty roadster without much wasted space or extra materials that would weigh the car down. This is a small two-seat car, and when you park next to say, a 2014 Miata, you can really tell that this new car is smaller — and smaller than just about anything in the parking lot. Good luck finding it.
The cabin with the top up is better than before, but it’s not very quiet. There is still some wind and road noise, but it’s an improvement.
What really hit me with this car is ease of operation, from the simple folding manual cloth top to the slick-shifting manual transmission; if you must, you can choose an automatic. This is a driver’s car with good handling that, with some body lean, seems like you’re going faster than you really are, especially on back roads. The suspension doesn’t beat you up, either. Bigger bumps don’t upset the car as they did prior Miatas. The whole car seems to have a stiffer, less shaky structure on bumpy roads.
You feel connected to the road in this quick little car, and it’s able to get in small spaces and has no trouble merging with traffic — you just hope they can see you. I even managed 29.4 mpg of mixed driving for my week of top-down motoring, and I mixed in a good dose of back roads as well as the daily commute.
The new MX-5 Miata is a restyled and reborn roadster that is good fun and sporty to drive. Improved handling and a diet help make this a more serious sports car that makes you want to add this as your second car to spice up your driving life.