It seems like ages ago that Mazda first broke news of the fourth-generation MX-5, affectionately referred to as the “ND” by car geeks for its chassis code, via a teaser videoand some cryptic messaging. Now that units have finally started finding their way from dealership lots into buyers’ eager hands, let’s have a look at just how much, or as it turns out, how little, things have changed since the original NA Miata first made an appearance on our shores way back in 1989.
With today’s stringent safety and emissions regulations, it’s common for new vehicles to be bigger and significantly heavier than their predecessors. The latest Miata bucks this trend by actually being shorter than the original, by 33 millimetres, and has lost approximately 68 kilograms compared to the outgoing model. That means it’s only 83 kg heavier than the featherweight first generation.
There are sadly no more pop-up headlights, replaced by swoopy KODO Soul of Motioninspired flush mounted units. But like the NA, the 2016 MX-5 comes standard with a manually operated soft top. Before you complain about losing the previous slick Power Retractable Hard Top (PHRT), the current top can be raised and lowered easily using just one hand, and the whole operation takes a few seconds without having to leave the driver’s seat.
While the first three iterations featured an instrument cluster and dash layout that really didn’t change that much, the ND catches up with the times by integrating a digital information screen next to the tachometer and adding a touchscreen infotainment interface. You still get supportive seats and a driver-focused cabin, and most basic operations like locking/unlocking doors and adjusting windows and mirrors are now motorized across the board.
Keeping in line with the other contemporary Mazda offerings, the Miata now features a complete fuel saving and performance boosting SKYACTIV suite centered around a 155 horsepower engine making 148 lb-ft of torque. That’s a sizeable boost when you consider the car once made 116 hp and 100 lb-ft. And even though a six-speed automatic transmission with optional paddle shifters are available, for maximum fun factor you’ll want the six-speed manual that feels as satisfying to shift as ever.
Balance has always been a staple for the sultry roadster and it remains so with a front engine/rear-wheel drive configuration, near 50/50 weight distribution, and independent suspension. Safety features have also been modernized with all trims receiving anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, traction and dynamic stability control and driver/passenger/side airbags.
The 2016 Mazda MX-5 is available now and starts at $31,900.