Top: 2016 Mazda MX-5; middle: 1990 Mazda Miata and 2015 Mazda MX-5; bottom: NA (1st gen) and ND (4th gen) chassis comparison. Click image to enlarge
Preview and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
Marina, California – Mazda has again invited us down for another stage of the Mazda MX-5 rollout. If you recall, Mazda introduced the chassis back in April at the New York Auto Show, the same inevitable front engine, rear-drive layout we have come to know in past Miata and MX-5 generations. The side-by-side views of this chassis (ND) with the original (NA) show remarkable similarities. Same principles, advancing application, technology and materials.
After a brief drive in the original Miata – and by original, I mean THE ORIGINAL MIATA, the exact car that rolled onto the stage at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show (the blue one). After five minutes in this priceless, living museum artifact on the roads around Monterey’s famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, it was abundantly clear, and I said to my colleague, one of the veterans who was on the launch of the first generation: “They got this right the first time around, didn’t they?” He didn’t need any convincing.
But in case anyone did need any convincing, they also sent us out for Skip Barber Racing School in lightly tuned third-generation (NC) MX-5s on the famed race track to get a taste of its ultimate capabilities, balance and performance that have made it a favourite of amateur and professional racers. I didn’t really need any more convincing after my recent MX-5 Adventure, but I’m always up for a little more convincing like that when it means I got to drive the famed Corkscrew.
The MX-5 is quite simply, one of the best performance-per-dollar machines out there, and has been for 25 years. No surprise then that so many of the previews of the next generation are by owners and admitted Miata fanboys. Once you drive it, you get it.
2016 Mazda MX-5. Click image to enlarge
Anyhow, what will take some convincing of Miata fans are its looks. This is by far the most aggressive-looking Miata. It looks unquestionably like a sports car, where previous generations went from goofily cute to sleek and cute then back to cute with a touch of rippling muscle. It’s going to be hard to call this one cute. Kodo has given the iconic roadster sharp creases, taut panels and fenders, and a pointed, sloping front hood with some sinuous contours to give us the sexiest Miata yet. It seems to recall various great roadsters and sports cars on the market and of the past, yet finds a unique mix that works for its petite size and sharp driving dynamics.