Auto123.com - Helping you drive happy

Mazda MX-5: A roadster for the ages

By ,

Photo: S.D'Amour
2016 Mazda MX-5 GT

I’m no businessman, but I do understand a few principals: Companies that provide services or products that we like and routinely return for gain popularity, those products develop a reputation and eventually become incredibly successful. Think McDonald’s Big Mac, Starbucks’ Salted Caramel White Mocha (hold the whipped cream), Apple’s iPhone, Wal-Mart’s prices and selection, etc. 

Said products or services evolve for better if the business wants to survive. Some mistakes along the way are unavoidable (Crystal Pepsi, for example, although it looks like it’ll be making a comeback), but sometimes mistakes are never made. 

Enter the Mazda Miata. 

Perfection, albeit in the simplest form, was the goal early on in the car’s development. The fact of the matter is that the car’s overall design and build has changed very little in over 25 years. To be more precise, the concept of the MX-5 has stayed put, but the car has evolved. 


From the NA to the ND
When the opportunity to drive both the new 2016 ND and a 2015 NC MX-5 was handed to me, I jumped on the occasion. To drive the two back-to-back is the best way to experience what Mazda has done, and extremely well. I’d driven a 2015 25th Anniversary last fall and simply concluded that the MX-5 is irreplaceable. That was until I got both the 3rd (NC) and 4th (ND) generations together. 

For the fun of it, I asked a coworker to bring his track-ready 2nd gen NB for the day. I’d also made plans to get my hands on a pristine 1st gen NA, but Murphy wasn’t on my side as I couldn’t get the trunk to open to boost the car -- it had been sitting in storage for a few years so the battery was disconnected. Although that put a mild kink in my day, I was in for a treat. 

For a very short period of time, I was given the opportunity to drive an NA in the area surrounding Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Magic filled my heart for those all too brief minutes. The story behind the car is worth telling many times over. At this event, I was unable to get my hands on an NB, which happened to be a highly desirable Mazdaspeed Miata. I’ve reviewed both the 2004 and 2005 Mazdaspeeds and would love to have a go at one today, but they’re damn hard to find. 

Mean NB… Sorta. 
With all three Miatas lined up, I jumped into the NB, having already spent much time with the NC and ND. Although this is not an OE MX-5, it is highly representative of what thousands of owners do to their cars in order to prep them for weekend track meets. Despite the numerous modifications (list at the bottom of the page in case you’re curious), this car retains everything that made it great the moment it left the assembly line. The ride is one of two most notable changes. Gone are bodyroll and the MX-5’s signature compliant ride. This sharpens up steering response to a level that can only be truly appreciated on a track. The other major change is exhaust noise. Well, noise in general. 

The few external modifications done in the engine bay translate into a very modest gain in power, but the secret to the Miata is momentum. The suspension permits more speed in corners so a set of skilled hands will make this car feel much faster than the stock item. 

This is no longer a roadster for cruising with you significant other. No, it’s for the guy or gal who revels at the thought of carving mountain passes and country roads. 

NC: The bus of Miatas
Size-wise, the ND resembles the NB whereas the NC looks far larger. On the subject of volume, the differences between the NC and ND are very obvious, and on many levels. Miatas have always been known for their snug, intimate cabins. I’ve learned there are different echelons of close-fitting areas. The NC feels like a glove whereas the ND, well, it’s more like slipping on a condom, a second skin, if you will. 
The most apparent hint is where I am positioned in relation to the windshield frame. The brim of my baseball cap is centimetres away in the NC while it’s millimetres away in the ND. In the new car, passengers sit lower and closer to the middle of the car. From here, the ND is far more modern than the NC, and this is a good thing for tech-hungry new car buyers. 

It’s really all about the drive though. The 3rd gen Miata drools at the thought of tackling a road. Its steering is sharp, throttle is responsive, brakes are at the ready, and off you go. The ride is cozy, plush even, but the fun-to-drive factor still registers high on the scale. 

I’ve loved the NC since our first meeting when I spent a week with a 2006 MX-5 Limited that happened to be car #0001! In a street comparison test and a track shootout we did a few years ago, the Miata was up against some tough competition, and despite being the least powerful and oldest car of the bunch it finished mid-pack overall. That’s saying a boatload about the small roadster. 

New is better
Be that as it may, and however good the NC is and was, the new ND crushed it in almost every conceivable respect. Styling is subjective, but what is not is throttle response, an impressively well-sorted chassis, and a fantastic powertrain. 

From the moment I get behind the wheel of the new car, the 2015 felt like a bus in comparison. The driving position is tell-all as are all the controls. 

Mazda’s engineered lightness and tactility into everything. The shifter’s lithe, the steering’s haptic, and the throttle’s dialed into your soul. The ND is energy contained in a compact body waiting to be released by the driver’s simple will. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. 

And the best Miata is…?
The latest MX-5 is the paramount of the four generations. The original cannot be faulted for any reason since it set the tone for amazing things to come; it is and always will be the Miata by which all others are measured. If I were to set an order to the Miatas, it would look like this:

#1 NA
#2 ND
#3 NB
#4 NC

I think Mazda was aware they’d somewhat lost their way with the 2006-‘15 MX-5 and this explains why they hit one out of the park with the new car. It is, without a doubt, one of the best cars in the world. Period. 

I’ve written loads on the new car, and I can assure you that I’m not done. Besides my first drive review, I detailed some highlights in another story and even went so far as to enumerate my top 10 favourites aspects of the car. Thought I’d give you a little more reading material. 

NB Modifications:

Suspension:

  • Ground Control suspension (Koni Race + Eibach ERS)
  • Mazdaspeed suspension bushings
  • Larger front sway bar
  • Konig Dial-in 15”x9” 
  • P225/45R15 Hankook RS3 tires 

Engine:

  • AEM cold air intake AEM
  • Headers 
  • 2.5" exhaust line
  • Urethane engine mounts
  • Copper shifter bushings

Brakes:

  • Stock disc brakes
  • Carbotech XP-8 brake pads

Safety:

  • Hard Dog roll hoop
  • 6-point harness
  • OMP ARS racing driver seat
  • Sparco Sprint passenger seat
2016 Mazda MX-5
mazda mx-5 2016
2016 Mazda MX-5
Review this Vehicle
Styling
Accessories
Space and Access
Comfort
Performance
Driving Dynamics
Safety
General Appreciation
Name
Email
Comment
Password
Forgot your password? Click here
Cancel
Photos:S.D'Amour
2016 Mazda MX-5 pictures