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More love for the 2016 Mazda MX-5

The coming of the next MX-5 reminds of the impending release of the next Star Wars movie. From the moment these events were announced, fans foamed at the mouth for more. Ladies and gentlemen, fans and lovers of the most popular roadster in the history of the automobile, the next instalment of the Miata is here. I give you the ND.

The new 2016 ND MX-5 is in my top 5 best and most fun cars to drive. Beyond the smashing good looks is a philosophy that defies current convention: less of everything is more. I get chills at the thought of Mazda actually doing this… It is counter to the established car culture but is truly the right way to proceed. 

Cutting the fat
The reduced weight comes from many areas including but not limited to the body. The use of aluminum is extensive. The front fenders, roof mechanism and rear brace are only three new portions of the car structure that are now honed from the lightweight material. 

This is the SKYACTIV way, and I love it. Cutting excess fat is a recipe that’s common on racecars in order to vastly improve the given car’s power-to-weight ratio. Yes, I am saying that the MX-5 is (could be) a racecar

Horsepower and gears
On the subject of power, enough is in fact enough in the MX-5. The 2.0L’s maximum torque and horsepower have little inertia to tackle; the Miata’s momentum is easy to build. In the right conditions and with the right set of skills, the ND will reach 100km/hr in a tad over 6 seconds. Any way you look at this, it’s impressive.

The “new” gearbox’ is actually a 5-speed to which a 6th gear has been added. In the process, Mazda’s engineered the transmission so that all shift forks are on the same side, internally limiting the number of moving parts. The result is an easier shift action with less resistance and smoother transitions between gates. The revised seating position lines the pedals up with the driver, providing unrivalled ease for the old heel&toe. This combination alone makes driving a holy experience. 

In the end, the seat-of-pants go-fast feeling is that they’re about equal, but that is more the result of the NC’s rearward pitch under hard acceleration; the ND is definitely quicker. 

Chassis
Another aspect of the drive that blew me away is steering. The ND’s electronic assisted steering actually feels too light at first, but it quickly becomes ideal, as the weight builds in a nearly invisible linear way. Precision is scalpel-like and intuitively responsive. It took a few miles along the winding roads northwest of Hollywood before I tamed my unfounded concerns about the car’s handling abilities.  

Poised, comfortable, supple and sharp, and all at the same time; this is the uncanny result of equal parts complex and simple design. The new MX-5’s mix of relaxed cruising and track-focused abilities are a testament to the fact that one can have it all, in a roadster. 

NC vs. ND
Before I left for California (and upon my return), I was in possession of a grey GS NC 6-speed in order to get reacquainted with the MX-5’s driving character. Of the most notable differences, the driving position literally sticks out. In the NC, I felt boosted upwards and not sitting in the car, but on it. The ND, as I mentioned, is very different. 

And about the weight. The 80kgs (176lbs) difference between the two generations feels more like 400lbs! Every input from the driver is met with more immediacy, with sharper response, much like a go-kart, but without the inherent harshness. 

Mazda managed what should have been nearly impossible, and done so in a rather low-volume car. This MX-5’s setup and character will please the weekend cruisers and the weekend track warriors.

Despite all this performance, the car’s comfort level is excellent thanks also to the “special” seats. They are extra thin, utilizing a net setup within the seatback, offering incredible support. The driving position is nearly perfect and keep in mind that the steering wheel is still not telescoping. 

Wait for it
My tested GS ND’s on the event both featured the optional Sport Package (BBS wheels, Brembo brakes, heated Recaro seats -- available for the 2017 MY in early '16) and I thus can report that the large calipers and brake pads are far from grabby and never faltered under very hard driving through the Angeles National Forest. I know I’d spring for the kit if I were to buy a new MX-5. 

Do you want one?
More than you know. And those in the know, know. Here are a few facts: MX-5 buyers want an MX-5 and to the majority of them, there is no alternative. Although there are “competitors” to the MX-5, such as the VW GTI, Subaru BRZ, Camaro, Mustang and MINI Cooper, none will provide you with the same “feeling.” 

Curious about who buys an MX-5? 70% are male and they are in their 50s. 45%-50% of them take GTs, 20% latch on to a GX and 40% select the automatic...  

2016 Mazda MX-5
mazda mx-5 2016
2016 Mazda MX-5
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Photos:M.St-Pierre
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