If there is one constant in the automotive world, it is that every redesigned vehicle gets bigger, more powerful, heavier and more complex. Bucking that trend is Mazda’s latest MX-5, one of the smallest and lightest cars sold in the United States.
Since the launch of the Miata in 1989, Mazda’s tiny roadster has been a beacon of light to those who prefer a “pure” driving experience. The MX-5’s core mission of being an affordable, lightweight, two-seat convertible has hardly changed. More impressive: The 2016 MX-5 is about the same size as the original Miata, and the new roadster is only 182 pounds heavier despite producing 50-percent more power and being 30-percent more fuel efficient. The price tag has also been kept in check. The 2016 model still costs about the same as a mid-sized sedan.
Making the MX-5 even more special is that it stands alone in America. Sure, Alfa is now selling their sexy and expensive 4C here, BMW still has a Z4 roadster, and Scion and Subaru are selling their two-door coupé — but none of these are like the MX-5 and that’s a good thing for Mazda.
Mazda just can’t quit the rotary. Magical spinning Doritos are such a significant part of their DNA that, in spite of overwhelming evidence against the Wankel existence thanks to its appetite for fuel, oil, and apex seals, they keep a team of engineers developing it.
In theory, the rotary is the perfect engine for a sportscar. Lightweight, rev-happy, and reasonably powerful — exactly the attributes needed for a lithe corner carver. Back in the late ’80s, just as another enthusiast-focused Mazda was coming on the scene, a special edition RX7 was released. Rather than tape stripes and excess frills, this one came stripped of excess weight, and loaded with performance goodies.
Whenever I talk to car shoppers, the Mazda6 comes up. No, it’s not because people are confused if it’s a “Mazda 6” or a “Mazda6” or a “Mazda Mazda6.” Although, it does top the Land Rover Range Rover Sport Autobiography for the strangest name on the market. (I prefer to call it a Mazda6.) The reason Mazda’s mid-sized sedan comes up, is because it seems to be a car often shopped, but rarely purchased. In June, it scored 14th in sales for the segment. Surprised? I was. Even the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger (9th and 12th place) outsold it by a wide margin. The low sales numbers piqued my interest enough that I hit Mazda up for a cherry red model to see why.