By on April 24, 2015

Mazda North American Operations MX5Club

Owners of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will experience better fuel economy compared to the outgoing 2015 model.

Those who choose to pair the roadster’s 2.0-liter Skyactiv I4 with a six-speed automatic will see EPA-rated numbers of 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined, according to Edmunds. Those who pick the manual six-speed, meanwhile, will the same mpg figures in the city and combined, but lose 2 mpg on the highway.

The new ratings are a 29 percent improvement over the 2015 model, whose six-speed auto or manual/2.0-liter I4 combo netted 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined; the five-speed manual had the same highway figure, but gained 1 mpg in the city and 2 mpg combined in comparison.

The improvements are likely linked to the loss of 150 pounds in weight for both 2016 variants, coming to 2,332 for the manual and 2,381 for the auto.

As far as what else the MX-5 Miata has in store for new and old fans alike, Jack Baruth went behind-the-scenes not too long ago to bring back his impressions on the next-gen roadster.

[Photo credit: Mazda]

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41 Comments on “2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Improves Over 2015 Model In Fuel Economy...”


  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I’m thoroughly shocked.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The real news here is Mazda’s really wacky approach to gearing in the manual trans. 1st is a granny gear, 6th is 1:1, and the diff is a 2.87.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      In the end, does it really matter where you get your gear reduction (in the box or in the diff)? I guess it would maybe be easy to get much tighter ratios by finding an off the shelf 3.x rear end where I need a 4.55 or something on my FR-S for tighter gearing… and that is only a 10% bump.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        IIRC there might be some advantage to running a numerically lower final drive when it comes to power absorbtion. It’s been a good long while since I read that in a MM&FF magazine though so I don’t know if that was just anecdotal observation or something that had been verified.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Overall probably not, but it does have some mechanical impacts. The pinion gear for a 2.87 is a lot larger than a 4.10 with the same size ring gear, so the diff housing will be larger and have a greater pinion offset. A 5.xx 1st gear is a lot to ask the synchros to match up in a car expected to be driven vigorously and shifted quickly.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Bumpii, good point, I didn’t think about the synchros having to soak up that large shaft speed difference. I was more thinking about the diff side like raph was thinking.

          • 0 avatar
            pragmatic

            How often are you shifting into first when not at a stop. I’d rather have the direct top so there is little transmission wear going down the highway. As far as losses I think the direct top would make up for the losses in the differential.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            2->1 or even 3->1 is not uncommon on a tight autocross course, and 1st will be in even more demand with the tall final drive.

          • 0 avatar
            pragmatic

            But with the lower rear (4:56?) even on a tight course shifts into first would not be common.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            True, you could swap out the stock 2.87 rear for something shorter, but most folks won’t go that far unless it’s a dedicated autox build.

          • 0 avatar
            pragmatic

            I typed before I thought. After logging off this morning it dawned on me that the rear should be in the high 2s not the mid-4s. So yes there is more strain on the synchros but I don’t think Mazda is sweating it because other than autoX their drivers would not strain the synchros during normal driving.

            I should have known this since my Lincoln has a 3.07 rear while the automatic cars, with OD had a 3.58

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      6th is 1:1 so no real overdrive? No wonder the highway mileage suffers.

      • 0 avatar
        Bangernomist

        Actually a 1:1 top gear improves highway mileage by making the gearbox a direct drive, minimizing losses from gear friction. BMW has used 1:1 top gear with a tall final drive at least since the E36.

      • 0 avatar
        NeilM

        @JMII: You need to reread raph’s post. He’s spot on that it doesn’t matter where the combined total gearing comes from, only what it ends up as. Similarly a higher than 1:1 (e.g. the 6th gear 0.86:1 in one of my cars) top gear does not define an overdrive, which is, in any case, an increasingly meaningless term.

        If we must use the term, the best definition of overdrive I’ve ever read is where the max speed attainable in top gear is lower than in the preceding gear. That illustrates the case where the overdrive gear exists solely to keep highway rpm lower.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    Glad to see Skyactiv continue to pay dividends for Mazda. It was a bold decision to focus on IC and aero improvements and weight management when everyone else was investing heavily in hybrid and electric powertrain development.

  • avatar

    I’m glad they were finally able to get decent fuel economy out of a tiny, light, small engined car. Having owned a 94, 97, 03 Protege and a 92 Miata, I wish I the engine was doing less than 3000 rpm at 65 mph. Can’t wait to pick one of these up in 20 years.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    I’ve never understood the abysmal fuel economy of the MX5. It’s a tiny, lightweight car that — until now — could only average mid 20s mpg? The outgoing model has virtually the same EPA mileage as the old V6 Mustang, which is miles bigger, heavier, and more powerful.

    I mean hell, the MX5 had an identical mpg rating to the Mazda 5 – a three-row minivan. (Again, bigger car, less aerodynamic, and bigger engine.) WTF were the engineers thinking? Is it that difficult to give the car a highway gear?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Suto nailed it, the gearing playes a big roll when an engine is spinning at higher RPM it’s experiencing a higher load consuming more air and fuel.

      GM has been leveraging the low rpm, low load, and low consumption for years. In combination with cylinder deactivation and variable valve timing even a large displacement engine like the LS and LT engines can return excellent real world economy.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        You bet they can. My best mileage run on my manual C7 was 32 MPG. And that was with a totally green engine. Of course, luxuriating in that endless well of torque returns 14, but that’s cheaper than a therapist so its a fair deal

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      It is called teaching to the test. Looking at 2014 V6 Mustangs*, the bell curve is centered around 21/22mpg. Looking at 2013 Miatas, the bell curve is centered around 28/29mpg. The EPA is a well known test that has prescribed patterns.

      *I used 2014 Mustang because it had 86 datapoints. I used 2013 Miata because it had 21 datapoints.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        GM knows all about teaching to the test.

        My 2013 Chevy Equinox LT (with the 2.4) runs at around 1,300rpm while traveling 55 MPH on county back roads here in Wisconsin. I’ve seen honest to god 33-35 real world (the driver information center is at least 10% optimistic) good old fashioned pencil and paper Miles Per Gallon taking these back roads.

        The moment I jump onto what is soon to be Interstate 41 and drive the 65 MPH limit on cruise, the engine is doing nearly 2,000rpm and I’ve NEVER seen better than 27 MPG (and that’s often a stretch, most of my tanks are 70%+ highway and I tend to average around 25 MPG) highway when going this route.

        TTAC wrote a fantastic article about this years ago, an article I referenced multiple times before making my purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      The version of the MZR 2.0L in the previous Miata was hot tuned compared to the same engine in the Mazda3 at the time. They sacrificed fuel economy for power. This new one is the same economy tuned version from the current Mazda3, that’s why this new MX-5 makes less horsepower than the previous one.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      What almost everyone refuses to understand about the Miata is that it is inherently NOT aerodynamic. A Mazda 5 gets better gas mileage on the highway because it has a lower drag coefficient. Short cars, especially with no roof, have a lot of trouble managing airflow. This is the reason for both the poor gas mileage and the high revs on the highway (low power and the need to overcome lots of wind resistance at highway speeds). They could raise the gearing, and then it wouldn’t act like a sports car anymore, and would make poorer use of the meager power it has.

      Giving it gearing that lets it stay in the powerband is exactly one of the reasons why it’s so much fun to drive. Note that on the NB generation, the optional 6 speed turned almost the same RPM on the highway as the 5 speed. That’s because the extra gear was better put to use to let the engine stay in its powerband better, and cut the 0-60 time by about half a second over the 5 speed’s, than to use it to turn lower revs on the highway.

      The Miata’s short gearing is not an accident.

      As has been explained, the new generation couples a 1:1 direct drive top gear with a much taller rear end ratio to minimize drivetrain losses in its cruising gear. I imagine that the overall ratio (gear ratio multiplied by final drive) is similar to the old one.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        You may have something there…so why does it still get 2 mpg worse than a Mazda3 on the city cycle? 450 (more like 500…) pounds lighter so you don’t have your foot anywhere as deep into it to attain the same acceleration rates in the repeated stop/starts in that cycle, and aerodynamics has minimal effect at those speeds, so…?

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          Possibilities off the top of my head: engine tuning that makes it make more power up top makes it less efficient down low (in the past, Miatas have had valve train changes to move the powerband upward), more performance-oriented tires, the shorter gearing, and RWD, which is less efficient than FWD.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    “The improvements are likely linked to the loss of 150 pounds in weight for both 2016 variants”

    No, it’s simply because the new car has switched to a Skyactiv engine instead of the old MZR. These numbers are actually kind of disappointing considering the same engine gets 29 city/41 highway in the Mazda3, a car that weighs 450 lbs more than this. Gearing and aero I suppose.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      It’s a tiny convertible; I’m sure it has horrible aero.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny ro

      Thank you.

      I have an NC and am thinking hard about tossing the factory exhaust manifold with its short, crimped tubes for a long tube aftermarket replacement. Skyactive has long tube headers as one of its basic strategies.

      People do engine transplants in NC Miatas, usually a 2.5 liter from another Mazda car for large power gain. The 2.5s have FOMOCO cast into their sides down low on the block.

      Somewhere, someday, someone will transplant a Skyactive into an NC, or try, for MPG gain. Well, maybe not.

    • 0 avatar
      otaku

      Pretty sure my 2008 Ford Focus coupe uses a less fancy version of Mazda’s old 2 Litre MZR engine. Ford ditched Mazda’s valve timing system, tuned it for a bit more low end torque, installed it in a lighter chassis than the (previous generation) Mazda 3, improved the aerodynamics a little, set it up with a lower final drive ratio, and achieved better highway fuel economy figures.

      Mine is just a simple, old-fashioned four-speed auto, but it can cruise at 70mph turning right around 2500RPM. My most recent 200 mile highway run had the trip computer showing a little over 43mpg. Even if you account for something like 10 percent optimism by Ford’s calculations, that works out to somewhere in the upper thirties for highway fuel economy. Not too bad for a car that was rated at 24/33.

    • 0 avatar
      ballyRB

      Aero shouldn’t (wouldn’t?) make too much of a difference in the city MPG though, and the Miata’s city rating is still a bit worse than the Mazda3 — which really goes to show that cars are way more complicated than any one or even one set of engineering problems.

  • avatar
    I_Like_Pie

    Anybody who has driven a Miata knows why the mileage was so crappy. They spun at 4500 rpm at 70mph!!!

    Pair that with a pretty aggressive fuel mapping that produces a linear rather than curved accelerator pedal feel + a fun car to drive = Low mpg

    It really wasn’t a function of weight or engine technology…Mazda just decided to put a sane 6th gear in this car. Something practically every Miata owner has yearned for the past 25 years.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I agree with that. On my 6 speed Miata, I’m never going to use 6th gear for anything besides cruising at a steady, higher speed. They should have kept the other 5 gears the same, but a really tall 6th would have made it way better for long freeway stretches.

  • avatar
    redav

    I’m intrigued by the difference between MT & AT. What AT did they use? It is just a RWD configuration of their existing SkyActiv unit? Does it have the same gear ratios? I don’t see them developing a new one just for the Miata.

    If they did just modify the existing transmission, that implies it would have wider ratio spacing than Miata’s typically get, and that could explain the much better hwy mpg. I would assume the manual to still be the tighter ratio spread. I wonder how highway rpm compares between the two and how 0-60 times compare.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I’m not entirely sure, but I believe the auto is largely a carryover from the NC with some of the Skyactiv improvements. The gear setup is a conventional overdrive plus short final drive arrangement.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “The improvements are likely linked to the loss of 150 pounds in weight”

    no, not exactly. It has to do with the new engines as well. the Mazda 3 and 6 both have fantastic MPG since these new skyactiv engines began.
    And both of these cars are of the very few that actually MEET the EPS numbers. I think the 3 is only 3 of a hundred that meet their numbers in real life.

    IF the 29 percent increase is real, then this whole story is sort of an understatement. That 29% is HUGE!

  • avatar
    Czilla9000

    I would buy one in a heartbeat with the Spark’s EV motor (something Master Baiter suggested prior). (Granted, I’m a LEAF owner)

    I would also prefer the “underpowered” 1.5 L option be brought state side. It would lower the cost of entry, improve full economy, and lower the weight further. A $19k-$20k US 1.5 Liter model would be sweet.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    I just wish I could look at the front of this thing without seeing ‘:D’.

  • avatar

    Luv the way it overall looks. Not too sure about the cat’s eyes. It’s just a matter of time before a tuner will bring back the pop-up head lights… hopefully.

  • avatar
    frozenman

    Skyactiv my ass, maybe they should put in a call to Honda and see if they will build some last generation 2L Si engines for them :)


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