Piston Slap: ND Verdict on Electric Power Steering?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap nd verdict on electric power steering

San writes:

I have been interested in the Mazda MX-5 for a while now. I had a few questions based upon my interest in the 2016 MX-5.

Mazda has also decided to switch from hydraulic steering to electric steering in the MX-5. In a niche enthusiast vehicle, is there any reason that this is happening? All I read about are enthusiast reviews about how numb electric steering is in cars, and Mazda makes this change in the face of all the criticism. Is it just CAFE laws? Or is there another reason that escapes me?

People also on occasion opt for a roll-bar for the MX-5 in the rare case of a rollover. Some folks on the internet have claimed that a roll-bar may make safety worse for some MX-5s depending on the model. What the heck are they talking about? Isn’t a roll-bar always better than none?

Answer my questions, or else! Or else I’ll go back to lurking. (No, this was great! – SM)

Sajeev answers:

Son, that new Miata looks to be the business. In fact, I predict every auto journo that gets one for a week, delivered to their home for free, with a full tank of gas, will blow their load over it. Of course they’ll never mention the 100 percent valid need for LSX-FTW like I would…but I digress…

Concern On paper, there are many fantastic reasons to ditch hydraulics for electric power steering. It’s less complicated (no hoses, hydraulic valves and fluid, etc.), takes strain off the engine (no power steering pump), so there’s more power, less weight, and less things to break after 5+ years of use. I doubt CAFE had anything to do with it — that’s a side benefit — and it’s all in the name of technology and progress. Think of all the self parking and self driving potential!

Would I worry about the lack of steering feel that’s so prominent in electric power steering? Not really, because everyone needs a new vehicle at some point. Wishing for the good ‘ole days of hydraulic steering will be like an old codger longing for carburetors, crank windows, 15-inch wheels or Panther Love chrome bumpers. The new Miata uses dual pinion steering, a setup we’ve experienced in the Mazda RX-8. Honestly, the RX-8 had decent steering feedback.

Concern Quality aftermarket roll bars on droptops are a very good thing. If you’re tall, make sure your head won’t smack it in any situation, although the seat should protect you in cases of neck snapping whiplash. The NC Miata had a modest roll bar, legal enough for what could happen on the street — provided you wear your seat belt! It’s not adequate for the life-altering realities of accidents on a race track.

I am sure the ND aftermarket will make a better bar which you should consider for rollover protection on the street or the track, provided your head is adequately protected (by the seat back) from it. If you are a real racer, a full cage and a racing helmet is mandatory.

If you never push this car to its limit, the stock stuff will be fine.

[Image: Mazda]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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3 of 56 comments
  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Sep 09, 2015

    I think the last car offered with manual steering standard was the Chevrolet Aveo in the mid-00's.

  • VolandoBajo VolandoBajo on Sep 10, 2015

    An in-law tried to get us to buy a used Aveo that one of the four more or less grown children from their blended family abhorred, as an alternative to my keeping a newly acquired Panther (97 Grand Marquis). Anyone who has the least claim to membership in the B&B will instantly know what my choice was. Where was Ralph Nader when he was needed. Aveo...please!

    • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Sep 10, 2015

      “Anyone who has the least claim to membership in the B&B will instantly know what my choice was.” (applause)

  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)
  • Slavuta Must be all planned. Increase price of cars, urbanize, 15 minutes cities. Be poor, eat bugs
  • Sid SB Not seen a Core without the performance pack yet. Prefer the more understated look of the Core vs the Circuit, but both are great fun to drive.