Mazda MX-5 Miata Is TTAC's 2016 Best Automobile Today (And Here Are the Other Nine Winners)

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson

After three weeks of nominations, votes from our writers, and another round of votes from you, the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is TTAC’s Best Automobile Today.

Is that really a surprise?

Throughout this newly resurrected and refreshed edition of TTAC’s Ten Best and Worst Automobiles Today, the Mazda MX-5 Miata has been king of the internal combustion castle, even with its diminutive 155 horsepower and 148 lbs-ft of torque. Yet, within the sportscar segment, you’d be hard pressed to find a vehicle that’s stayed true to its focused, singular purpose more than the four generations of Miata. It’s the David to the nearly all-conquering Goliaths that are the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro.

Most of you agreed that Mazda’s interpretation of the British roadster was worth a vote: a staggering 61.4 percent of cast ballots for the ND Miata.

But what of the other nine vehicles in the Ten Best Automobiles Today? Here they are in reverse order.

10th Place: Volkswagen Golf (in all its guises)

Hatchback and wagon? Check. Manual and automatic? Check. Gas and diesel? Well, let’s talk about that another time.

Even as clouds and acid rain continue to swirl around Wolfsburg, you picked the Volkswagen Golf as TTAC’s 2016 10th Best Automobile Today. A vast selection of engines, two body styles (including a forthcoming Alltrack model), and varying trims mean there’s a Golf for everyone — assuming you don’t want a sedan.

35.3 percent of you thought the Volkswagen Golf was more worthy of the Ten Best Automobiles Today than the brand-new Honda Civic (34.6 percent), Ford Focus (33.5 percent), and Subaru WRX (29.9 percent).

9th Place: Volvo XC90

Maybe you aren’t as different from the North American Car of the Year jury as you thought. Volvo’s newest SUV and winner of North American Truck of the Year, the XC90, has a face of elegant strength and powertrain options that’ll ensure minimal interruption on road trips. It’s also the only SUV, crossover or truck to make it into the Top 10 in TTAC’s 2016 Ten Best Automobiles Today. 38.3 percent of you believe this is the best utility on sale right now.

And that’s worrying.

Why? Well, for starters, it means this list definitely isn’t representative of America as a whole. Pickups are exceptionally popular, yet the Ford F-150 didn’t even make it into the Top 20. The only jacked-up hatchback on your ballot was the Mazda CX-5 (which placed 16th with votes from 25.4 percent of respondents). The two other SUVs in the Top 20 are off-road darlings: Jeep Wrangler (17th, 24.5 percent) and Toyota 4Runner (19th, 23.2 percent).

Regardless, Volvo’s newest vehicle is setting the brand on the right path — and currently keeping it afloat with a bumper crop of sales.

8th Place: Mazda6

You sure do like underdogs and, by extension, Mazda. The Mazda6 isn’t your most favorite midsize sedan in TTAC’s 2016 Ten Best Automobiles Today and only garnered the praise of 41.1 percent of respondents, but it is one of three Mazdas on the list.

Unfortunately, Mazda’s midsizer is also one of the least purchased vehicles in the segment in America. Only the Buick Regal, Volkswagen CC and Dodge Avenger, which was canceled in 2014, went to fewer homes last year. For contrast, the Chrysler 200 — a midsize sedan currently on its deathbed — outsold Mazda6 by over 3 to 1 in 2015.

Even with numerous awards and journalistic praise, maybe there’s a reason people aren’t buying the Mazda6. (We’re still waiting for the diesel wagon that’ll never come to North America.)

7th Place: Mazda3 (sedan and hatchback)

Yup, another Mazda — and this time it’s the compact sedan and hatchback. The Mazda3 is the Toro Rosso of the compact car segment — a second (well, maybe third) fiddle to its Japanese and American rivals, but it still played strong enough last year to hold back competitors such as the Subaru Impreza, Kia Forte and Volkswagen Golf.

There are many things amiss with the Mazda3 lineup. The trim steps are a bit too steep. There’s still no Mazdaspeed model. And noise insulation takes a back seat to Mazda’s SkyActiv lightweighting ethos.

Dynamically, the Mazda3 is a ton of fun, but do you really want to hear the drone of those winter tires every single day during snowy months? 41.1 percent of you said the extra noise wasn’t a concern and voted the Mazda3 as one of TTAC’s 2016 Ten Best Automobiles Today.

6th Place: Porsche 911 (all)

Confession time: I’ve never driven a 911. Not once. Not ever. I’m sure it’s a great car. Hopefully at least a few of the people who voted for the Porsche of Porsches have driven a modern 991. I haven’t, so I didn’t vote for it.

The other high dollar, European sportscar on the ballot — the Jaguar F-Type, which I have driven — only amassed votes from 32.5 percent of respondents, placing it in 13th place. The Porsche 911 interested 41.7 percent of you enough to vote for it, many of which who (I assume) have driven one, unlike me, who hasn’t driven a 911.

Again, I’ve never driven a 911. I’m sure it’s good. People seem to like them. I hear they’re nice. I can’t tell you enough how many times I’ve not driven a 911. (All the times.)

5th Place: Honda Accord (sedan and coupe)

Maybe we should check the IP addresses of all this year’s voters to make sure the staff of Car & Driver didn’t rig the vote. Or maybe the Honda Accord really is that good. Resident Baruthian Jack Baruth and resident sales-wiz Tim Cain both love the Accord. As Tim recently explained to me during a jaunt in my new Ford Fiesta, and I’m paraphrasing here, the Accord drives great now and it’ll still drive great 20 years from now.

It’s not just our writers that love the Accord. For every Mazda6 sold in America, Honda sold over six Accords in 2015, and it was you who put Honda’s midsize sedan and coupe in 5th place of TTAC’s 2016 Ten Best Automobiles Today with 43.1 percent approval.

4th Place: Chevrolet Corvette (all)

Chevrolet developed a high-power version of the newest Corvette, the Z06, which then proceeded to implode like a skyscraper made of Chinese steel. Less than a year later, 46.7 percent of you elected it to 4th place in TTAC’s 2016 Ten Best Automobiles Today. But I ain’t mad.

The Corvette, even in non-Z06 guise, is truly a performance wonder. (I’ve actually driven a Corvette, unlike the 911, which I haven’t driven at all.) Best of all, it can be had for a relative bargain compared to most of the sportcars with which it competes. That’s before you explore the illustrious history of the Corvette and its iconic racing wins, which General Motors still accumulates to this day.

3rd Place: Tesla Model S

Regardless of how you feel about Elon Musk and Tesla Motors in general, one thing is true: the Model S is the most performance-oriented electric vehicle you can buy if you’re of semi-modest means (in comparison to, you know, a Formula E team or something). Its acceleration is something to be experienced in person, as its linearity cannot be easily communicated in words or video.

Sure, there are quality problems, but at least Tesla will cover what ails you more so than other automakers.

Those ingredients are good enough to place it third in TTAC’s 2016 Ten Best Automobiles Today with approval coming from 50.1 percent of voters. It was also the only dedicated electric vehicle in the top 20 finalists.

2nd Place: Ford Mustang

The Mustang told the Camaro to go outside (the top 20) and stay there (while Ford collected all the votes).

The original pony car landed in a not-too-distant second place behind the MX-5 in our Battle Royale. In the end, the Mustang garnered the approval of 57.6 percent of respondents. And it’s no wonder: not a single reviewer at TTAC (at least under my tenure) has heavily slighted Ford’s newer edge, slightly retro coupe and convertible.

Sure, the Mustang doesn’t boast the massive horsepower numbers of the Hellcat duo (the Charger placed in 18th with 24.3 percent of respondents voting in the affirmative), but a new independent rear suspension and the addition of high strung, track-focused GT350 and GT350R models does the Mustang nameplate no harm.

Congratulations to the winners and a massive thanks to the Best and Brightest for casting your votes.

[Image: MX-5, Adam Wood/AutoGuide; Golfs, Volkswagen; XC90, Volvo; Mazda6 and Mazda3, Mazda USA; 911 Turbo S, Porsche; Honda Accord, © 2016 Jeff Jablansky/The Truth About Cars; Corvette Z06, General Motors; Model S, Tesla; Mustang, © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars]

Mark Stevenson
Mark Stevenson

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2 of 137 comments
  • Snakebit Snakebit on May 10, 2016

    First, I was shocked after reading the poll results that Miata won first place. Shocked and so pleasantly relieved that readers actually like fun-to-drive cars(I'll put Mustang in that role, too). Where the disconnect comes in is Mazda and their contention that all their cars (well, Mazda3 and Mazda6)are fun to drive and if buyers seek that quality, come on down to Mazda. And, sedan buyers are not doing that. It's almost like Toyota and Honda have such a strong gravitational pull, and the Mazda pull as pertains to their sedans is never turned on, never operational.

  • Bloodnok Bloodnok on May 10, 2016

    had my mazda roadster just over a month and still can't believe what a fun car it is. even dreary commutes are a blast. especially with the top down. yet there's rarely any need to be a boy racer or exceed the speed limit.

  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.
  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
  • Mike Bradley Advertising, movies and TV, manufacturing, and car culture have all made speeding and crashing the ultimate tests of manhood. Throw in the political craziness and you've got a perfect soup of destruction and costs.