By on July 20, 2016

2016 Mazda MX-5 Soul red

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2.0-liter DOHC SKYACTIV-G I4 (155 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 148 lbs-ft torque @ 4,650 rpm)

Six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive

34 highway / 27 city / 30 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

34.1 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price (Sport/GX): $25,750 (U.S.) / $33,795 (Canada)

As Tested (Club/GS): $33,135 (U.S.) / $41,895 (Canada)

All prices include $835 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,895 destination fee and A/C tax (Canada). U.S. pricing not exact due to regional packaging.

Bonus. It’s the money you didn’t expect to receive from your employer at the end of the fiscal year, the mussel bar you didn’t know existed at the new Yelp-hyped strip mall restaurant your significant other convinced you to try, the extra hour of sleep you grabbed exiting daylight saving time last autumn.

There are vehicular bonuses, as well. The Jeep Wrangler succeeds at what it was built to do: to handle genuinely tough off-road situations. But it’s also a convertible.

Our long-term Honda Odyssey seats eight in surprising comfort, just as it ought to. But the Odyssey also handles really well.

After growing acquainted with all kinds of odd duckling electric cars, the Tesla Model S didn’t merely expand our expectations for electric range and performance, it looked really good while doing so.

After a blissful week of sunshine during which I drove 260 miles with a variety of passengers on mostly coastal routes, never attempting for a moment to do anything but drive the car harder than we would any other test car, it turns out our Mazda Canada-supplied 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata travelled 34 miles per gallon. Bonus.

2016 Mazda MX-5 GS profile

You’re right, I wouldn’t have cared if the MX-5 drank like a sailor. Indeed, my expectations were few: I expected the fourth-generation ND Miata to ride and handle well, to miraculously produce good weather on the often foggy Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, and to shift with proverbially surgical precision while transmitting information back to me, its driver, through multiple channels.

The 2016 MX-5 did all that; it showed me it was going to do all of that for the duration of its 260-mile stay before we’d even completed mile one together, reciting sweet jinba ittai poetry to one another like something out of a Japanese Louis L’Amour novel.

But with the throttle often pinned to the floor — as you do in roadsters with 155 horsepower — and often with an additional 230+ pounds of RCMP friend aboard, and with few ventures onto the highway, the 2016 MX-5’s onboard computer claimed 35.6 mpg at the end of the week. (It was our own pump-to-pump calculations that showed 34.1 mpg.) With a manual transmission, the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is rated by the EPA at 27 mpg in the city, 34 on the highway. Premium fuel is recommended.

Does it matter? Is truly economical travel another means by which Mazda USA can market the Miata? Probably not. But I like icing on my cake.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata GS

The cake itself is nevertheless tremendously tasty. To say the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is intrinsically good would do a disservice to Mazda’s hard work. Simply constructing a tiny two-seat roadster does not automatically a great car make. Yet Mazda has been making the Miata such an exemplary example of the breed for so long that, with no surprises to be found, we can grow cold to praise of its attributes.

I was, therefore, not shocked in the least to discover one of history’s great manual gearboxes. Oh, looka here, there’s that familiar firm-but-sufficiently-compliant ride quality with enough body roll to communicate the gentle threat of approachable limits. As anticipated, the steering is alive, turn-in is immediate, brake feel (with Brembos in this car) is perfect.

None of this comes as a shock to anyone who’s ever driven any Miata. Nor will the fact that the driver’s connection to the Miata is more tangible through the seat of your pants than through the wheel, shifter, or brakes. Yes, the MX-5 is an interactive car in every facet, but because of the degree to which it communicates through your backside, the MX-5 would still be a highly interactive car even if it braked automatically, steered autonomously, and shifted gears on its own.

2016 Mazda MX-5 BBS wheels

Better yet, the intensity of the relationship the Miata seeks to develop with its driver is evident at any speed. In an age when horsepower wars have skewed our understanding of performance, the 2016 MX-5 stands out as a performance car that’s highly enjoyable when you’re not exceeding the posted limit.

The fun starts when you squeeze one button and flip the roof back over your head with less effort than you used to put on a t-shirt. MX-5 fun is emphasized by your very first shift into second, the snarly little 2.0-liter four-cylinder that needs you to make sure it’s in the right gear at the right time lest power becomes unavailable, the absurdly quick steering that will swing you past the inside of a yield sign if you’re unaccustomed to prompt obedience. The MX-5’s fun rating is maxed out on a road where sweeping lefts are followed by hairpin rights; where you realize that the MX-5’s pedal placement is so perfect that this Mazda might just teach you how to heel-and-toe.

That the fourth-generation MX-5 misses absolute perfection is not — contrary to the religion of a handful of Alfa Romeo enthusiasts and old dudes in their tenth year of an MG Midget restoration — “precisely what makes it charming.” Rather, the 2016 MX-5’s faults are neither numerous or serious.

Controls for the infotainment unit, lacking space further forward, are positioned too far toward the back of the centre console. Moreover, the Mazda infotainment unit, while straightforward, isn’t quick off the draw. Interior storage is at a premium, and cupholders are awkwardly placed and not all that useful. Roof-up driving, the little of which we engaged in, induces claustrophobia and transforms visibility from peerless to dreadful. Passenger space is encroached upon by a bulging centre tunnel. Ingress for both occupants is made challenging by the windshield header.

2016 Mazda MX-5 GS interior

Our test car was also a pricey little number, too. You can’t spec a Miata like this in the United States, as a mid-grade GS example with a $4,400 sport package that includes Recaro seats. Priced at CAD $41,895 with fees, it’s not unlike Mazda USA’s MX-5 Club with the $3,400 Brembo/BBS package at $33,135, including $300 red paint. But we’d prefer 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata at its U.S. base price of $25,750, where the Miata is everything a Miata needs to be.

Regardless of its price point, the Miata makes the Subaru WRX seem frivolously powerful, the Ford Mustang parked alongside look like a pickup truck, and the Buick Cascada feel as disconnected as your iPhone in Death Valley.

It also makes the previous Miata, officially a 24-mpg car that travelled only 21 mpg in our care, seem terribly thirsty.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

61 Comments on “2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review – It’s Fun, and Really Fuel Efficient...”

  • avatar

    Nice car. Needs more power. FCA should make a Hellcat version of this under the Dodge brand.

  • avatar

    Oh, the joys of frivolous driving just for the sake of driving! I pray that autonomous driving never fully takes over, as moments like this would be a shame to miss.

  • avatar

    The Miata does look like a fun little car. Just can’t stand the front end/bumper looking like an overgrown toe nail. Rear end is sweet.

  • avatar

    I find the mileage you are happy with to be kind of low for a small car. I have a 2004 Jaguar XK8 convertible with a 4.2 litre that runs on high test fuel. At normal highway speeds on a recent 800 mile trip I got 35.7 mpg. When I first got this car a few years ago I was pleasantly surprised by the mileage. Seems that the old jag moves a lot more metal with the same amount of energy.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting, was this a US spec XK8?

    • 0 avatar

      Did you measure this or reference the built in mpg display. For a car with an epa rating of 18/26 that seems way optimistic.

      • 0 avatar

        I might have gotten it wrong because of the reference to the Canadian supplied car. My miles are calculated in imperial gallons and it is measured. I don’t push it;often. When I first got the car I went from London Ontario to Myrtle Beach and kept very accurate readings. Got 32.7 mpg. Which is 27.5 in US gallons. I did push it through the Smokey Mountains. Considering the mileage we get on our Elantra I still find the mileage not to be impressive for a new small car.

        • 0 avatar
          johnny ro

          Its way better MPGr than previous generation. Skyactive vs MZR motor plus fine tuning elsewhere.

          155 is less than 167 but a better motor.

          I want a previous decade XK8.

          • 0 avatar

            The new MX-5 truly is remarkable with what they achieved with so many constraints. I’ve driven a previous gen hard top NC for close to 50k from new and have averaged 28.6 mpg over the lifetime of the car, about 30/70 city highway split. For the new one to easily crest 30 mpg is great in my opinion. The NC unfortunately “requires” premium gas too.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      The MX-5, with only 155 horsepower, is nevertheless geared in such a way to accelerate from 0-60mph in less than six seconds. That’s not the kind of gearing that’ll typically net high fuel economy.

      Of note: we mentioned few highway ventures, where presumably mileage would have been even better. This was the average not from cruising but from a lot of hard driving on twisty coastal roads. The 2004 XK8 is rated by the EPA at 16 city/24 highway. users, although the sampling size is small, seem to have averaged between 18-22 with MY1997-MY2005 cars.

      Is it possible you’re talking in Imperial mpg? (The MX-5 did 41 Imperial mpg.) Or is your car just the green car Jaguar never knew they built? They should have been marketing this – “Twice the mileage of its rivals!” – and suing the EPA for its test procedures.

      • 0 avatar

        The driving style would make a difference for sure. I ended up with the Jaguar after starting out looking for a 3-4 year old Miata. My wife and I wanted to be able to travel so we expanded our convertible search further, there just wasn’t luggage room for more than an overnighter. for the same money as the Miata I ended up with the XK8 and have put 20,000 trouble free cruising miles on her. As for power the XK8 is rated at 294 hp. and 0-60 in 6.1 so it is no slouch. I can get in trouble if I want.

      • 0 avatar

        In fact the XK8 was able to avoid the gas guzzler tax of 3000 dollars which most of it’s rivals did not.

    • 0 avatar

      I averaged 31mpg in my X350 XJR on an 800 mile trip to canada. That’s 31mpg with 3 passengers and luggage. Not bad at all for a supercharged 4.2l V8.

      If I hadn’t experienced the incredible fuel economy of these engines myself, I wouldn’t behive it. Drive them in anger though and you MIGHT get 15mpg.

    • 0 avatar

      Gotta be the Trifecta Tune.

    • 0 avatar

      Highway fuel economy is much less about mass than it is about drag, and a short convertible is going to produce much more of it than a longer, more streamlined car. More drag means you have to gear the upper gears shorter to get decent performance out of a small motor, and you wind up with a light car with a small motor that still drinks as much gas at higher speeds as a big car with a lazy, powerful engine.

      My 3,600 lbs, 235 hp Concorde drinks about the same at 75 MPH as my 2,300, 140 hp NB Miata. The Concorde has more power in reserve and doesn’t spin 4,000 RPM, as well. Drive the two cars in the city or in anger, though, and it’s a different story. I get nearly the same mileage in city driving as on the highway in the Miata – about 25 MPG.

      We don’t need to talk about their difference in behaviour when the road curves.

      My Suzuki TL1000S motorcycle struggled to get more than 35 MPG highway, despite having a 1.0L engine, weighing 500 lbs, and having gearing tall enough that it was possible to lug the engine at 60 MPH (a speed which, incidentally, you could exceed in first gear). Granted, sport bikes aren’t optimized for fuel efficiency, but more important is that a very short vehicle makes for a terrible drag coefficient.

      Also: I hate it when Canadians use Imperial miles per gallon. Canadians don’t measure fuel in Imperial gallons, nor distance in miles. Americans don’t measure fuel in Imperial gallons. What’s this measure good for? Use US miles per gallon, liters per 100 km, or go back to England.

  • avatar

    The Miata’s a fun car. I’d like to see more power added to the mix but it is an engaging drive.

    I also found it to be very loud with the top up during freeway driving.

    I hear there’s a $600 tune for the 124 that bumps horsepower up to around 225. That would be the one for me.

  • avatar

    MX-5, I so very much covet thee. I missed my chance to drive one of these at Laguna Seca. I will forever regret that choice, despite it causing me to fall in love with an RX-8 instead.

  • avatar

    “like something out of a Japanese Louis L’Amour novel.”

    really cool

    is the claustrophobia worse than say a Camaro?

    still torn between this and the mustang v6 base. i know…two totally different cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Hrm, that’s a tough call. Visibility would be a toss-up – I haven’t driven the latest Camaro yet. MX-5 is easier to position because of its small dimensions, however. On the other hand, those small interior dimensions lend to a cramped feeling overall, exacerbating the claustrophobia.

      • 0 avatar

        then it’s likely IF I got one, the top would stay down….

        And I think the next Miata retractable might be even more claustrophobic since the rear pillar seems awfully large. And stays there even if the top is lowered.

  • avatar

    To everyone who says this needs more power, what good would that power do? The car is a small roadster, very light, 50-50 weight balance, handles well and goes 0-60 in ~ 6 seconds. Unless you go drag racing what else do you need?

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      0-60 tells a story, not the story. A part of me wants to say this car does not need more power. After a week, however, I can count far too many times in which the throttle was pinned, and not necessarily because I was driving hastily. Squirting out for an overtake at 40 mph, the 0-60 time doesn’t matter.

      Yet part of what makes it fun is the very fact that you can land in the wrong gear, that you – the driver – are called upon to make sure the car is properly positioned to make the most of its power.

      • 0 avatar

        Understand the need for overtaking power. I felt the same at times in my former Civic Si. (No torque) But if it should have more power then how much more is enough? And would that spoil some of the other characteristics of the car?

        • 0 avatar

          Good question, and as someone who used to daily big-bore sport bikes, I’ve developed my point of view on the matter. Power is a drug and it corrupts. I won’t try to pretend that being able to shrug off Corvettes and 911s wasn’t fun – it was – but you get used to the power. And then you get bored. Your right foot – or right wrist – expands to use up all the space available to it, and you end up acting like a tool, and when you’re not, you feel silly for not using the power at your disposal. After a while it just feels normal, like needing a bigger hit of heroin each time.

          Something like a Miata keeps you honest. It makes you work for your speed, but it also makes fairly modest speeds exciting. You can keep the throttle pinned and wind out another gear without risking life and license, and there’s joy to be found in that on public roads.

      • 0 avatar

        For a car that’s designed primarily to be fun to drive, the closer to fulltime you get to keep the throttle pinned, the better :)

        Overtaking is best done Italian/Polack style: By giving yourself plenty of runway to build up speed differential, before slingshotting past unsuspecting lane hoggers.

      • 0 avatar

        @Timothy – so are you perhaps a candidate for the Miata’s Italian half sibling? you give up a little of that rev happy zing but gain a nice whalop of mid range turbo torque.

  • avatar

    I am blessed to drive a 2006 MX5 often, and owned a 2000 Miata for about a year. I’ve never once thought it needed more power. I test-drove a new one recently, and found it to be a better sports car than the 2006, in the way it feels, the feedback it gives, and other intangibles, but not by much, nowhere near enough to trade the ’06 in. If I were looking at MX5s today, I’d look hard at the previous generation, because it is a better, more practical car for road trips, while giving up only a little in the process.

    • 0 avatar

      The NC Miata will definitely be on my list when the kiddo is big enough to ride up front. I plan on benefiting from the depressed values of the NC when, comparing back to back, I don’t see much of a difference between it and the ND. They both have similar positives (great drive) and negatives (terrible with the top up). If I can snatch up an NC for significantly cheaper than the ND, I can live with the slightly worse fuel economy and worse interior.

      • 0 avatar

        The NC was also the last to have hydraulic power assisted steering vs. electric power steering in the ND. Some reviewers have mentioned the ND steering is lighter and not as engaging as the NC, (whatever that means is likely reviewer dependent), but if that matters at all to you the NC would be the way to go. I would love to test drive a new ND and see how it compares, but to be honest, I probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference taking into account how many other things changed.

      • 0 avatar

        Why not let the kiddo be in the front next to you? As far as I know no state has laws against it. Both front and rear facing child seats fit just fine in the Miata.

        • 0 avatar

          I spent the better part of a decade in an early NC. Hold out for the ND. It’s that much better. Hands down, no reservations.
          Save a few K and get the Sport.
          And yes, both will ‘baby’.

          My only quibble, the not-for-north-america 1.5, although a bit slower, would spend more time at full boil than the 2.0, and thus be more fun at street speeds.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m with you on wanting the 1.5. I understand why they didn’t (too expensive to certify) and it would be slower. However, from a buyers perspective, the 1.5 is quick enough (probably be what previous MIatas were) and its lower price of entry and likely higher fuel economy, as well as what Driver8 says, would have made it an appealing choice.

  • avatar

    I would just like to take issue with the author’s assertion that the Honda Odyssey handles really well. I leased a 2012 for my wife, first model year of current generation I believe, and a handler it was not. Somehow, in vehicular literature there came a time when someone said that the Odyssey is the driver’s choice for a minivan. It is not…but this assertion has somehow stuck around. I would say the Flex is perhaps a good driver’s minivan alternative choice, or driver’s choice for people mover….but its not the Odyssey. The Odyssey is not for those who like to drive… all. Sorry to go off topic, but it grinds my gears every time I see that ridiculous misconception repeated.

  • avatar

    Start with the reality that its a 2.0L 4 cylinder with 155 HP, and 40K.

    The other reality is that you need gas to make horsepower, and this car does not need a lot of gas, since it does not make a lot of power.

    How fast was the engine revving at 100 KPH, and 120 KPH in direct and the top gear which is probably OD?

    A precise, communicative enthusiast car with no power, and 40K. Keep it floored and enjoy the ride.

    • 0 avatar

      0-60 in a tick less than 6 seconds isn’t “no power.” The 155 hp figure doesn’t tell anywhere near the full story, and there have been independent dyno tests that suggest that it’s underrated, anyway. It isn’t a drag racer, but for a car that’s specifically not about being about straight line acceleration, it acquits itself more than fine. Bang-for-the-buck acceleration, any flavour of Mustang murders it, no question, but that’s never been what a Miata was about. The track that I occasionally go to always has a few guys running Miatas; rarely any Mustangs.

      Sixth gear is the one that’s direct drive on the ND, but that doesn’t mean much. The overall effective gearing is what matters, and Mazda found efficiency gains by making top gear direct and raising the final drive ratio. The term “overdrive” was brought out as a marketing thing more than anything else. That said, a short, small-engined convertible will be seeing more revs on the highway than a longer, big-engined car. I’m sure the new Miata does better than the 3,300/4,000 RPM at 100/120 km/h that my ’99 does.

      I’ve told many people this: if you haven’t driven a Miata, it’s hard to get what they’re about. Even with my own ’99 model, which is a full 2 seconds slower 0-60 than the new one, I’ve had a guy go from not even wanting to sit in it to exclaiming what a fun car it is after a short ride. It’s not a car for everyone, but it’s very good at what it does.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I assume the Miata still has the dificiency it had in 2003, when I was last shopping for roadsters — it’s just a little too tight for a guy who is 6′ 4″. The Z3 was, by a smidge just bigger enough for me to fit.

    Folks reviewing rag top roadsters always complain about “claustrophobia” when the top is up. That’s the nature of the beast folks — visibility on the rear quarters and directly behind is . . . um . . . limited. That said, once you own one for a few years, you adapt to these limits and the claustrophobia goes away. Similarly, with the top down, at first you feel quite exposed; but it’s something you appreciate.

    However, I think speed demons should stick to coupes. Supposedly my Z3 roadster was good for 140 mph+. I never had it over 120, but even at 100, the noise was pretty deafening, even with the windows up and the wind deflector in place. Honestly, more than a couple of hours on the highway with the top down at 70 was pretty tiring.

    That’s one reason the Miata doesn’t need more horsepower.

  • avatar

    Anyone over 6′ own one of these?

    I m 6′ 3″ and just cant do it. My room mate from GMI has 3 and is constantly singing the praises of the Miata. I just dont fit.

    I always beat him in the Firebird’s Autocrosses.

  • avatar

    Why does my ’14 Accord with the 6 speed manual get the same highway mpg, but has a bigger engine and 30 more hp and weighs a lot more? I’m thinking the MX 5 should be getting close to 40 mpg!

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Aero drag. The Accord has a lot more body to tune the airflow with.

    • 0 avatar

      Highway fuel economy has far more to do with aero, gearing, and tire rolling resistance than engine power or weight. The latter factors determine city mpg.

      My LS460 is a 4500 lb pig and has a 380-horsepower V8, but because it has excellent aero and a nice tall top gear it’s capable of 31 mpg on the highway without especially being babied. City mpg… well… we won’t talk about that.

    • 0 avatar

      What the other two said. There’s a reason that at Le Mans, teams would add body work to their cars to make them longer, despite the extra weight it added (creating the Le Mans Long Tail specials). It actually helped the cars’ aero and make them faster. I think the Porsche 917LH’s were typically 10-15 mph faster than the 917Ks on the Muslanne.

  • avatar

    fabulous review, mr cain. having spent now four months with a shiny black club roadster on the roads of northern california, i can vouchsafe for just about everything you wrote. minor disagreement about the placement of the infotainment controls. they’re actually in a reasonable location, once you get used to it. as to the cupholders, those aren’t roadsters – mine are in the closet to be reinserted in the vehicle when it goes to its next owner. don’t have brembo brakes but find the stock binders more than adequate to the task. major twinge of envy at the recaro chairs. had those in the focus st that preceded my roadster and are the only thing i miss about that boy racer. the mazda chairs are nice but they’re not recaros. still, its cabin is a fun place to be especially when a twisty road is being taken with alacrity. bottom line is its the most fun you can have on four wheels whilst staying within the speedlimits.

  • avatar

    Everyone talking about “more power more power” needs to quit it. Out of the box this thing is about as fast as a V6 Camry, which is quick. And with a $500 tune this thing will be up to old Cayman S power to weight ratios… while weighing ~500-600lbs less. Another ~$2-3K will put you on good coilovers and tires. So all the power you could want for a 2200lb street car, along with the grip and response. It’s a no brainer.

  • avatar



  • avatar

    Hate the slitty headlights. Maybe the mid-model change will yield something better.

  • avatar
    Jim Fekete

    Love them but too small for my 6’8″ long torso frame. I ended up slacking my roadster thirst with a 2009 MB SLK55 AMG. Tall guys, the that is your roadster!

  • avatar

    Excellent write-up. I have a 1990 Miata and I get about 30 mpg on a good day, I usually average around 28 mpg with regular unleaded. That this new car is so much faster (not to mention safer, and loaded with a lot more comfort features) is a good example of the progress made over the past 25 years.

    Regarding the power, I have had a lot of cars, from a 911, a Corvette, a Z28, BMWs, 300ZX, and others. I like powerful cars and I like the noises they make, but at the end of the day I keep finding myself coming back to lighter and less powerful cars. I had a similar learning curve with motorcycles. I started small, worked my way “up” to Harleys and 1200cc BMWs and then ended up with one bike in my garage, a 500cc Honda single (GB500).

    When I look in my garage and have a trip to take that may involve some engaging roads, I always grab the Miata keys. I LIKE that I can rev the piss out of it in 3 or 4 gears without risking jail time. When I had my Corvette (a 1994 LT1-6sp with 300hp) I just felt bored on the street because I honestly couldn’t ever use a fraction of what the car could deliver. I can’t even imagine what the new C7 would be like cruising around at legal speeds.

    I have yet to drive an ND but hope to some day soon. In the meantime, Miata fun can be had for very little money from any of the generations. The magic of this car is that it was designed so “right” from the beginning. They have always been affordable, fun, amazingly reliable, and inexpensive to own. That no one (except perhaps the Honda S2000) was able to even come close to this in the meantime is incredible.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • 28-Cars-Later: I’m not sure the 200 or even 700 directly competed with the Mercedes 190E. The 190 as far as I...
  • Russycle: I wouldn’t say great, but Farley and Spade certainly had chemistry. I was visiting a retirement home...
  • SCE to AUX: “until the public decides automotive pricing has become untenable and stops buying — opening the...
  • 28-Cars-Later: @Crosley Neat hack, though everyone has told me to remove the mechanical fan and replace it in the I...
  • DenverMike: Not unlike lunch, nothing comes for FREE(!). When turbos consume just as much fuel as the NA V8s they...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber