It might only have a 129 horsepower four-cylinder, two seats and a soft top, yet there’s no other car I want to have more as a daily driver than the smallest 2016 Mazda Miata with the baby engine. It’s that good.
I test a lot of cars, but this is the one I didn’t want to send away when I was done.
I’m aware that no matter where you go on the internet, everybody just keep going on an on about how great the ND Mazda MX-5 is. It just won the Car of the Year award in Japan, and in the U.S., journalists (including us) will tell you that the new Miata deserves to win all the Car of the Year awards in America as well. Or anywhere else in the universe for that matter.
Even if you seek refuge at Evo in hopes of a harsh review done by one of their hairy-chested senior track day enthusiasts, all you find is Dan Prosser complaining about the lack of “front axle response” and “too much body roll.” He’s definitely in the minority though, it seems.
I ended up with the 1.5-liter base model for a short weekend for the simple reason that the 2.0-liter version that America and a bunch of other markets get hasn’t made it to Hungary so far.
This engine might be down on juice at 129 horsepower and 110 pound-feet of torque, but it also revs higher than the 2.0. And it makes the smaller Miata 55 pounds lighter, although the lack of a limited-slip differential at the rear plays a vital role it that diet too. Still, at 2,314 lbs, try and find another modern car as featherweight as this. You’ll be looking for a while.
The added lightness means the Miata didn’t feel underpowered at all, up until the point when you start to poke its eyes out playing the hill climbing routine.
But when that peak torque figure starts to feel a bit thin in the air, all you need to do is grab what happens to be the greatest six-speed stick shift in the universe and throw it down a gear or two. These people don’t fool around when it comes to building a precise short-ratio gearbox.
If the Honda Civic Type R’s unit was tuned mostly for track days, the Miata’s, by contrast, was designed to make a late Sunday feel like the weekend just begun. Whoever prefers an automatic after changing gears with this thing should only travel by bus from that point on.
It takes roughly two minutes to get used to the Miata. Maybe less if you’ve ever sat in a modern Mazda before. It does everything it says on the label, and exactly how you want it to. It’s tiny size also makes it superb in city traffic.
While opening and closing the soft top is a single hand job, one major design flaw I found is that the very same arm will also keep pushing the infotainment button on the transmission tunnel while you’re driving, which means if you hear a beeping sound on the move, you’ll be out of the navigation menu by the time you peek at the screen. Oh well.
Other than that, holy crap! This is the car to have, for this kind of money. As long as you don’t have kids, at least. And even if you demand at least as much seating as a McLaren F1 can provide, who cares? Buy an old Volvo wagon if you need to haul a bag of potatoes; otherwise, get yourself a new Miata and call it a day.
When I walked down from my flat, this is what was waiting for me, and I was happy.
When I stopped in the city to pick up a girl so we could go for a ride in the hills around Budapest, this is how different my car was to all the other cars, and I was happy.
When I parked my Miata in the middle of a piazza absolutely illegally in order to get some decent photos, nobody cared because it’s a small bright red roadster and we were all happy to see it there.
A 129 horsepower four-cylinder, two seats and a soft top. That’s all I ever needed.
Photo credit: Máté Petrány/Jalopnik
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