A recipe for success |
Some goodbyes are harder than others, but the anticipation of the future is what helps us get over them.
Some goodbyes are harder than others, but the anticipation of the future is what helps us get over them. We’re at a point in the automotive industry where it’s very difficult to make a genuinely poor car, and certain manufacturers are on a roll presenting exceptional product after product. Mazda is a great example of one of these companies, and their latest line is nothing short of extraordinary. Since our editor currently has one of the first MX-5 Miatas ever made, the upcoming 2016 model is easily our team’s most-awaited car this year. In a play almost as if to keep us sane until our first drive with that, we were sent a 2015 Mazda MX-5 GX in True Red, as well as a 2015 Mazda MX-5 GS with the PRHT for weeklong testing.
We’ve reviewed virtually every model of the third-generation (NC) Mazda MX-5 over the past few years. The mid-trim GS is our pick if it were our own money on the line, simply for the value it presents for the price Mazda asks for it. The GT adds things like keyless-go, Bose sound, and xenon headlights. However, this is our first go with the GX model, the absolute cheapest Miata one can purchase in Canada. It still maintains the same 2.0L engine that makes this car so special to drive, but it has a few frills cut from the higher-trim models that could either add or take away from the car’s charm. It’s all dependent on how you see it, really.
Every single 2015 MX-5 sold in Canada packs the same 2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine. It’s good for 167 horsepower at 7000rpm and 140 lb-ft of torque at 5000rpm. There is an automatic available, but thankfully, our friends at Mazda Canada understand that the Miata roadster is about passion and not functionality, so the only transmissions we have ever sampled are manuals. Every model (including the GS) except the GX comes with a slick-shifting six-speed manual; the base car makes do with a five-speed box. This was my first (and last, obviously) go with this transmission, so I was expecting it to feel dated and cumbersome. This was, of course, the complete opposite of what I actually experienced.
My daily grind actually consists of a good amount of highway driving, so I enjoy weeks where I have testers with eight and nine-speed automatics. It had been a while since I had a car with only five gears, but it wasn’t a poor experience by any means. The shifter is short and slick, and it feels exactly the same as the six-speed shifter in the GS, just with one less gear. Clutch travel is fantastic, and it’s almost child’s play to drive this car well. The flywheel is light, so revs drop quicker than in other cars, encouraging quick shifts. Both the five and six-speed manuals in the Miata remain some of the best old-fashioned transmissions available right now, and we can only expect the new car to improve upon this further. Obviously, Mazda agrees with the philosophy to #SaveTheManuals, as is evidenced by the fact that most vehicles across their lineup are available with a manual transmission in some form or another.
The Miata’s charm remains in its handling. Even without things like Bilstein shocks or a limited-slip differential, the base model MX-5 is just fantastic to drive. The sticky tires on the simplistic 16” wheels hug the ground perfectly and the car grips the road with utmost confidence. The GS feels a bit heavier, on account of the power retractable hard top (PRHT), but the difference when driving both on the daily grind and exploring the backroads is negligible. Steering response is astonishing as the Miata still remains one of the sharpest cars around.
The base MX-5 GX stickers at just under $29,450, and for this you get a manually-operated cloth convertible top, a decent-sounding AM/FM/CD stereo with an auxiliary input, dynamic stability control, power windows, locks, keyless entry, fog lights, and 16” wheels. Our test car had one option checked off – air conditioning for an extra $1,195. For a $36,045, the GS model adds a sport suspension with Bilstein shocks, 17” gunmetal wheels, a limited-slip differential, strut tower bar, and of course, the power retractable hardtop. When driving the GX though, the only things we really missed having were a trip computer to display average fuel economy and the presence of an outside temperature gauge. Again, the Miata is about modest simplicity and this is a job it does well.
New for the 2006 model year, the third-generation MX-5 in production form was always a considerably heavier car than its predecessors. It’s also the largest and “softest” Miata ever produced. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s taken a good amount of hell from loyal fans for being too big and cushy, even taking some criticism for not being as involved as previous models. During its second-generation, Mazda actually produced a turbocharged Mazdaspeed version which also fixed one huge issue with the car that enthusiasts have always had, and that’s straight line power. The Miata was never intended to be a fast car, but fans have often remarked that en extra bit of horsepower would make a near-perfect car that much closer to being flawless.
When the original MX-5 Miata was introduced in 1989, it took a very straightforward formula. Mazda wanted to replicate the recipe for the traditional European roadster – front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, two seats, a manual transmission, a decently efficient four-cylinder engine, and a low asking price. Thanks to this superb combination, they were able to produce the bestselling roadster of all time, and a car that has developed a genuine cult following. I can not only speak for myself and the rest of our team, but it seems that every single car show, club event, or track day we have attended or sponsored, there is always a healthy mix of MX-5s there. Why is that, you might ask? Well, the answer is always “Miata”.
2015 Mazda MX-5 GX Gallery