Neither exotic nor supercar, the MX-5 Miata remains Mazda's halo car, a roadster that distills the automaker's philosophy of fun, inspired driving into an ultra-compact two-seater. For 2016, the Miata will be smaller and lighter, but should remain one of the most rewarding convertibles you can buy.
Being fun to drive remains its primary mission; should remain affordable; Skyactiv fuel-efficiency technologies baked in to new chassis and powertrain.
More polarizing exterior design; new technology and manufacturing features may escalate base price.
The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will be redesigned from the ground up. It will be lighter and smaller and incorporate Mazda's full suite of Skyactiv fuel-efficiency technologies.
That the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata marks only the fourth generation of the model in 25 years shows just how precisely Mazda's engineers and designers nailed the roadster's original formula. It's also a testament to the Miata's broad, enduring appeal as a coastal highway cruiser, cute commuter or affordable track day special.
Mazda has thus far only disclosed basic details about the next-generation Miata, revealing an engine closer to the car's center, and the center itself lower to the ground than any Miata before it. Along with a revised rear suspension design, aluminum front suspension components for reduced weight (Mazda has shed more than 220 pounds from the current model), a stiffer chassis and electric power steering, the new Miata promises a return to the sharp handling that has dulled as the car has grown and aged. Mazda has also trimmed 3 inches in overall length and added a half-inch of width.
Outside, the Miata loses some of its cuteness for a more curved, muscular tone similar to the Mazda 3 or CX-5, two recent models infused with Mazda's new design philosophy. Inside, the cabin has moved slightly rearward and the seating positions are lower. The tachometer sits dead center behind the steering wheel, emphasizing the Miata's sporting roots.
The current Miata's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes way for the new-generation Skyactiv version. It's the same size and should be more efficient. In the Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback, this engine makes 155 horsepower -- less, actually, than the outgoing Miata's -- but more low-end torque. Combined with the new Miata's weight loss, this new powertrain promises fun and snappy performance. A six-speed manual transmission will remain standard (an automatic is optional) because this is, after all, a Miata.
Look for the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata to debut next spring, with sales likely to begin by summer. With the new technology used in the next-gen Miata, expect the starting price to eclipse the current base model's sub-$25,000 sticker. Mazda will need to stay competitive, however, to preserve one of the Miata's fundamental charms: affordability. Check back for a full review of the next-generation Miata, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.