2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata: No Nav? No Problem!
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on October 31, 2016
Our 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is the Club variant, which is my favorite trim level because of its Bilstein shocks and limited-slip differential. It's the only version that has these nifty bits. The one thing I want that the Club lacks is a navigation system. But that's a shortcoming that can be overcome.
I'm not talking about running Google Maps on a smartphone, although that does work. Some people don't want to drive with a smartphone stuck to their windshield or balanced in an inconvenient nook. Others live in places where data coverage is slim to nonexistent. And not everyone owns a smartphone.
Built-in native navigation solves these problems. Here's how we added it to our Club.
On one end of the Miata trim-level spectrum is the Sport, which is a nonstarter because it lacks the necessary screen-based head unit. On the other end you'll find the top-level Grand Touring, which has a stand-up screen, a single-point control dial and full-fledged navigation. The Club (and other similar mid-level Mazda trims) sits in the middle. It comes with the screen and the controller, but the navigation isn't present. Press the Nav button and you'll get a compass instead.
Hunt around the cabin and you'll see an SD card slot. It's in plain sight in front of our MX-5's shifter; other models hide their SD slots inside the console bin. This slot is the pathway to activating navigation in these cars.
I got my hands on the upgrade, which is a box containing an SD card and a navigation system user's manual. The asking price is $399, and Mazda dealers sell it as an accessory through their parts department. The Mazda part number is 0000-8F-Z09B.
Interestingly, you can fold a navigation upgrade into the initial purchase of a Club and finance it as if it were any other accessory, like floor mats. Or you can buy the car as is without active navigation and see how it goes. If you decide you want it later on, you can simply buy the card from the parts department. Likewise, if at some point in the future you buy a used MX-5 Club and the previous owner didn't activate the navigation, you can easily do it yourself.
I poked around and found an online Mazda parts source — possibly a dealer comfortable with thin margins — selling it for $308. Better deals may be out there on auction sites, but you've got to be very careful. Used ones won't work because the car's VIN number becomes electronically and permanently linked to the card as soon as it's inserted. You have to make sure you're getting a brand-new, genuine Mazda part that's never been used.
Why does it cost that much? Navteq, the supplier, has a virtual lock on map data. They charge accordingly. It's kind of why college textbook prices are so high. If there's a standard textbook for Econ 101, you've got no choice but to buy it, and the publisher has no reason to give you a good deal.
Installing is as easy as one, two, three. You'll close the cover and leave it in there, never to touch it again.
Next time you use the controller and select Nav, you'll get a fully functioning navigation system instead of an electronic compass. If you want a Club for its Bilsteins and limited-slip differential — not to mention its lower price — but you still want navigation, this is your way forward.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 14,844 miles