2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Performance Tested
by Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant on February 16, 2016
We've had our long-term 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata a little while now. It was time to see how it would perform at our track. We took our Miata to the track to have some unrestricted fun and gather the numbers.
We know that the Miata is about more than just pure speed. It's never going to outpace our Viper or Mustang around a circuit. Read on to see how it compares.
Vehicle: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Driver: Carlos Lago
Drive Type: Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed manual
Engine Type: Naturally-aspirated inline-four cylinder
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1998 cc/ 121.9 cu-in.
Redline (rpm): 6900
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 155 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 148 @ 4,600
Brake Type (front): One-piece ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): One-piece solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type (front): Double wishbone with Bilstein shocks
Suspension Type (rear): Multilink with Bilstein shocks
Tire Size (front): 205/45R17 84W
Tire Size (rear): 205/45R17 84W
Tire Brand: Bridgestone
Tire Model: Potenza S001
Tire Type: Asymmetrical summer
0-30 (sec): 2.2 (w/TC on 2.6)
0-45 (sec): 3.9 (w/TC on 4.4)
0-60 (sec): 6.3 (w/TC on 6.8)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.1 (w/TC on 6.4)
0-75 (sec): 9.3 (w/TC on 9.9)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 14.59 @ 93.6 (w/TC on 14.89 @ 92.9)
30-0 (ft): 27
60-0 (ft): 108
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.90 (0.90 w/ESC on)
RPM @ 70: 2900
Acceleration: Traction/stability control makes modest intervention on key-up acceleration runs. It permits some tire spin and flashes a warning light after launch and through one-two and two-three gear changes. Turning off electronic aids allowed more aggressive clutch use, which returned better acceleration. The fastest run was achieved with ESC/TCS off and a clutch release at around 3,600 rpm. This helped cut half a second off the 0-60 mph time and 0.3-second from the quarter mile pass.
The tires chatter through first, which helps keep the engine close to its power peak, and gain traction right before the shift to second gear. From the gas pedal to the clutch and the shifter, each input you make is met with linear and enthusiastic responses. This makes the handoff of a shift extremely enjoyable, as you can hear and feel the effects as the car accelerates. This is a wonderful car to drive quickly, even in a straight line, due to its lovely shifter and happy engine.
Braking: A low mass with sticky summer tires results in short stopping distances. The first stop was the best, at 108 feet. Stopping distances extended with each run, but only to a maximum of five feet. Pedal feel degraded slightly, but the braking system did not produce odor. You can hear the ABS groan, but stops feel stable and do not require steering correction. Like everything else with the Miata, there's a bit more feedback with braking. You hear more of the car working and you feel some light shuddering and a greater sensation of g-forces. But this reinforces the Miata's mission of being all about the act of driving.
Skidpad: Stability control is well-behaved during the steady-state cornering that happens on a skidpad. Once the Miata gets settled into turn, you primarily control its attitude with the throttle. The chassis tends to understeer, but throttle release and application help induce rotation. Even with ESC on, the Miata permits enough tire slip to adjust your line, but seldom needs countersteer. Turning ESC off simply requires tapping a button; no holding and counting required. The tendency to push remains, but now you can make more aggressive throttle adjustments which can create increasing levels of slide. Get it right and you can neutralize the handling balance, but only briefly.
The lack of power makes slides, even small, difficult to hold. You have a small window to work with and can't simply power out of your problems. I found more body roll than I'd like for a performance-variant Miata like our Club edition. The roll is fine on the street, helpful even, but can be frustrating during limit handling. The roll oscillates in a way that feels exaggerated and can make the mass of the car fall out of sync with your intentions. This might also be why the Miata imparts a sense of vagueness at its limits. That said, the Miata is still a hoot when you aren't trying to set lap times. The steering feels direct and the response from the engine and chassis are predictable — Carlos Lago
Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 4,423 miles