2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata: To Ripley and Back, Believe it or Not
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on September 13, 2016
Much of my time in our 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata has taken the form of bite-sized chunks: trips to the mall, dinner and a movie, minor Home Depot runs, shuttling my daughter to a sleepover. I'm blown away every time by its uncanny ability to inject fun into routine errands.
But I've never driven it very far. Each session behind the wheel could only be counted in minutes, not hours. Would I still love the MX-5 as much (or at all) if 6-foot 2-inch me had to spend all day in the saddle? Could I really see myself owning one of these?
My opportunity to answer these questions came last Saturday, when I woke up before sunrise for no good reason. I couldn't sleep, so I did what I've done on previous mornings like this: I grabbed the keys and headed east into the desert with no destination in mind.
By the time I got home, I'd covered 503 miles, burned through a complete tank of gas and gotten partway into another.
The new ND MX-5 is considerably more accommodating of my lanky frame than any previous Miata, but it doesn't have the stretch-out room of the 2015 VW GTI that I drove the last time insomnia struck. It can't. The seats only go back so far before they encounter a bulkhead.
Still, I was able to settle in comfortably with the seat in its rearmost position, and the seat itself proved to be supportive for what turned out to be an eight-hour trip.
I cruised with the top up during the chilly pre-dawn darkness and again when the sun was high in the sky. But I ran with it down during the golden hour, the in-between time when the sun was coming up. That's when I like convertibles best, and there's nothing better than the MX-5's manual top, which is about as easy to raise and lower as it gets.
My route was a mix of interstates and lonely two-lane desert roads. I didn't turn the wheel much, in other words. Aside from some large-radius bends on Highway 78 south of Ripley, California, there were no glorious winding roads for the Miata to exploit this time.
But that didn't matter. As with my errand-running trips, the Miata's inherent goodness showed through on the open road. It felt connected and willing even though I never asked it to do much. But it was never nervous, twitchy or tiring along the way.
I could own one of these. I could drive it to Texas and back. Or Oregon. Moab, maybe.
I came to that conclusion before I stopped for gas and did my usual MPG math. The first stop came at the top of the Jacumba grade at a Shell station just off Interstate 8 in sight of the Mexican border fence. I had driven 347.1 miles, a new Best Range milestone for our 2016 MX-5. It took on 9.638 gallons of fuel, which works out to an even 36.0 mpg.
The official EPA highway rating is 34 mpg.
I filled up again 155.9 miles later when I got home so I could lock off the round trip. Another 3.749 gallons went in, which amounts to 41.6 mpg. Zoinks!
"But, Dan. Jacumba sits at about 2,844 feet," you say. "That was a downhill-trending tank."
That's true, but that means the 36.0 mpg tank had been an uphill-trending one.
We need to look at both together. In all I drove 503.0 miles and the Miata burned 13.387 gallons for a trip average of...
And I wasn't even trying. This Skyactiv business is for real.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 13,343 miles