In The City — 04 December 2015
Mazda MX-5: Good things in a small package

 

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata trades cute for fun

By Eric Barton

There’s a friend of a friend who has a big idea. He and his wife are just about to trade their home for an RV, giving up on the bigger-is-better lifestyle he grew up with in Coral Springs. Mom, dad and two toddlers will then drive across the country.

For a year.

Maybe you’re thinking this is crazy, or maybe you know someone doing the same thing. Small is big these days, from shed-sized homes to Fiats and Minis marking the return of the micro car.

Testing just how small is acceptable is the brand new Mazda MX-5, the car you know as the Miata. It’s so tiny you could drop it into a Christmas stocking.

OK, that’s hyperbole, but the Miata has shrunk, back to the size of the 1990 original. Now, adjusting the radio – the knobs oddly placed to the rear of the center console – may require elbowing your passenger. The glove box is a cubby hole between the seats. The trunk would fit golf clubs, as long as they’re made by Fisher-Price.

Like bikinis and neckties, the diminutive size doesn’t equal cheap. It starts at $25,000 but can pass $33,000 with options. That’s luxury-sedan money. Like tiny house owners who ignore the per-square-foot price, it’s hard not to wonder about the Miata’s price per pound.

Still, the sticker shock might fade after looking at the new Miata. Gone is the old model’s selfie smile, replaced with sneering lights and grille, like the car just heard an inside joke. Yoga muscles bulge along the hood, and the ragtop flows into a squared-off trunk that’s clean and handsome. The simple-yet-stylish interior recalls BMWs, with stitched beige leatherette across the dash, and well-tailored black rubber and plastic trim. It’s small, but there’s no cute anywhere.

One hook releases the ragtop, which folds neatly behind the seats with a satisfying clunk. Pull a lever, and the top closes with the pressure of one finger. Well engineered, this is.

The Miata’s tiny engine manages just 155 horses, but they’re pulling such little weight that everything feels faster. At just 2,332 pounds, it weighs as much as six average Americans. The bassy note of the exhaust sounds almost after market, like it’s coming from another car next to you at the light. In the six-speed manual version, it’s a couple inches from one gear to another, meaning you’ll feel like you’re racing every time you drive anywhere.

This wild ride, however, offers few invites. The seats can’t be pushed back to accommodate any driver over 5-foot-11 or so. Passengers get even less room – it’s not just uncomfortable for a six-foot-tall person, their legs likely would not fit under the dash.

What they’ll miss is a car that’s what ragtops are supposed to be. Think about that feeling of seeing a little Austin-Healey Sprite or Dustin Hoffman’s Alfa.

Those are cars that make you smile, cars that feel like vacation. For those who like little, the Miata can do that too.

Grieco Mazda, 2001 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach, 561-278-7800, griecomazdadelray.com; Gunther Mazda, 1800 S. State Road 7, Fort Lauderdale, 954-889-7879, gunthermazda.com; Lou Bachrodt Mazda – Coconut Creek, 5400 State Road 7, Coconut Creek, 954-247-5000, mazdacoconutcreek.com; Lou Bachrodt Mazda – Pompano Beach, 1801 W. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach, 888-821-6628, mazdapb.com.

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