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2015 Mazda MX-5: What's Old Is New Again

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On: Wed, Dec 23, 2015 at 10:35AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

2015 Mazda MX-5:  What's Old Is New Again

For those of us old enough to remember 1990, it was the beginning of an era of excitement and fun, questionable fashion and great music, Ninja Turtles and Rugrats, and some new crazy thing called the internet (anyone have an email address with the suffix "@compuserve.com"? And, in the first year of that decade, Mazda debuted their rendition of a very simple but effective car concept:  The two-seat roadster. Fast forward a quarter century and look around. Fashion has somehow morphed back into the 1980s, music is… interesting, people have the internet on their watches, the Rugrats are gone, and the Ninja Turtles are back. In all that time, Mazda has seen its little roadster evolve into a car that is amazingly different and yet the spitting image of the car that started it all 25 years ago.    

For 2015, the Mazda debuts its fourth generation Miata, now called the MX-5, and it's better than ever. The MX-5 has survived everything from the Jurassic Era of overweight, monstrous, super-gas-guzzling-SUVs, and then the emergence of the super-green-I-need-to-stay-under-30mph-to-not-use-gas-in-my-Prius-era. It's been a wild ride, to say the least, and the little Mazda just keeps buzzing right along through history. The fourth-gen is actually slightly smaller than the car it replaces, a half-inch lower and a shorter wheelbase, but it does feel bigger inside, thanks to a bit more headroom, higher door sills, and lower seats; they all help give the car a more solid and fuller feel than the go-kart vibe of the first-gen car. Visually, the new MX-5 looks like it's taken quite a few cues from the both the Honda S2000 as well as the Jaguar F-Type—both excellent role models to have.

The fourth-gen MX-5 is powered by an all-aluminum 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 with VVT that produces 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. No turbos, no supercharger, just a well-tuned naturally aspirated motor that fits this little car very nicely. And while those low numbers may deter some people (like your humble author oh-so-many years ago), don't let low output numbers make you think that a car can't be fun to drive if it doesn't have 500 horsepower. Sure, this little Mazda has only a little more horsepower than a big lawn mower, but with only with about 2300 pounds to haul around, two liters feels more than adequate. The MX-5 isn't a pure speedster in the way a Corvette ZO6 may be, but it doesn't embarrass itself either. 0–60 mph comes up in a very impressive 5.8 seconds, 0–100 takes 16.7 seconds, while the quarter mile traps at a very respectable14.5 seconds @ 94.2 mph (almost half a second quicker than a Subaru BRZ). Not too shabby, Miat… er… MX-5. Power is channeled through either a very satisfying 6-speed manual or a more city-friendly 6-speed auto with steering-wheel mounted shift paddles. 11-inch front and rear disc brakes help the MX-5 stop from 60–0 mph in 111 feet. Around the slalom the MX-5 shines; thanks to that very low curb weight and a very optimal weight distribution of 52/48% front/rear, the Mazda pulls an average of 0.97g, which is just short of spectacular. Oh, and another area where that non-turbo, non-gas-guzzling little motor stands out? At the fuel pump. The MX-5 has an EPA tested 27/34/30 city/highway/combined mpg, which is very good for normal cars, and amazing for a sports car this side of a BMW I8.

Three versions of the MX-5 are available to potential buyers. The Sport version starts at $24,915 and its main features include 16-inch aluminum wheels, LED headlights, and daytime running lights. Other basic "features" include power windows, a basic 6-speaker sound system (with USB hookup), A/C, cloth-trimmed seats, dual front and side air bags, and leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel. With a starting price of $28,600, the Club version ups the ante a bit with 17-inch Dark Gunmetal wheels, the same LED headlights, but a Mazda Connect infotainment system connected to a 9-speaker Bose Stereo that includes headrest speakers so you can enjoy your tunes even with the top down. A front air dam, rear lip spoiler, and sportier-looking black cloth seats with red stitching. And, if that's not enough, the Grand Touring version, which starts at $30,065 gets you 17-inch Dark Silver aluminum wheels, automatic climate control, leather-trimmed heated seats, rain-sensing wipers, a Mazda navigation system, and a host of safety nannies like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a lane departure warning system, as well as an adaptive front lighting system and high beam control.

The 2015 Mazda MX-5 is a testament to what can come when one does not waiver from knowing who you are. The Miata-turned-MX-5 has stayed true to itself for 25 years and counting. It never gave in to fads, or acquiesced to waxing and waning consumer whims, or corporate decrees. No, it stubbornly or steadfastly (depending on your vantage point and how you feel about the car) remained a simple pleasure. A small car with a small fun engine, enough to pull around a small bit of weight in the open air of some twisty country backroad, or a Saturday jaunt to the beach, or any other set of circumstances where the main goal is to enjoy oneself on the way to wherever. The MX-5 has certainly seen its fair share of wackiness over the years in the automotive industry, and, while no one can tell the future for sure, something tells us that in another 25 years there will be at least one car we can probably count on to not go the way of the Power Rangers.

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