Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: 2016 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Skyactiv A/T

Photos by Ulysses Ang
It’s amusing how carmakers become obsessed with whoever can build the fastest, most powerful, or best handling car out there. Often, they’ll start quoting things like horsepower, torque, and even Nürburgring lap times. That’s all well and good, but unfortunately, in their quest to build what factually is the best car disregards the most important aspect: the driver. In their plan to build a car with blistering acceleration and rib-hurting lateral g’s, it becomes cold and distant to drive. Yes, it’s fast, but it doesn’t feel enjoyable to the man behind the wheel.

This is why the 2016 Mazda MX-5 is different. Sure, it does take into consideration some basic design principles such as a weight target, balance, and so forth, but for the most part, it isn’t so obsessed with the facts and figures. Simply, it goes back to the basics: it makes driving fun. And that shows. In the six days I had the MX-5, I clocked in more than 500 kilometers and if you could just see the ear-to-ear grin I had, it was priceless.

This is one car that’s not bound by what’s written on the specification sheet. Although the numbers themselves are pretty respectable all around, it goes well beyond that. At almost every opportunity, people quizzed me: how fast does it go? How many G’s does it pull in corners? How soon does it brake? My response is always the same: perfect. See, the MX-5 doesn’t really care about scorching the quarter mile or anything of the sort. Instead, it cares that you actually relish every opportunity you get behind the wheel. With the MX-5, I’ve had more coffee meet-ups than I’ve had in a month because I always relish driving it around. I didn’t want to go home and wanted to spend a few extra minutes with it whenever I can. If you want a solid threat to a long-term relationship, it’s the MX-5.

Even before driving it, you know it’s something special. Like all new Mazda’s of late, it’s a head turner. It doesn’t veer away from the classic lightweight roadster formula established by the British and revived by the original Miata in 1989. The long hood, pushed back cabin, and short rear deck all pay homage to that formula. However, what makes the MX-5 different is in the details. Mazda has successfully established their own twist to the formula by actually designing this car to be the barest possible; no unnecessary embellishment, no unnecessary accessory. Everything here serves a purpose. You can see it, for instance, in the wheels: the four-lug design with eight-spoke pattern was specifically chosen because it provided the lowest weight with the best strength.

Make no mistake about it though: it’s a thing of beauty. The strong angularity of some elements is nicely balanced by the sensual curves in others. For those in the know, they’ll instantly recognize it as a Mazda; for those who don’t, they’ll think it’s something far more exotic.

It’s the same treatment you get with the interior where everything is designed to fit the driver with millimeter-like precision feeling like a bespoke tailored suit as a result. The steering wheel moves only up and down and the seat offers just minute adjustments, but everything feels perfect. Getting in and out is a challenge, but if you’re physically fit, it’s not a problem. It promotes the proper driving position because the moment you slack off, your knees bang against the dashboard. It’s the same for the lone passenger: he or she must be content sitting like the driver—no slouching or sleeping is tolerated here. This car is excellent for everyone except for those who don’t understand the joy of driving, so those who plan to be chauffeured need not apply.

For all its talk of being lightweight, the MX-5 isn’t exactly bare. For this P 1,860,000 automatic transmission variant, it comes pretty loaded with leather seats (heated if that amounts to anything), a seat-integrated Bose sound system, automatic climate control, and of course, the Mazda Connect infotainment system. Surprisingly though, for all the bells and whistles, it doesn’t come with cruise control. Although purists will crucify me for saying this, it does hurt its long-distance touring comfort.

The best thing about this car is that you get to share this joy of driving with someone special. Taken separately, the basic ingredients don’t say much, but when everything comes together, it becomes a harmonious balance of power and poise. Driving it in the city, with the top up obviously, this low-slung car is very easy to maneuver. Beyond the maneuverability, you just feel so connected with it. The cloth roof, for instance, lets enough ambient noise that it acts as pseudo-blind spot indicators, especially for the rear third quarter. The ride is firm, but provides enough compliance as not to cause discomfort to you or your passenger.

The engine note is always present and makes the entire experience that much more enjoyable. The raspy note of the 2.0-liter engine is very similar to that of a sports bike and the exhaust note is, for the lack of a better term, perfect. The engine pairs well with the lightweight chassis, but add to that the willing and responsive 6-speed automatic, and you have automotive nirvana. Normally, it’s hard to top a stick shift when driving a sports car, but in the MX-5, the application of the two-pedal set-up is just as good. The gearbox actually holds revs very well and is telepathic in its response. It even commands a downshift the split-second you need it and keeps the engine at its sweet spot all the time. What’s more, there’s no penalty to all this fun as it can do 9.91 km/L in a mixed setting (8.33 km/L in the city, 16.13 km/L on the highway).

As surprisingly good as it is to drive in the city, it comes alive when you take it out of town. On the final day of the drive, I decided to drop the top and head towards Tagaytay for the sunrise. Here, the MX-5 takes a different character. As engaging as it is with the top up, it becomes even better with the top down. Frankly, I’ve never liked the notion of driving without a roof not because of pollution or what not, but because I never enjoyed the attention. However, I’m making an exception here because the experience is simply indescribable. It sounds like a cliché, but with the roof down, you feel it tapping into your very soul. It becomes your ultimate source of joy. Words cannot describe the fun you have corner carving with the wind in your hair and the sun caressing your skin. It’s during this time when you feel all your stresses melt away and feel rejuvenated once more. It’s the proverbial fountain of youth. If this is the very reason the Mazda MX-5 is so successful and revered, then I can vouch for that.

2016 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Skyactiv
Ownership 2015 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Skyactiv A/T
Year Introduced 2015
Vehicle Classification Sports Car
The Basics
Body Type 2-door
Seating 2
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Direct Injection, NA
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 160 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 200 @ 4,600
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control No
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 3,915
Width (mm) 1,735
Height (mm) 1,230
Wheelbase (mm) 2,310
Curb Weight (kg) 1,063
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-Link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Bridgestone Potenza S001 205/45R17W (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights No
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat No
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 9
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. Uly, help!
    MX-5 M/T or WRX M/T..can't decide! :|


    1. I think they're quite different markets altogether, Bert. The WRX is a sledgehammer of a car. It still is mighty fast and can seat 4 making it more practical.

      On the other hand, the MX-5 is just more fun to drive. But you do have to live with having just 2 seats and having a soft top.

      If you're looking for a Sunday driver, get the MX-5. If you're looking for an everyday sedan with super car performance? The WRX.

    2. The agent from MI-The Fort just called me - they will not bring in M/T WRX this 2016 or 2016MY M/T WRX for that matter, so yeah..CVTs. I dont listen to Phil Collins so CVT is not for me.


  2. I'd choose the WRX. Easier to convince Misis with the practicality argument. ;)

  3. Mazda MX-5 all the way. <3_<3

  4. It's really difficult to understand why anyone would want this. If you need a vehicle that has a capacity for only two persons and you have the urge to feel the wind blowing against you, just get a damn motorcycle.

    1. It's not practical alright, but you have to drive one to understand. Notice the reviewer's use of so much good adjectives, because really, its hard to put into words the feeling or - rather the pleasure of driving this car.

    2. LOL. This is the default response of someone who hasn't driven an MX-5 ever. With this logic, you can question all other 2-door sports coupes in the market, why do they even exist? LOL.

    3. Most of 2-door coupes can seat 4 people. This can only carry 2 persons. Try again.

    4. Basically, people who can afford don't really have a problem with 2-seater cars. Anyway, they probably own one, two or a fleet of SUV's or passenger cars in their garage. So, don't hate if you can't afford. I respect your opinion though, but for me I would also want to have this lovely car in my garage soon.

    5. Why buy a sports car and seat 4 people in it ? At most two should be ok to minimize the weight. If your aim is to seat 4 or more for "practicality sake" then get a sedan. A sports car is not for you. Besides the backrow seat and the extended chassis for the 2nd row space will just add more weight to the car,

  5. Most??? Try seating in the rear of a Subota 86/BR-Z, lol. I guess you're a hobbit if you consider that a 4-seater 2-door, lolz.

  6. A 4 seater is a 4 seater even if the other extra 2 seats can barely seat a person. By definition, a car with 4 seats is a 4 seater. Try again smartass.

  7. MX5 owner here - i got this car because its fun to drive. I have a midsize sedan as the primary car and this MX5 as my weekend car. Thus "being practical" is not even in my dictionary specially if you have the extra cash for the fun part.

    1. Well that's fine if you already have a midsize sedan. But if you're given a choice between the mx-5 and toyota 86 as main car, then the latter will win.

    2. i already did an extensive review/study between the 86 and the MX5, spec for spec, video reviews, track performance, etc. I was contemplating of getting either one of them and I ended up with the MX5 :)

    3. how long did it take you to get your unit?

    4. How is it in our roads? Does it succumb to the potholes and humps? This is the 1st sports car I'm seriously considering to get (even without the Mrs.' Consent). The reviews are just so good. The actual unit is just beyond beautiful in person (in car?).

  8. and there is a big difference in handling when i transition between the midsize and the mx5 roadster - from slow/heavy to zippy and light and "balanced"

  9. very satisfied owner. i didn't wait a month to get mine. love to drive it everyday.

  10. I hope we get the club version like the ones in the US. How does the sport mode on A/T compared to the stick? Night and day difference?

  11. AT gets you leather seats, auto climate control, and bose speakers
    Meanwhile the stick version, gives you better driving pleasure and control, and Limited Slip Differential.

    I'd go for the MT anyday, excepts that its gonna be frustrating for stop-go traffic..

  12. Man got mine after waiting for 3 months aswell! And also this is my first car, I did think about it's practicality but hey if your buying a sports car why even think of it in the first place? So yep got the Miata and this would definitely my car for a life time :)

    1. Lol got mine also after 3 months! Even after waiting that long, never once had it crossed our minds to just get the 86 (or another car for that matter). The moment we picked the MX-5 up, I knew it was worth it. True enough, the sheer joy that the car brings us is way bigger than the complaints about its impracticality. Those who say bad things about this car simply hasn't driven one (or are secretly jealous.. *wink*). Cheers, brother!

      (May 2016 Mazda MX-5 M/T Soul Red)