Years ago, I worked as a sales rep for Atlantic Canada’s largest telecom company, peddling cell phones and Centrex systems to business customers. As you’d expect of a company with thousands of employees, we had meetings. LOTS of meetings.
The joke on my mind was that if a smaller company found a snake, they’d kill it. At our company, we would have a meeting to learn about snakes, another meeting to find out the permits required for snake hunting, and a meeting to ponder and select the best weapon. Then, the whole thing would be derailed by cost considerations.
Meetings give birth to compromise. Some ideas here, some ideas there, and before you know it, you have a lukewarm solution which placates all but ultimately satisfies no one. Driving the 2016 Mazda MX-5, I got the distinct sense the team had the minimum number of meetings required … and the car is better off for it.
By now, everyone knows the new MX-5’s basic numbers: 2.0L, 155hp, 2332lbs, 0-60 in 6ish seconds. What those numbers fail to describe is the feeling one gets when bombing along a county road and catching a whiff of freshly cut grass. Tooling down Main Street and smelling the saucy ribs from the BBQ joint on the corner. Every interaction suddenly becomes more pronounced, more connected, more real. Going for a gallon of milk was never so much fun.
Yet, this is a deeply flawed car (I’m 6’6″ fer chrissakes; I had to fold myself three different ways to get in). The infotainment system, standing proud on the dashboard like a vertical iPad, is controlled by a multifunction knob just aft of the shifter. This setup, surrounded by a few redundant buttons and a volume control knob even further aft again, works extremely well in the Mazda 6 or CX-9, but here? Not so much. You need T-Rex arms in order to use it. Fortunately, Mazda places a redundant button on the wheel for stereo volume but this design would never have made it to production if Mazda had a lot of meetings. Some pencil necked gum chewer would’ve complained about ergonomics and zen and tai chi right before going off for his chai tea.
I am glad that meeting never happened. See, when engineers and designers are freed up from the dull monotony of volume knobs and cupholders, they can focus on what really matters to them. Even then, most performance cars (ahem, Golf R) have a myriad of option settings – often buried deep in the submenus of the infotainment system – for the suspension, steering, exhaust note, and so forth. You know how many settings the MX-5 has? One. The setting the engineers decided was best.
This is the best looking MX-5 to date, certainly better than the gopping mouth on the gen-3 NC model and light years ahead of the timid gen-2 NB which always looked like it was about to get stuffed into a school locker. This newest effort has some sort of alien fish look about its headlights but the whole effect is a bit more chiseled. I think, as I always have, that it looks best from the driver’s seat.
Freed from meetings, Mazda’s engineers must’ve been allowed to focus on the purest form of handling and performance they could wring out of the MX-5 chassis. Had they been required to include several different settings – Normal, Sport, Performance, et al – I guarantee the experience would’ve been diluted. Mazda was able to make the MX-5 the best it could be … and keep it that way.
At 7:35am on a deserted road, with its scant 2332lbs perfectly distributed and the steering wheel communicating every time I run over an amoeba, do I care that I need T-Rex arms to adjust the radio? No. Do I care that I need to be a contortionist to get anything out of the glovebox? No. I don’t care if it picks its nose and farts in bed. I love this thing.
You know what it’s like? It’s like raising a small child. *Really* annoying on occasion … but if someone tried to take it away from you, you’d kill them. That, friends, is the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Selling Points: Fabulous handling, crisp shifter, open air freedom.
Deal Breakers: Ergonomic quirks, less roomy than an airplane lavatory.
The Bottom Line: Meetings suck. Buy a Miata.