The Current Mazda MX-5 Miata is (Mostly) Timeless

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

For 35 years, the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) has thrilled enthusiasts with its engaging, top-down, back-to-basics driving experience. Mazda’s formula has worked so well, the brand rarely needs to change much about the roadster. Over its lifespan, the MX-5 has only gone through four generations. The industry standard for replacing a vehicle with a successor is around 5 years. The MX-5 is currently averaging close to 9 years before getting replaced.

The latest MX-5 (called the ND by enthusiasts) is no exception. Introduced for the 2016 model year, the car is celebrating its ninth anniversary this year. While most vehicles are showing their age by this point (we’re looking at you Toyota 4Runner and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport), the MX-5 remains just as good as it did when Obama was still in office. How is that possible? We try to explain in the points below.

Simple Mechanics are Best

The Mazda MX-5 has always stuck to the same mechanical formula. A rev-happy four-cylinder engine up front sending power to the real wheels. The diminutive size and feathery weight of the car makes the most of the modest power.

The 2023 MX-5 has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that now makes 181 hp. Every trim can come with a short-throw, smooth shifting six-speed manual transmission. A limited slip rear differential is standard on the top two trims.

The real secret is in the steering and chassis though. The steering is lighter than most sporty cars and the suspension softer, thus making it a liveable vehicle day-to-day. But the response from the steering is instant and the spongier suspension allows drivers to really play with weight transfer while cornering. It’s easy to drive the MX-5 fast without much time behind the wheel.

Age Defying Exterior

When a fresh design first gets introduced, we are wowed by the shiny new sheetmetal. But overtime, we get accustomed to the looks, and eventually, either grow tired of it or at a minimum are blasé about it.

This hasn’t been the case with the current Mazda MX-5, even after a near decade on the market. The clean, aggressive styling still looks fresh in 2024, with the car’s body lines flowing over the chassis. Put it beside other small sport coupes, like the Subaru BRZ or BMW Z4, and the MX-5 doesn’t look out of place.

Time for a Technology Upgrade

Not every aspect of the MX-5 has aged well, with the most glaring being the interior and technology. The infotainment screen and software, as well as the HVAC, all seem out of touch for 2024. The interior is uninspiring and dated. The good news is Mazda is aware of this and updates are coming next year.

For now, though, the Club and Sport make do with a manual climate control, while Android CarPlay users still must tether to the car regardless of the trim. The driver information center could use an update as well.

The Three Best Letters: F-U-N

Despite everything mentioned above, the main reason the Mazda MX-5 doesn’t feel old has to do with its charm. The car is still incredibly fun to drive. It’s smile inducing regardless of the journey. The few faults it has are quickly overlooked after taking a few spirited corners.

We can’t fault Mazda not wanting to mess with a winning formula. There might not be another vehicle sold today that gives drivers as much enjoyment per dollar spent. But everything comes to pass, and the ND MX-5’s days are coming to an end. Let’s hope its successor carries on the long Miata tradition.

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Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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