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10 Cool, NerDy Facts About the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/1/2015 Frank Markus

To mark yourself as an MX-5 cognoscente, you'll want to refer to this fourth-gen model as the ND (the first one was NA, the most recent NC, get it?) and keep these fun facts at the ready, as spilled to us by self-described Miata Nerd, former Sport Compact Car magazine colleague, and super-sharp Mazda engineer Dave Coleman.

Red Miata photos by Julia LaPalme

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata

Engine Power

NerDing out on the ND Miata© Provided by MotorTrend NerDing out on the ND Miata First and foremost, when your less-informed Miatisti pals start moaning about the backslide in the ND's power and torque, save this acceleration curve to your phone and show them how the new car's weight-to-power improvement (and fatter torque curve) translate to improved acceleration. The lower redline accounts for the slightly earlier shift points you see here. Inside this engine is basically a Mazda3 mill topped by an (ultra-thin) aluminum valve cover because MX-5 owners want to see a beautiful engine, not a crappy black shroud. The engine is also programmed to give you a throttle-blip bark at startup.

Speedy Gears

NerDing out on the ND Miata© Provided by MotorTrend NerDing out on the ND Miata You should save this chart to your phone as Exhibit B. Dave shared it to indicate how much better the acceleration feels in each gear of the ND Miata. Note that especially in first, second, and fourth gears, there's good separation of the acceleration curves. All the ratios are taller (by an average of 10 percent), but third is actually 15 percent taller. If we were calling the shots, we might have shortened that popular track gear a smidge to nudge the red trace up here, too.

No Overdrive

2016 Mazda MX 5 Club Gear Shifter© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mazda MX 5 Club Gear Shifter The new six-speed manual transmission weighs 15 pounds less than its predecessor and breaks with tradition by utilizing a 1:1 sixth gear. That's because the car spends most of its time in top gear, and drivetrain losses are minimized in the "straight-through" 1:1 ratio. (That's why you typically conduct dyno "pulls" in whatever ratio is 1:1.) This required a new differential with super tall 2.87:1 gearing. Because the ND is so much lighter, the overall gearing could be made taller while still improving performance. Only third and sixth gears deliver lower acceleration in gear than did the same gear in the NC. Oh, and the new tranny utilizes new ultra-low friction, low-viscosity oil that works way better in low temperatures (not that many of us use Miatas in block-heater weather).

Automatically Enhanced

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata True, "real" car nuts would never consider a self-shifting Miata, but half of all NC buyers chose thusly, so the carryover automatic features revised programming to better anticipate gear selection when driving briskly in Sport mode and to match engine revs (a manual-transmission model is shown here). Dave says the Cayman PDK was his benchmark for performance. He also admits there's no matching that one with a mere mortal planetary box.

High Roller

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Body roll is a Miata tradition, and it's one Dave and his team are none too eager to excise, in part because it helps inform novice drivers of the car's proximity to its handling limits. But the suspension is now even better designed to leverage its roll. All along, the "kinematic roll steer" induced by the geometry of the rear suspension links contributed rear toe-in, but on the NC the "compliance roll steer," which results from the way the bushings deflect, contributed toe-out. Now they both toe-in for a more decisive (if minimal) rear-suspension contribution to vehicle steering. Another important change: In the past the performance suspension was enhanced by stiffer anti-roll bars and damping rates, whereas the ND changes spring and damping rates but leaves the tiny anti-roll bars alone. Beware just bolting on big bars, though, as you may lose the steering effect.

Rotary Steering

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata The electric power steering system uses a dual-pinion design, with the steering column connected to one pinion and an electric motor to the other. This is the same design that was used on the lovely steering rotary-powered RX-8, but it's not shared with any of Mazda's front-drive based cars, as it doesn't fit.

Lightened Loafers

2016 Mazda MX 5 Club Wheel And Caliper© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mazda MX 5 Club Wheel And Caliper Opt for the $3,400 BBS/Brembo package and you'll shave two pounds per wheel — reducing both unsprung weight and rotational inertia in the bargain. The brakes shave another 1.5 unsprung pounds.

View Master

NerDing out on the ND Miata© Provided by MotorTrend NerDing out on the ND Miata By lowering the seating position by 0.8 inch and moving it inboard by another 0.6 inch, moving the windshield a bit closer, and lowering the hood by 1.1 inches, the field of view out the windshield and through the next corner is improved greatly.

Room to Vroom

NerDing out on the ND Miata© Provided by MotorTrend NerDing out on the ND Miata The cabin is reconfigured to provide one more click of seatback recline (27 degrees, up from a max of 25 degrees). Despite overall height of the top dropping 0.4 inch, there's almost that much additional headroom. Several factors contribute to the increase: The seat itself drops, the seat support system of a net in place of foam/springs is thinner, and a top redesign moves a support bar away from directly above the head and a rigid aluminum panel supporting the space from the header back to just in front of a tall driver's head. That panel is also credited with cutting wind noise by 40 percent. Legroom is improved, and a slightly smaller steering wheel and greater range of adjustment leaves more clearance for driver thighs.

Quick Top

NerDing out on the ND Miata© Provided by MotorTrend NerDing out on the ND Miata In another back-to-its-roots move, the effort required to manually raise the soft top (which is now made of ritzy-looking cloth even on the cheapest model) has been reduced by half. It is once again an easy wrist-flick maneuver to put the top up or flop it back, even for people of petite stature sitting farther forward. This means that once again, there are no good excuses for not putting the top down and back up again with any tiny change in the weather.

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