The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata stirs the road poets among us to romantic motoring visions: traffic-free dawns on challenging canyon two-lanes; adrenaline-soaked track-day afternoons; the after-dinner getaway with your one-and-only. That’s the stuff that put the fourth generation of Mazda’s little road star back on our 10Best Cars list. It inspires drivers to get out there, carpe every damned diem, and double-clutch down on the experience.
Mazda also sells MX-5s to people who feel the need for speed only when racing from the coffee shop to the conference room. Many of us live where most of the corners measure 90 degrees, the land is flat, and the traffic flows like peanut butter through a funnel. These drivers harbor the same fantasies of dancing on pavement as we all do—they like sharp steering, enjoy nimble handling, and want to feel at-one with their rides, but they also want to get to work without a stiff left leg.
Which is a longer way to say that some Miata buyers order an automatic transmission. A lot more of them today than was the case for the first-generation car in the 1990s, certainly, when the four-speed slushbox accounted for probably less than 10 percent of Miata sales. That thing was such a drag that putting one in a Miata seemed pointless. Hearing that someone had an automatic Miata made us think, “Go buy a Corolla and embrace your dull, gray inner drone, already.”
We didn’t even bother track-testing an automatic Miata until 2006. That was when a new six-speed and paddle-shifter combination arrived and we found it was, well, not so horribly bad. By 2011, Mazda was reporting that manual transmissions still dominated, but more than a third of softtop Miatas (37 percent) and more than half of the retractable-hardtop cars (59 percent) were sold without a clutch pedal. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Michael Simari
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