2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review | Old dog, new thing

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Miata fans live by a simple mantra. Whether you’re behind the wheel of an all-new 2022 Mazda MX-5 or the 1990 Rustpile Edition™ sitting in my garage, one truth unites us all: MIATA — Miata is always the answer. Sure, it’s exclusionary tribalism with a welcoming smile behind it, but for a long time it had the advantage of being true. As value-priced rear-wheel drive models evaporated from the market during the 1990s and early 2000s, Miata became the entry-level car of choice for enthusiasts if they wanted rear-wheel drive.

Even the ho-hum alternatives we take for granted today were fewer and more remote back then. Remember, the DaimlerChrysler partnership didn’t spit out a Challenger with a decent V6 until 2011 and we’ve been through almost a whole decade without a Camaro of any kind. The Honda S2000, Nissan 350Z and Mazda’s own RX-8 were only cheap by 2022 standards; at the time, they eclipsed the MSRP of the Mustang GT 4.6-liter V8—by a lot, in the Honda’s case. So for a long time your options were Miata, Mustang, or settle for front-wheel drive.

It helps, of course, that the Miata has always been good. Very good in fact, despite a formula that most modern car buyers avoid. Light, low and supple – three terms you’d never use to describe today’s line of performance SUVs – were the name of the game then, just as they are now. The ND MX-5 sticks to the formula even better than the intermediate NB and NC models, in fact, but for some reason Mazda keeps tinkering with it.

Surely no one (apart from owners of 2016-2018 models, perhaps) complained a few years ago when Mazda upped the power of the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder from 155 hp to 181. The 2.0 may be out of character or engage with another 26 horsepower, but they are certainly welcome. Ask any clear-minded Mazda fan how best to describe the automaker’s offerings and you’ll hear a variation of “outstanding chassis, acceptable engine.” That’s doubled since the Renesis rotation stopped (yes, they’re as reliable as the Politicians, but just as entertaining until they fail).

But for 2022, Mazda hasn’t looked to the powertrain, but to the chassis to find opportunities for improvement. Finding nothing but wanting to do something anyway, Mazda engineers developed new braking software that helps smooth out body movement in tight corners, reduce body roll and make steering response more linear. Mazda calls it “Kinematic Posture Control” (KPC) and implementing it requires no additional hardware – just what the doctor ordered.

While you’re busy hustling a Miata around tight corners, KPC will digitally sneak in and slip the inside rear brake just a little. Applying the brake in this manner will help counter the natural upward movement of the bodywork, leveling out the car’s attitude through corners and giving the impression of a firmer suspension setup without the added cost, complexity and driving quality of the design this way. in the first place. If that means anything to you, it’s very similar to Nissan’s “Active Ride Control”. MMM Yes. Nissan Altima technology in my RWD roadster. That’s exactly what I wanted.

“That’s good,” you say. “Miata Internet tells me the ND handles like a yacht, unlike previous Miatas, which are essentially race cars.” hey i remember my first Internet. And I remember when the exact the same was said about the NC. But “4×4 ride height” and “leans like a container ship” are just valid performance metrics in the world of magazine racing, and let’s be perfectly clear: Body roll is the product of the L-word triumvirate of Mazda aforementioned from the very beginning. . Yeah, your homie’s ’94 R-Package corners like he’s on rails after $3,500 in Flyin’ Miata parts. Good-stock, this thing had its inner hip up spinning around. Single. cone.

Body motion isn’t inherently bad, it’s simply a tangible expression of a chassis’ weight management characteristics. When Mazda changed the seating position of the current Miata, the goal was to bring the driver closer to the roll center of the car so that attitude (such as pitch and yaw, not grille smile) could be more easily interpreted. . This change had the side effect of reducing the consumption of the Miata perceived body roll, although it did very little (not nothing, but we’re not going to dig into that here) to alter the amount of weight transfer taking place.

How? Go sit in the center of a swing while two of your buddies take the right places. Now close your eyes. How much does the swing move? Although you may feel the rocking motion, your body does not rise or fall. For you, it does not move at all. To your friends, things are moving a lot. Who is right ? If this were a philosophy class, the answer would be “both,” but in a performance driving school, you’ll learn that it’s the perspective of the seesaw that ultimately matters.

Indeed, driving fast is all about managing this weight transfer. Whether you’re on the drag strip or chasing cones, being fast is all about putting weight where you want it, not where you don’t. Body roll is the car’s most effective tool for telling you how well you are managing its weight. Reducing it, whether in practice or simply by perception, is equivalent to reducing the volume of the chassis communication system. That’s why you want a roly-poly ride in a big, heavy, unwieldy truck; it’s there to show you where the lines are so you don’t cross them.

Luckily the Miata’s limits are relatively low and accessible – again, part of the formula – and it’s very unlikely that someone upgrading from an earlier ND to a new 2022 is going to overload the thing first in oncoming traffic because it is infinitely firmer than the car it replaced. In fact, an experienced shoe may even be able to squeeze out a few tenths per lap on its chosen track if Mazda’s claimed limited-slip improvements actually translate to higher real-world output speeds, though. that I wonder on what expenditure to curb longevity.

Back to back, I’m sure it even makes a noticeable difference on the street. Since I haven’t driven an ND since 2016, I can’t comment on what it does for handling except to say that it certainly doesn’t detract from the experience. I’d just say it wasn’t necessary, as the ride/handling balance of the car was already brilliant. At least there’s no weight penalty; the only cost associated with it is money.

Where a system like this makes more sense is in Mazda’s new high-end crossovers, where similar trickery may actually come in handy in the real world. While Kinematic Posture Control is apparently exclusive to the 2022 MX-5, Mazda could easily adapt the technology to other applications. We’ve already seen what Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control can do to help facilitate fore/aft torque transfer (pitch rather than roll, in other words) with the all-wheel-drive system to improve cornering and various other settings. Pairing it with Kinematic Posture Control could provide benefits to both on-road and quiet off-road handling – exactly the kind of do-it-all stuff consumers think they want from crossovers. That said, I understand why Mazda did this; in fact, the reasons are probably twofold.

First off, as good as the Miata is, it’s a living roadster in what has evolved over the past two decades into a coupe segment. As modern as the current MX-5 is, it flickers and shakes in a way that the BRZ and GR86 do not. And it’s old. Yes, the BRZ and GR86 are about what it is carry rigs that were first introduced in 2011, but even they are noticeably stiffer than their immediate ancestors. The MX-5 is relatively longer in the tooth – a poor candidate for significant development investment, but an excellent guinea pig for anything cheap that could help keep sales afloat as it approaches the lame duck status.

Second, for better or worse, the MX-5 is Mazda’s halo performance car. You can’t toss performance upgrades into something like a refreshed CX-30; from a marketing point of view, this is not good. Give it a few model years and I’ll bet that terminology will have trickled down (moisture spreading between the folds of paper towels may be a more apt metaphor) to the rest of the Mazda lineup, both in kind and in name. .

In the meantime, the MX-5 is certainly no worse off. It may be showing its age, but the little roadster is still as wonderfully engaging and fun to drive as it’s ever been, whether we’re talking about the NA junky I bought in 2008, this 2022 or the various others that I have purchased. ve owned and sampled in the intervening years. Miata may not still be the answer, but it is very often mine.

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