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First ND Drive and Impressions

I was having a pretty bad day today, so I retreated into my favorite comfort activity, looking at cars. I’ve really got to stop that… Wait! A new 2016 Club with a manual transmission less than 100 miles away?!? The manuals are more rare that hen’s teeth right now. I’m smiling because I finally know how to make the day just a little better. I made an appointment and hit the road. I understand some don’t like the new Miata for various legitimate reasons, but here’s my take on the experience.

What I really liked (in no particular order):

1. Transmission. It’s the best ever on a Miata. The gear ratios are more evenly spaced than on the NC. On the NC, I frequently felt the need to skip every other gear because of the odd ratios.

2. Suspension. Even stock, it’s very nice. Still too soft for my tastes, but better out of the gate than previous versions. It’s also less jittery. It feels more grown up and serious.

3. The feel of the interior materials. They’re a lot nicer than the NC’s hard plastic interior.

4. The seating position. I know, I know… I already hear the groans. I feel a little lower in the ND as opposed to being perched on a low car in the NA and NB generations. The NC started this trend, and honestly, the ND isn’t any more than that, but it’s still noticeable. It may be a function of other cars I’ve driven, but that lower slung sensation makes me feel more snug and connected to the car.

5. The engine bay layout. Yeah, I know that’s probably a crazy thing to like, but it has a good design. The stupid plastic cover on the NC generation is (mostly) gone and it looks like an engine again. There’s actually some room in there. The engine itself seems more noticeably shifted rearward. It’s now easy to see this is a front mid-engined car.

6. No more Mazda grin! That said, Mazda may have gone a little too far towards aggressive, but I’m so happy the grin is gone, I’ll take it!

The top is a mixed bag for me, so I’m not going to list it as a like or a dislike. On the NC, while seated, I could reach back and close the top without exiting the car. Handy! Doing this is even easier on the ND. The top feels like maybe all of a few pounds when you’re pulling it up. It’s light! While all that’s great, the downside is it seems closer to my back and makes the back and top of the cabin seem slightly more closed in than before. Even top-down, it seems slightly less open. Some of this may be from the windshield angle, too. It’s not bad, but it is an adjustment.

What I really didn’t like (also in no particular order):

1. The diagonal LEDs on the lower front.

2. The stupid looking tablet glued to the center of the dash. I really hope the aftermarket community comes up with a delete or folding option for that. The focus of this car has always been the connection between the driver, the car, and the road. Why put a distraction like that in plain sight? I’m hoping the screen can be turned off. If not, it’s going to be majorly annoying at dusk or dark.

3. Did I mention the stupid looking tablet glued to the center of the dash? Oh, sorry…

4. While the movable cupholders are kind of a cool idea over previous fixed locations, they feel incredibly cheap and flimsy.

5. The NB and NC had a nice folding wind blocker. The ND’s pulls out leaving you holes and a loose part to keep up with. Given it’s new shape, it made be able to stay in all the time, but it does interfere with rearward visibility with the top up.

6. On the stock wheels, I think it desperately needs some lowering springs (easy fix once someone actually makes them). Stock, it sits a little high. Maybe it was expecting the recent floods?

7. The shark fin satellite antenna on the trunk. On the NC’s, it was only on the GTs. Now, it’s only missing on the Sport versions. Both the Club AND the GT now have it.

8. The window supports seem minimal when shutting the doors with the windows rolled down. The windows kind of rattle around in there. This was definitely true of NCs as well, but seemed slightly more pronounced with this particular ND.

I know these are mostly just minor styling elements, but they do add up…

After having some time to reflect without any excess Miata-induced endorphins coursing through my brain, I find myself still being impressed. The car was very fluid and felt great on twisty roads. Luckily, I was able to talk the salesman into a very long test drive. Since it was such a pretty day, I’m sure he was as happy to be out of the showroom as I was to be finally driving a manual transmission ND. It’s still exceptionally light and nimble, and it still feels comfortably small; it’s still every bit a Miata. It can also magically improve bad days.

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5 comments to First ND Drive and Impressions

  • Donna and I sat in a GT the other week at Gerald Jones. Didn’t bother driving it as it was an Auto.

    Stray observations: Sitting in a bathtub sensation not quite as bad as the NC. The passenger leg room was a lot better than the NC, still not as roomy as the first 2 generations. I’d gladly trade the tablet and lower dash for a real glove box. The interior materials and look is a step into the future akin to the NB over the NA. The big butt doesn’t look as large as it appears in photos. If it came in a decent blue I could see buying a sport model in a few years, I’d come to love the car, but recall wistfully our current car as I occasionally still do about our ’95…

  • David

    Passenger leg room, yes! Big improvement over the NCs.

    The tablet is really bad. It’s just something that’s going to look so dated.

    Having seen the ND in ceramic (a weird color… not white, not silver), black, gray, and red, I’d say the big butt depends on the color. I tend to think it looks a lot better in darker colors.

    It’s not just the butt for me, though. In profile, the ND looks too thick somehow. Maybe it’s the thickness combined with the incredibly short front and rear overhangs that make it seem kind of blunt? It isn’t as elegant and well-proportioned as the NBs are. While the ND’s front view is sleek, the profile and butt views just aren’t. That’s why I was thinking lowering springs might help.

    That said, I agree with Brian; it’s a car I think I could come to love. I can also say pictures don’t do it justice. It looks better in person.

  • LG

    I JUST don’t like it, and very disappointed. Yes, that ‘tablet’ thing is ugly; but I’ve seen some other cars adopting it too. No inside storage, really? Mazda had a chance to really pop; but didn’t make the full inflate on this one. Sales are not taking off either, so maybe they’ll re-think it next year. What we want is a simpler car, not one that thinks for us (or what the gubment wants us to think). A smaller but more powerful engine, with a turbo and a 5-speed (ok, optional auto with manual, like the VW DSG for when I’m older).

    But, if someone gave me one, I’d drive it but keep my shades on.

  • David

    It does have some interior storage. There’s a center console tray (with a lid) between the seats, there’s a larger storage box (with a door) between the seats on the rear wall (like the box in the NCs), and there’s a cubby hole (with a door) behind the back of each seat (also like those in the NCs, but whereas the NC’s cubby holes had a hard plastic liner, the ND’s have a soft fabric lining). That said, all these spaces don’t add up to a lot, but the new ND does have some interior storage.

    Simpler AND a turbo? Isn’t that mutually exclusive? Ha ha… I prefer naturally aspirated just for the simplicity argument, but this really needed to be 2.5L, not at 2.0L. Power, or the lack thereof, has always been the primary complaint against the Miata. It certainly doesn’t need lopey, monstrous V8 power, but it’s always needed more than what it came with from the factory.

  • David – Want to bet those three cubby’s disappear or are greatly diminished in size when the PHRT (or is it PRHT) arrives next year?

    LG & David – Unfortunately the Miata isn’t a big enough seller for Mazda to offer more than one engine variation. Personally I’d rather the Euro/Japan freer revving 1.5 liter, the car would be lighter still and maybe a grand or two cheaper.