Piloting the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata in El Niño

2016 Mazda Mx-5 Miata
Being prepared for El Niño is especially important in the Mazda MX-5 Miata; Hunter Boots, a Burberry raincoat and Lotus umbrella help keep the weather at bay

Room for two in the Mazda MX-5  – luggage, well, not so much.

When I dream of driving in Southern California, I envision a sports car, top down sun shining. Well, we had the Miata convertible, but it was heated seats and windshield wipers for this ride.

In fact, it was so cold in Los Angeles in late January, that our hotel, the Palomar in Beverly Hills, set out an urn of free hot chocolate.

But that’s not to say we didn’t have fun in this sporty little number, which we drove from San Diego to Los Angeles, and then around town for a few days.

Safety and technology in a sporty package

Mazda Mx-5

Don’t worry about bigger cars on the road; the Miata’s technology keeps you safe. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Just because you drive a sporty little two seater doesn’t mean you want to forego safety. The Miata has blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert, along with dynamic stability control and a traction control system in case you forget to slow down on a tight corner or hit a slick road.

Mazda Mx-5

Steering wheel controls on the Miata. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

And although the console controls are obviously in close reach, the steering wheel also has them; phone and radio, along with cruise control, so you can keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

Finding your way in the Mazda MX-5

Mazda Mx-5

The 7 inch touchscreen. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

If you are driving this car, you will not be asking anyone for directions, but be forewarned that finding an address on the navigation system can be tedious. Entering an address is fine, but using the search functions, not so much. However, the 7 inch screen (anything larger would hit the passengers) is crisp and it’s easy to follow the directions, with a ping telling you when to turn or exit. The screen also provides the speed limit on the current road; the icon turns from white to red if you are exceeding it. Since this car invites you to floor it, the warning is quite useful.

Can you fit? The Mazda MX-5 has a tiny cockpit

Mazda Mx-5

There’s not a lot of room to maneuver in the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

If you are large, you will have a tight squeeze. The cup holders are detachable to give you a bit more room, and you can toss a small bag or jacket behind the seats (as log as you have the top up; it’s where the roof gets stored). And that’s about it. Keys and a cellphone can sit in front of the gearshift; there are 2 USB plugs stacked tightly together. Every time my husband tried to plug in a phone, he changed the settings on the heated seats. There is also no glove box, but there’s small storage bin between the seats.

The top stayed up

The rag top convertible has a manual fold down top and I wanted to try it out. But my husband pointed out our (mainly, his) manual deficiencies and I was too chicken to risk have the top stay down when the thermometer barely cracked 50 (and remember, one of us had a suitcase that could go airborne). Nicole Wakelin, as luck would have it, was simultaneously driving a Miata at an ice academy AND she had appropriate winter clothing, so she took her top off (er, the car’s) and said it really wan’t difficult to take the top up and down.

Mazda Mx-5

Don’t try this at home; top down at the ice academy. Credit: Nicole Wakelin for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

Who is this car for?

Style conscious buyers on a budget should check this car out. If you like to pick up your Max Mara threads at a sample sale, and got your Kate Spade bag at an outlet center, you know good style, but you may not have the money to buy a $60,000 sports car. But at about $24,000, you can still look great and arrive in style.

That being said, the Mazda Miata is also for second car owners; you have the SUV for hauling the family or your mountain biking gear, and this is the car for date night.

Mazda Mx-5

Yes, we tried to travel light, but we still could not fit 2 bags in the trunk. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

If that date night could lead to an overnight, pack light. We tried all sorts of engineering skills to try to fit two suitcases in the teeny tiny trunk but it was just not possible.  One of us had to ride with a suitcase jammed between his legs and that is not the most comfortable way to travel.

On the other hand, we saved money; we literally could only window shop on Rodeo Drive.

  What we loved

  • Hello gorgeous
  • Heated seats
  • Leather seats
  • Rain sensing windshield wipers (which, sadly, we needed)
Mazda Mx-5

Next to my cousin’s pick up truck, the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata stands out. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

What you need to know

  • You have to travel light. Very light. Like, a toothbrush and under eye concealor.
  • Base price: $ 24,915; the Grand Touring trim starts at $31,270, with all the luxury touches and extras standard
  • Fuel economy: 26 mpg on the highway, 27 in the city; 30 mpg combined
  • Takes regular gasoline
  • Not yet rated for government safety

Note: Mazda loaned us the 2016 MX-5 Miata for the purposes of this review: opinions expressed are my own.

Mazda Mx-5

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Monroney

Judy Antell, who is TravelingMom.com's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell