Last year, Mazda redesigned their Miata roadster, and made this iconic sports car more stylish than ever. This year, Mazda has given us an even sexier looking model, the RF, with a retractable fastback. This car is a beauty, either with the top-up, or top-down.
In the top-up mode, it looks like a sleek coupe. The buttresses behind the side glass create a fastback appearance. Top-down, you have a cool Targa-style opening. The switch from closed to open, or vice versa, takes only 14 seconds. Moreover, the top can be opened or closed while the car is moving, up to six miles per hour. This means you can change the top in bumper-to-bumper traffic, without having to pull off to the side of the road.
The sight of the retractable top opening and closing is enough to attract a crowd. The buttress element raises up; the aluminum top and rear glass sections fold down into the convertible bay, and the buttress element slides back down and covers everything up. The nice thing here is that you don’t lose any appreciable trunk space with the top down.
Inside the Miata, the cabin space is tight. The car is best suited to people who are under six-feet tall and slender. Although, I was able to scrunch my lanky 6’2” frame behind the wheel and operate the pedals. In fact, I had a surprising amount of headroom with the top up. However, once in place, there was almost nowhere to store anything—no conventional glove box; only a hard-to reach small bin behind the seats that is obstructed by the cup holders.
Although not spacious, the cabin is straightforward in its function. Black gauges face the driver; a touchscreen interface stands upright on the dash, and a satellite controller provides backup on the center console. A stubby little shifter falls readily to hand, like on classic sports cars of yore. Additionally, the bucket seats are well bolstered for vigorous driving.
The MX-5 RF comes in two flavors, Club and Grand Touring. The Club with the manual transmission, is the sportiest. It gets a stiffer suspension, Bilstein shocks and a limited slip differential. This is in addition to the Bose sound system, satellite radio and a rear spoiler that the automatic has. The Grand Touring adds bells and whistles such as heated leather seats, navigation, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. However, the GT gives up the Bilsteins and limited slip.
Mazda powers the Miatas with it 2.0-liter, inline-four-cylinder engine that pumps out 155 hp. This motor, while modest in horsepower, is very responsive. My test car with the manual gearbox was quick off the line, and the engine pulled well above 2500 rpm. The transmission featured short throws from gear to gear, and was slick to operate. Additionally, the RF gets good gas mileage. My test car delivered a steady 30 mpg during its stay with me.
Out on the road, the Miata captures the feel of traditional sports cars of yeas passed. Its quick steering and sporty suspension provide a nimbleness that makes zipping along twisty roads a pure pleasure. Even though the RF model weighs 113 pounds more than the ragtop version, the handling does not feel any different. The same can be said for the ride—it’s still quite bumpy on secondary roads. However, the noise level with the top up is lower in the RF than it is in its soft-top sibling.
As you might expect, the Miata RF is more expensive than the standard Miata—$2,755 more for the Club, and an additional $2,555 for the Grand Touring. The suggested retail price for the RF Club with manual transmission is $32,390. The Grand Touring goes for $33,455. If you prefer automatic transmissions add another $1,205.
Sports Car Handling