by Chris Wall
When images of the new Mazda MX-5 Miata first appeared we didn’t think it could get any better, and then the RF model was previewed and we had ourselves a different roof mechanism – a retractable fastback. It’s the perfect mix of hardtop and soft-top with the same great styling, the same great 155 hp inline 4-cylinder engine and the same great handling. The Mazda MX-5 Miata RF comes in two trims with a few choice options to personalize the car a bit more, and the extra money needed over the price of the regular soft-top model looks to be well worth it.
The cabin of this roadster is tailored to the driving experience, and so it feels as if you’re seated in a cocoon of driving controls with everything in perfect reach. The layout is great; it’s intuitive so you can concentrate on the road and not how to navigate it. Beyond the 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel is the instrument cluster with the tachometer taking center stage and the driver info screen to the left.
The only interior criticism is that the screen for the infotainment system sticks up off the dash, but so much that it looks like an afterthought. The raised center console features the stubby shifter that looks very race-like. The bucket seats are comfortable and space is good, even for taller drivers, but luggage space doesn’t really exist, well when the top is down – and it should always be down.
This is one of the cars that looks like it should have a lot of power but doesn’t because it’s been built around the experience and handling. It’s also one that the claim rings true for. The front engine and rear wheel drive setup on a short chassis makes it a candidate for great balance, and with a driver on board the balance is almost perfectly 50/50. This ethos has made sure the MX-5 Miata RF is nimble with a high fun chuck around factor.
Power delivery from the 2.0-liter engine is good, and the 6-speed manual sees gears almost pull themselves into place via a quick, short throw, and the 6-speed automatic can be perfectly manipulated with the steering mounted paddle shifters and both are great but manual is for the purists as it also sees fitment of a limited slip differential – sideways fun. The suspension is very good, tightening up when the heavy corners some up, but it’s never uncomfortable.
With the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF in automatic guise being the heaviest at less than 2,400 lbs., the normally 2.0-liter in an inline 4-cylinder driving the rear wheels with 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. Those are small numbers but in the Miata RF that equates to a still very good 6.1-second run for a 0 – 60 mph dash with a sub-16-second quarter mile run and a top speed of 133 mph.
The 6-speed manual transmission is short and direct and makes the shifting process a fun task, and the automatic transmission provides faster shifts but allows for more engagement when the steering-mounted paddle shifter are used.
You have traction control, ABS, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring with dual front and side impact airbags as standard equipment on the safety side of the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. Standard equipment on the features front includes the color touchscreen that heads up the infotainment system, and you can improve on that with the further option of integrating navigation into that system.
Also standard is a powerful audio system from Bose with nine speakers, great when you need to help drown out the inevitable wind noise when the top is down and you’re headed over 50 mph. Braking can be improved on with an optional Brembo upgrade that comes with a set of BBS wheels.
By taking away the soft top and adding in a retractable hard top, the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF manages to become even more desirable. At $32,285 for the Club and $33,825 for the Grand Touring, these hardtop convertible roadsters are more affordable than many think. As with the rest of the range, the RF is powered by a 155 hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that drives the rear wheels, and there’s a choice of a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission so that the appeal of an open top roadster is even wider.