Mazda’s MX-5 (or Miata if you prefer) has always been a nifty little sports car whose fun factor outweighs any negatives. The 2017 MX-5 RF carries on that “yahoo, this is fun” factor. In spades.
If you can’t take this fun-loving little two-seater out for a spin without wearing a grin, you have no business getting into it in the first place. Go find a sedate sedan or a sport ute – something that has room for five or six. Something with functional cup holders. Something quiet.
Those who love driving will find this little beauty readily returns that affection. It’s still built for drivers. It still responds quickly. It still handles beautifully. And it’s still small.
Mazda Canada sent me an RF dressed in Soul Red ($300) to evaluate for a week, a week that went by altogether too soon. It came in GS trim with the optional sport package ($4,400) that brings Brembo front brakes, red calipers, 17-inch BBS forged dark-finished alloy wheels, Nappa leather and Alcantara trimmed heated Recaro sport seats. Total price is $43,500 plus taxes and $1,795 delivery.
Worth it? What price to YOU put on fun?
The MX-5 RF is a conversation piece whether the top is up or stowed. Fueling up takes awhile because I end up answering questions from people at every stop.
The conversation usually starts: “Great looking car. How do you like it?” and progresses from there. “How does it handle? Is it quick? How’s the ride? Can I sit in it?”
First of all, it IS a great looking car and those Recaro seats are supportive and comfortable. There’s a clear, easy to see gauge cluster, multi-information colour display, and all the necessary switches and dials are easy to reach.
With the retractable top stowed (RF stands for retractable fastback), this version of MX-5 has a smooth, fastback styling with a teardrop-shaped cabin.
Retracting the three-piece roof is an interesting exercise: At the touch of a switch, the rear portion lifts to allow the rear window, middle and front panels to stow and then drops into place giving the car a look reminiscent of those T-tops of our youth – minus the T bar.
A clear wind-blocker sits behind the seats, giving decent rearward visibility and buffeting-free air flow.
With the top down, you don’t have to holler to carry on a conversation with your passenger.
The handling is taut. This car, with its independent suspension system, is bred to bend around corners like it’s on rails. No lean and no sway, but you can hang it out if you’ve a mind to.
It’s powered by a SKYACTIV-G 2.0L four-cylinder engine that turns out 155 horsepower and 148 lb. ft. of torque. It doesn’t sound like much, but coupled with a super-slick six-speed manual transmission, this little thing will get up and go in a hurry. So, yeah, it’s quick.
The clutch action is smooth and linear and I love playing with that manual transmission to the point that I find myself looking for errands to run that require driving someplace. Any place—especially if there are twisty roads or off-ramps or on-ramps involved.
It’s all positive, but there are drawbacks.
First of all, with the top up, the interior is noisy. In fact, it’s louder with the top up than with it down.
The ride is well-modulated and the suspension handles road imperfections easily, but the road noise is annoying even though more insulation has been added in the rear wheel housings. As for listening to the audio system, you have to crank up the volume almost to a very high level to overcome that road noise.
My wife liked driving the MX-5 (she’s partial to manual transmissions) and didn’t mind being a passenger even when I decided to have a bit more fun than I should. Briefly.
(If I ever got over-enthusiastic, her protests were backed up by other nannies like traction control, dynamic stability control, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning).
Besides interior noise, we soon discover the cup holders are terrible. Set back between the seatbacks, they are next to impossible to reach. That’s a fail.
If you’re planning a road trip, don’t over-pack. Trunk capacity is just 127L and there’s no place to store extra bags in the cockpit.
But what the hell. When you’re having this much fun, who cares? Just toss in a plastic bag with a pair of tube socks and a change of underwear and go!
2017 Mazda MX5 RF
Trim level: GS
Price as tested (before taxes): $43,500.00
Configuration: front-engine, rear wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4 cylinder/ six-speed manual
Power/torque: 155 hp/ 148 lb-ft
Fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): city: 8.9 hwy: 71 L/100 Km
Warranties: 3 years/80,000 km (basic), 5 years/100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Fiat 124 Spider