I can’t believe it has been nearly three years since I first drove a 4th generation Miata, dubbed the ND. That initial drive was around the Washington D.C. Metro area in a 2016 Grand Touring Roadster owned by my good friend Sofyan from Redline Reviews. As I requested a MX-5 RF for a week I tried desperately to recall my initial thoughts, and I could do nothing but smile. The MX-5 has always been a sports car of epic proportion, taking an old European sports car philosophy and adding Japanese styling and reliability. It was light and nimble, power provided from the front to drive the rear.
Sports Car – Noun
A low small usually 2-passenger car designed for quick response, easy maneuverability, and high-speed driving.
My week with the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF began with rapidly dropping temperatures and flurries. What in the world has my life become? They’re picking up a CX-5 with all-wheel drive and a heated steering wheel, and leaving me with a rear wheel drive roadster fitted with summer tires and no heated seats! Anyone who knows me, even in the slightest can hear my “oh lord” that I seem to emit when I become flustered.
My press car is in Club trim, the entry point for the RF, which brings in a base price of $31,555 excluding $835 in destination charges. This particular MX-5 is fitted with a package called “1BB: Brembo Package” a $3,400 dollar box to check that includes 17″ Forged lightweight dark alloy wheels, red Brembo calipers and rotors up front. Now at face value that may seem a little steep, but that also includes the “2AP: Appearance Package” which bundles a black front air dam, extended side skirts, a rear bumper skirt and trunk spoiler as well, at no additional cost. The addition of a $425 interior package comprised of alloy pedals, oil filler cap and door sill trim plates brings the MSRP to $36,215. A pleasant surprise was to see blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert included, something that does come very handy based on the way the RF’s permanent structure reduces view. The availability of ultrasonic parking sensors would have made for a much more enjoyable parking experience, a system available in other global markets.
Fastback – Noun
An Automobile with a roof having a long curving downward slope to the rear.
Rather than ruffling the feathers of our friends in Stuttgart with the term “Targa”, Mazda calls its three piece folding hardtop with sort of a permanent buttress the RF, or Retractable Fastback. This always visible structure allows for the collapsing portions of the roof to stow upon itself in a more compact manner, allowing for truck storage space to be unchanged from the soft top counterpart, a huge plus. One downside I do see here is a tad bit of increased wind noise when both the roof is down, and the side windows are up.
If I remove my camera bags and peripherals from the trunk, and my wallet from my pant pocket,a vast majority of myself fits in this attaché sized trunk.
My week with the MX-5 was a bit brisk, with average temperatures in the 20F range, but as long as there was no moisture on the ground the Bridgestone Potenza S001’s still proved confident once warmed up. Living in a lakeside community means that civil engineers are forced to build roads around nature, resulting in absolutely amazing opportunities to go for a quick spin; and this quick blast of wintery weather couldn’t stop me from top down fun. Despite a very horizontal driving position the front fender arches provide visual confidence when pushing this vivacious bucket of joy through the corners. The MX-5 Club trim paired with the 6 speed manual is an experience amplified with the inclusion of a limited slip differential, a must for a driving enthusiast.
The Club trim has dealer installed navigation available (not installed on this press car); and comes with a digital compass otherwise. Unfortunately Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available, and the front USB port was not keen on charging my iPhone 8Plus at a rate above a trickle, and would actually discharge when plugged in and streaming, an issue also experienced with the front USB on the CX-5 just one week prior. The infotainment system, Mazda Connect, proved very easy to use, with the pleasant inclusion of album art when plugged in to the USB port with my iPhone. Not a single 12v outlet is to be found onboard, so prepare to have your radar detectors hardwired!
Edit: Ive been advised of a 12V buried in the passenger footwell, somewhere in the realm of where I was looking, but much further into the dark abyss of Miataland. I mean… the car isn’t that big, how could I have missed it?!
The interior of my MX-5 RF Club is finished in Charcoal Ceramic Cloth with red stitched accents. I really enjoy how the Ceramic Metallic exterior paint color carried into the interior on the top of the doors. A stand-alone option for heated cloth or leather would be nice to see in this combination. Passenger legroom I found reduced by dash design compared to the drivers side, an issue for any significant distance of anyone over say six feet tall (myself included). Scenarios with two occupants the movable cup holders are no less than in the way. I found myself placing them in the trunk quite quickly in my time with this car, that is until I heard them clanking about in the trunk; they finished the week on my kitchen table.
Editors Note:By the time of this release, model year 2018 details for MX-5 RF Club with Brembo/BBS now includes heated leather trimmed seats! Way to go Mazda!
This Mazda has to be one of the last mass market cars remaining with a feeling that is near analog. You’re not yelled at by electronic nannies every fifteen seconds, or reminded constantly to shift in the interest of fuel economy!
The MX-5 RF is a well balanced piece of machinery, both literally and figuratively. A weight distribution of damn near 50/50 (including driver) gives the sensation of a very predictable sports car. This level of predictability allows for a far more exhilarating driving experience with lower power numbers, tires you can rotate, and without all of your trousers having brown stains.
Mazda just last year was successful in surpassing a production milestone, more than one million MX-5’s have rolled off a production line since its creation nearly 30 years ago! As an automobile enthusiast I understand the cult-like following that this car has developed and I got waved at in a similar fashion that I’ve experienced while driving vintage Volkswagens and Jeep Wranglers. Bonus nerd points, our friends at Blipshift had one of their specialty shirts unveiled just moments after I scheduled to test this car for the week, and it arrived on time!
Although the fourth generation (ND) MX-5 is the most dramatic styling change in Miata history, it does not mean it has strayed from its roots. It’s more spirited, more comfortable, and more livable as a day to day car! The ND MX-5 proves to be the largest, and most comfortable to date, but at 6’2″ tall, the only car that had ever made me wish I was 5’10”. At my height, it’s awfully snug, but that doesn’t stop me from giggling like a little school girl while driving it.
Never have I experienced 155 horsepower that has been so fun. If anyone reading this is shopping for a sports car and doesn’t consider the MX-5, I will hunt you down!
A huge thank you to Mazda USA for providing the car for the week, DriveShop for taking the time to deliver it to me all the way up here in Cooperstown, and Hoffman’s Car Wash for keeping it squeaky clean!