2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Grand Touring quick take: Resetting the definition of pure driving fun


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What is it: A hardtop/targa/fastback version of the amusing MX-5 for those who aren’t into a dedicated soft-top convertible

Key Competitors: Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86, Fiat 124 Spider

Base Price: $33,455 As-Tested Price: $33,885

Highlights: The Mazda MX-5 RF’s retractable hardtop makes for a more sensible Miata without losing any of the convertible’s sharp reflexes and pure driving experience.

Our Opinion: The Miata is everything you want from an old British sports car, but without any of the problems of owning said British tin. While you might not get as many thumbs ups or hear as many war stories in a Miata as you would in a Lotus Elan, you at least know you’re not going to have to call your boss on Tuesday because it’s raining and your car won’t start. 

Of course, that’s been the charm of the Miata since the car’s inception in the late 1980s. What’s good with the newest iteration of Mazda’s roadster is the retractable targa top. Unlike the previous generation of retractable hardtop Miatas, this doesn’t look anything like the stick-on hardtop that you’ll see on a roadster, but the structure doesn’t fold completely either — you either have a closed coupe or a targa fastback that looks a little like an Alfa Romeo 4C.

Global MX-5 Cup road test at M1 Concourse in Pontiac

The hardtop feels slightly stiffer than the roadster, and the solid top makes it feel more like a complete package. Of course, the regular roadster feels more than stiff enough to handle any sort of autocrossing you’ll throw its way. Where the hardtop is noticeably better than the roadster is noise. Wind noise is virtually non-existent with the windows up — a trait that can’t be echoed with the roadster. Operating the top is also even easier than the piece of canvas covering the regular MX-5, but only because the top disappears with the touch of a button.

Aside from the top, the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is perfectly Miata. Porsche could take note of how the short-throw shifter happily clicks into place — giving you all the feedback you’d ever want from a gear change. The steering is light, too, but not annoying — you still get input back through the steering wheel from the front rubber. The suspension is soft enough to drive around pot-hole-riddled streets without wincing the night away.

Compared to the permanently-fixed-top Toyota 86, the retractable Miata hits a few of the same notes, with less power, less interior room and more open-air fun. The only reason to walk past the Miata RF is to climb into a regular roadster. 

On Sale: Now

Base Price: $33,455

As Tested Price: $33,885

Drivetrain: 2.0-liter DOHC I4, RWD, six-speed manual

Output: 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm

Curb Weight: 2,445 lb

Fuel Economy: 26/33/29(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

Options: Gray paint ($300); Keyless entry system ($130)

Pros: All the fun of a Miata with more weather protection

Cons: Nasty blind spots; feels even smaller than a regular Miata

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