I had not spent any time in a Mazda in a number of years, other than a few quick one-day press experiences. I forgot how much fun a small open-air roadster could be until I slipped into the MX5 Miata.
Yes, you slip, or should I say slither into a Miata, not unlike most other low slung sports cars. Once in you do get in, it feels like you are in the digits of a well-made glove.
What To Expect From the MX5 Miata
The Miata has always been small, it is a 2-seat car. In today’s world of 3-row SUVs, that is actually a beautiful thing. The MX5 Miata is zippy and handles like it is on rails, like a go-kart just with better suspension, technology, and safety equipment.
The Left Driver’s side is a tad roomier than the right passenger side, and there is no room behind the seats for anything but a slip of paper or maybe a folder. That also means that the passenger cabin is tight as well, everything is right-sized and in its place. The only thing I found out of place is the removable cup holders. Today’s all cars have cup holders, so building a car without would cause much consumer backlash. The Miata has two holders that are inserted into slots in the rear of the center console or one in the front. Not exactly the easiest to reach while driving, but then again, you are driving, not relaxing by the pool sipping a refreshing drink.
For the tightness of the cabin space, I was surprised at how spacious the RF’s trunk was. Being an RF, it has a retractable hardtop that has its own storage space and does not take up valuable trunk space. And it still has plenty of trunk space as we saw when it delivered Christmas presents to Children’s National Hospital, and the trunk held an enormous amount.
Driving the MX5 Miata
Once you get over the fact that you are one of the smallest cars on the road, and you understand that you have the maneuverability of a fighter jet, you quickly learn that driving is fun. Though you are quite aware of everything around you, even a Mini Cooper is towering over you.
And yes you can put the top down while at a stoplight, it works efficiently and quickly in just 13 seconds. Why have a drop-top sports car if you don’t drive it with the roof down? I did over the Thanksgiving Holiday, and with the heat on and the heated seats, it was quite delightful.
This little 2,453 lbs car with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder SKYACTIV-G engine and six-speed manual transmission has 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft torque at 4,000 rpm. Mileage is 26 / 34 / 29, and we found that to be true.
Safety and Technology
You do know you are driving a roadster, that goes without saying, the MX5 has plenty of power, letting you zip where you need to go, be it on an interstate ramp and into heavy traffic, or just down a curvy back road. You can get a Miata with a six-speed automatic as well, but why? This was one of the easiest stick shifts to drive that I have experienced. While it does not ride like a lux boat, it has a pretty compliant ride for such a short wheelbase.
Safety and Technology
The car has all the basic safety features, the blind spot alerts 4.6-inch, full-color TFT display New Club i-ACTIVSENSE Package includes Smart City Brake
Support and Lane-Departure Warning. And of course the backup camera and other safety systems that are now standard on all vehicles.
What Our Test Car Had
Our 2019 Mazda M-X5 Miata Club RF in Ceramic Metallic with a black interior had a base sticker of $32,345. With just a few options and $920 delivery, the full prices were $37,520. $3770 was the most expensive option, was the Brembo Brake package, red front and rear brake calipers The 17-inch BBS Dark Alloy Wheels and heated leather-trimmed seats. An Interior Package for M/T was $425 included Alloy Pedals, Red Engine Oil Cap with the MX5 logo, and stainless steel door sill templates. No charge for the predelivery inspection and the Appearance package, which included a Front Air Dam Rear Lip Spoiler Rear Bumper Skirt and side sill extensions. That is a lot of car for under $40K.
I would have liked to add Recaro seats, but they were only offered on the Brembo®/BBS Recaro package on the soft-top version with the manual transmission as a $4470 option. While the soft-top Miata embodies all the great things from the beginnings of the Miata, and it is a cheaper option with a starting price of $25,730 for the sport model, it is a matter of personal preference, I really liked the heavier and more rigid RF.
Mazda in General
Mazda is a different kind of car company. They do not follow the norms, often upgrading their models with new features and tech mid-year in the same model without holding off until the next model year like other companies. Mazda customers have a fierce love for their cars, as I found out with the CX5 Crossover/SUV. Everyone I talked to while driving one, said how much they liked their CX5. That is rare, even in today’s world of great cars and trucks. Mazda is very focused on the Japanese zen of design and building. KODO—Soul of Motion design language, which is defined by
a long hood, short overhangs, a cropped cabin pushed far back on the body, and large wheels moved as far as feasible towards all four corners. You see this in all of the vehicles they build.
Would I buy a Mazda MX5 Miata RF? Why Yes, I Would! And I would buy the ragtop as well. First of all, I have a long love for the brand, with the first Mazda in my family, a 1974 RX4 Rotary Wagon. After that, a long list, from B2000 pick up to MX6 and a first-gen RX7. While the brand had some interesting times during its Ford days, it has withstood that and now stands on its own growing to be better today than ever before.
Words and Images by William West Hopper. A member of the International Motor Press Association and the Washington Automotive Press Association where he has served as the organizations President.