2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF – Keeping the recipe alive
To just about anyone that loves driving, the Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster is a favorite. It’s small, light, affordable, cute, and most importantly, fun to drive. The Miata first came out in 1989, and since then has gone through many revisions. But that simple recipe of being fun first has always remained.
The fourth and current generation Miata is available in two forms, the typical roadster, and as this weeks test car, the coupe-like RF.
RF stands for “Retractable Fastback” as the roof panel is retractable and the RF gives the Miata the look of a fastback coupe. If you like the styling of the current Miata soft-top, the RF shouldn’t rub you wrong. On the other hand, those that have never been a fan of the little pop-top Mazda, may have a liking for the RF, as it really gives the Miata a different look.
Like all Miata’s, the RF uses a 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine that sends power to the rear wheels. Last year, we saw all Miata’s get a healthy boost of power, from 155 hp to 181 hp, which in a car that tips the scale just under 2500 pounds, is significant. In case you’re curious, the RF weights 113 pounds more than a similarly equipped Miata. And if you’re into tracking the car, that extra weight is situated aft of the driver, moving the Miata more towards a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution.
Inside the RF it’s typical Miata with a snug and cozy cabin that is really quite comfortable. The main gauges are the conventional analog style and are easy to read. The control layout is similar to that found in other Mazdas and works well. Cupholders continue to be the install-them-yourself type – and they take up precious arm space on the center console. They are better left in the trunk. Speaking of the trunk – the RF’s is .1 cubic smaller than the regular Miata, but the opening hasn’t changed. Past experiences have taught me that there is room for a few bags of groceries or a tote bag or two – just not both at the same time. The thing to remember is that the Miata is a car to have fun in, not one to tackle a days full of errands in.
Just like with the soft-top, it’s super easy to transform the RF from coupe to an open-roof car. Push and hold the console-mounted roof button and watch as the sail panels lift up and back while the rear glass and two roof panels fold up into a little compartment behind the seats. The sail panels then go back into place and you’re left with a roofless Miata. It’s quite an event to witness.
The test car came equipped just the way I would want a Miata – with a manual transmission, and it hasn’t disappointed me in the entertainment department one bit. Driving down the road, the RF is nothing but fun to drive. When the subject of the demise of the manual transmission arises, one just needs to drive the Miata with its 6-speed manual gearbox and ask how can they think of getting rid of something as fun as this? The action from the stubby gear shifter is excellent, making zipping through the gears a delight. Even the exhaust note, with its raspy tune, is fun to hear. And with those 181 horses on tap, the Miata is fairly quick.
While the RF is all about smiles per mile, it does give up some things. First, there are some serious blindspots thanks to the RFs fastback design. And while the car is tighter and quieter than its soft-top counterpart, with the top retracted, there is quite a bit of turbulence in the cabin. Minor items considering the fun the RF delivers.
Pricing for the RF starts at just over $33,000 or about $6,500 over the starting price of the regular MX-5 Miata. A bargain – no matter how you look at it.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring
Base Price: $34,425.00
Price as Tested: $35,965.00
Layout: front-engine / rear-wheel drive
Engine: 2.0 liter 16-valve DOHC 4-cylinder
Transmission: 6 – speed manual
Horsepower: 181 hp
Torque: 151 ft-lbs
EPA Fuel Economy: 26 mpg city / 34 mpg highway
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