Finally, we have a report from the first test drive of the new 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF (Retractable Fastback). While it looks awesome with the roof both raised and lowered, the question that is on everybody’s lips is if this little thing of wonder actually drives the way its predecessors did – with the sparkle and pop?!
The test drive in question took place on the winding roads southwest of San Diego where you have plenty of apexes which is kind of environment where the new MX-5 feels like home. It was quick, responsive and eager, zipping up and down the rev range and its tight little rear end dancing left and right through corners with that smooth shifter which flicks between gears with just two fingers. This model of MX-5 actually has additional 5% increase in weight that is courtesy of the powered Retractable Fastback. The company states that versions with the manual transmission are 113 pounds heavier than equivalent soft-tops, while RF automatics are 104 pounds heavier. To counter that and make it virtually nonexistent Mazda actually drilled extra holes into one of the X-shaped cross braces under the car’s transmission tunnel, and thanks to that the MX-5 is still one of the lightest production cars you can buy.
The roof is capable of folding in just 13 seconds, and it’s made of three components. The main one is made out of aluminum with a big amount of sound-deadening material strapped under it. The second part is a much smaller steel piece that is there to provide the necessary folding articulation and finally, the third section is the rear haunches that are made out of plastic and move to let the rest of the roof fold down. The retractable roof works while the car is in motion and up to 6 MPH and the good news is that you do not have to latch or unlatch the roof from the windshield header manually.
The thing you will notice with the top down, though, is the noise in the cabin. If you try to have a conversation at 60 MPH, it will be very long and challenging one unless you raise the windows up. It seems that, unlike on the soft-top model, air tends to catch to buttress behind your head and is channeled back toward your ears. One more “bad” thing is the visibility which is also better in the soft-top model. Those RF’s buttresses actually impede over-your-shoulder glance at blind-spot, but since Blind-spot warning with Rear Cross-traffic alert is standard, we can let that one slide. What is above the norm is the sound isolation with the top up which is very impressive.
The company states that when stability is considered, not much is changed on the RF, and thanks to the test drive that is confirmed because this one drives as good as any other Miata. It nicely changes directions and has a nimble and forgiving balance with a decent amount of body-roll which settles very quickly and does not gets disturbed by throttle adjustments or steering corrections while cornering. The perfect grip is provided by 205/45/R17 Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires that passed the entire test perfectly. The suspension on the GT trim was great. It is comfortable enough for a daily driver and it offers enough of the road feel, while on the other hand, the Club trim offers somewhat stiffer springs and Bilstein shocks meaning you get a little bit firmer ride than with the GT.
The 2.0 L inline-four unit and six-speed manual transmission have not been changed in any way, meaning they have been transferred in full from the soft-top variant and it is OK because why mess with something that is already perfect. They both did perfectly. In the soft-top variant – engine being very live and perky with hi revs and delivering a high power every time you need it. The transmission with its short gearing and relatively modest torque forces you to shift a lot, but that is OK especially with the right balance of lightness and mechanical, notchy feedback.
When the tech and equipment are considered, the RF is almost the same as other Miatas, except the full-color trip computer in the left-hand binnacle. If you opt for the RF Club you will be graced with cloth seats, Mazda’s seven-inch infotainment system perched atop the dash, extra chassis bracing, the suspension mentioned bellow upgrades, a limited-slip differential, blind-spot warnings, and a nine-speaker Bose sound system. The GT trim adds upon that the heated leather seats, lane-departure warning, push-button start, navigation, and automatic climate control, though you do without the Club’s suspension and differential enhancements.
2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Price
Now for the business end of the test – the price. The RF variant will be available only on Club and Grand Touring trim levels, and the RF Club will be priced at $32.390 with the manual or $33.120 with an automatic transmission, while the RF Grand Touring comes at $33.445 with the manual and $34.660 with the automatic. There are some options you can add to it such as Soul Red or the Machine Grey paint that will set you back another $300 and the Brembo brake/BBS wheel pack for Club trims is $3.400, while the Crystal White Mica paint is $200.