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Perfecting Perfection: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Manual


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Is it really possible? Can Mazda perfect something that is already perfect? Mazda seems to think so by taking their small, soft top roadster and turning it into a back road, hard top, grand tourer.

Unlike the soft top, this origami hard top folding roof, noted as the retractable fastback… or RF for short comes in two variants. The Club, starting at $31,555 is the more enthusiast oriented MX-5 with upgraded suspension and brakes while our sampler, the Grand Touring tops out at $33,885 and has a little more of a sophisticated laid back approach with leather seats and advanced safety features such as blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

Drop it like it’s Hot

The last time a Miata MX-5 showed up at our office, it was right smack in the middle of winter where, yes, even in Arizona, it can dip below 30 degrees. This time, we’re right dab in our hottest time of the year. So we put our big boy pants on, slapped on a hat and some sunscreen and dealt with Mother Nature like a boss. Arriving in its $300 Soul Red paint, the MX-5 is a stunning car from any direction – the Soul Red captures a certain essence we didn’t quite see before. Perhaps the RF has changed the way we looked at the Miata, its looks more grown up, more… masculine, like a proper roadster.

Easy on the Eyes, and the Gears

None of its driving precision has been lost. If anything, it has gotten a little better. The Grand Touring drives exactly the way it should. It’s not a track based version like the Club – this GT has the ability to be a comfortable cruiser that also happens to handle and drive extremely well. The MX-5 RF uses the same 2.0-liter engine from before, producing 155-horsepower. For the best driving experience, the crispness of the six-speed manual is really the only way to go – if one prefers a more life of leisure, the six-speed automatic sets one back $1205.

Even with the hard top roof, the MX-5’s overall 2445lbs maintains its 50/50 weight distribution (we can’t figure out how either.) With 148lb-ft of torque, it has no problem achieving 60 mph in about 6 seconds in a straight line and will rev all day long to 7000 rpms.

Our driving style isn’t as aggressive as much as we would like it to be – the MX-5 Grand Touring reflected our personality well with its tight nimble steering, quick acceleration through the corners and brakes that will pop our Botox out of place. We didn’t feel the need to endure the roughness of the Club’s stiff suspension as the Grand Touring made life livable everyday – besides, a little bit of body lean in the corners never hurt anyone. Shifting through the gears is easy for anybody that hasn’t driven a manual before and clutch has a comfortable balance of stiffness to feel in control but softness that it doesn’t become painful every day. There is something special to shifting in the MX-5 – you can feel the mechanical mechanisms in the shifter clicking away with each shift – a real sense of man and machine working together.

All Plush and No Rush

With the Grand Touring, there is no loss of comfort features if this was to be chosen as a daily driver. The seats are supportive, the touch screen infotainment system is intuitive through a rotary knob on the console, it has a single zone climate control and for $130, push button start. It also sips fuel averaging 30 mpg even after a week of our driving style and can go 300 miles on a single tank.

Drawbacks, the trunk space is compact and not ideal for a Costco run – the cup holders are still awkwardly placed and there is not real interior storage for such things like our phones, wallets and bobble head figurines.

We’ll be frank, we liked the Miata MX-5 when it came out last year… but we like this a whole lot better. It takes 14 seconds to open and close the roof even at speeds under 10 mph. With the roof down it feels sensational and not like we’re exposed. We’re cocooned in a little sports car that allows us to feel the fire breathing Arizona air on the back of neck. It was a car we felt more comfortable getting in, than getting out of. For the most part it was quiet with minimal road noise and a slight whistling of air through the window seams. The hard top is even insulated keeping the interior cooler… or warmer during certain seasons.

If there was ever a roadster on your wish list, this should be one of them.

Vehicle Specifications:
2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Base Price: $31,555
As Tested (including Options & Destination): $33,885
Performance Specs:
2.0-liter SKYACTIV Four Cylinder – 155-Horsepower, 6-Speed Manual Transmission – 0-60MPH: ±6.0 seconds
EPA MPG: 26/33/29 (City/Highway/Combined) – SSB Average: 29 MPG’s – Fuel Range: ±330 Miles


  1. This saucy little number turns heads for all the right reasons. I heard that the MX-5 has a manual transmission take-rate of 60%, which is great to hear for those of us on the #savethemanuals campaign.

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