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2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Overview
Mazda's popular MX-5 Miata compact convertible hit a major milestone in 2016, when its one-millionth unit rolled off the assembly line in Japan. Now in its fourth generation after nearly 30 years of continuous production, the sporty 2-seater continues to carve out its own unique path. Riding on its singular platform, the MX-5 Miata offers the body styling and driving dynamics of an upscale European sports car at a fraction of the price. It has embodied Mazda's performance-focused philosophy throughout its history, so it's no surprise this sporty roadster gets a little sportier for 2017 with the debut of a new RF "Retractable Fastback" hardtop variant.
Based on the existing MX-5 Miata soft-top convertible, which was named World Car of the Year when its fourth generation debuted in 2016, the RF variant adds an exclusive, power-operated, retractable, targa-style hardtop roof; unique fastback exterior styling; and a few interior and exterior upgrades. When in place, the hardtop gives the RF an aggressive, visceral look—thanks in part to the fastback styling, which creates a better flowline from the back of the roof to the tail. With the roof stowed, the new roadster flaunts its eye-catching open-air side profile.
Mazda used a little sleight of hand to create the MX-5 Miata RF's roofline. Knowing it wasn't possible to store a full retractable hardtop roof in the Miata's limited cargo space, designers opted for a partially retractable 2-section roof panel and rear window. Together, they fold into a storage space behind the seats, as the rear window frame, including the side pillars, lifts completely out of the way. This nifty operation takes 13 seconds, can be performed at speeds up to 6 mph, and involves a number of moving pieces. The retracted hardtop takes up no more storage space than the soft top, so cargo space in the RF remains the same at 4.6 cubic feet.
Although it's essentially the same car as the soft-top MX-5 Miata, the RF variant comes equipped with a few distinguishing features, such as a 4.6-inch color TFT gauge on the instrument panel to replace some of the original gauges and readouts. Other standard items include a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a 9-speaker Bose audio system with headrest speakers, and a 7-inch touchscreen in the center dash. Drivers can use the touchscreen to access the Mazda Connect infotainment system, which integrates HD Radio, phone, and voice control of onboard systems. Mazda also offers the RF in an exclusive Machine Gray Metallic exterior color.
An early MX-5 Miata RF Launch Edition trim came equipped with such unique features as Auburn Nappa leather upholstery, a hand-painted black top, advanced keyless entry, unique door sill plates, and the Machine Gray Metallic exterior. Limited to 1,000 units, it sold out quickly. The production version of the RF hardtop will be available in the sporty Club and luxury-oriented Grand Touring trims. Standard features for the RF Club trim include premium cloth seats with red stitching, a front air dam, a rear lip spoiler, and an upgraded Bilstein suspension and limited-slip differential when equipped with a manual transmission. The RF Grand Touring trim comes with leather upholstery, heated seats, an adaptive front-lighting system, high-beam control, and lane-departure warning.
The soft-top convertible MX-5 Miata continues into 2017 essentially unchanged. Available in entry-level Sport, mid-level Club, and high-end Grand Touring trims, it receives an upgrade only at the Club level, which now comes standard with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert (previously included only on the Grand Touring trim).
A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder SkyActiv engine powers both the soft- and hard-top MX-5 Miatas. Generating 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, it provides plenty of punch to propel this roadster through tight curves and winding switchbacks, across the open road, and around town. After shaving off a few pounds during its generational redesign, the MX-5 Miata now weighs in at a svelte 2,332 pounds, resulting in a more spirited ride. Buyers can pair the engine with a 6-speed sport automatic transmission, which adds steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, or a 6-speed SkyActiv MT manual transmission with a short-throw shifter. The MX-5 Miata achieves mileage figures of 26 mpg city, 33 highway, and 29 combined with the manual transmission and 26, 35, and 29 with the automatic.
The MX-5 Miata is equipped with premium exterior features like LED headlights and taillights, daytime running lights, power side mirrors, and a black convertible top on soft-top variants. The Grand Touring trim adds auto on/off headlights, auto-dimming driver's side and rear-view mirrors, and a lined convertible top. The Sport trim rides on 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, while the Club and Grand Touring’s are upgraded to 17 inches. MX-5 Miatas equipped with the automatic transmission receive advanced keyless entry as a standard feature, but driving enthusiasts will want to opt for the Club trim with the manual transmission, which offers an available high-performance Brembo/BBS package for more aggressive driving. This package adds Brembo ventilated-disc front brakes with wider brake pads, lightweight BBS 17-inch wheels, red brake calipers, and black-painted side-sill body extensions.
The MX-5 Miata’s entry-level soft-top Sport trim comes equipped with such features as bucket seats with cloth upholstery, push-button start, a leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel, a 6-speaker audio system with headrest speakers, and a mesh wind blocker. The Club trim adds premium black cloth upholstery with red stitching, the 9-speaker Bose audio system, and Mazda Connect with a 7-inch touchscreen and satellite radio. MX-5 Miatas at the Club trim level outfitted with a manual transmission receive performance upgrades like a front shock-tower brace, a Bilstein suspension, and a limited-slip differential. The top-of-the-lineup soft-top Grand Touring trim, like the hardtop RF variant, gets leather upholstery, navigation, and automatic climate control, among other features.
Both soft- and hard-top variants of the MX-5 Miata continue to deliver a ride and handling that impresses reviewers and buyers alike, and the Club trim with the Brembo/BBS upgrade package will be especially appealing to drivers who want to push this roadster's limits to the edge. But no matter the trim, you can expect highly capable handling and a solid, stable ride, thanks to the vehicle's low center of gravity and ideal weight distribution and balance. The only negative is the electric power-assist steering, which some testers have criticized for its slightly disconnected feel. However, most drivers will likely be enamored enough by the compact roadster’s sheer drivability and appeal to overlook this minor complaint.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.
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