“2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Grand Touring”
Still a Miata – but in a Retractable Fastback Form
The venerable Mazda MX-5 Miata made its world debut at the Chicago Motor Show back in February, 1987, with U.S. sales beginning in May of that year, and the popular diminutive two-seat, rear-wheel drive roadster has been going strong ever since. The 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF is the newest Miata family member.
This latest example Miata continues to feature Mazda’s full suite of SKYACTIV technology along with their KODO “Soul of Motion” design philosophy. The 2016 Miata lost weight, dropping roughly 150 pounds from its predecessor’s weight. It was also smaller, quicker and more agile than ever before, and it was by far the best-looking Miata ever.
Visual changes over the past several years have been very subtle at best with themed editions, special paint and trims. This current generation MX-5 Miata is stunningly beautiful presenting an exceptionally appealing face. The newest form to bow is the Mazda MX-5 RF – the RF standing for Retractable Fastback. Its power top stows to display a Targa-like open air cruiser rather than a complete droptop. With the top in the up position, the overall form is not unlike that of a mini-Vette Coupe. Top operation takes only 13 seconds.
Power is generated by a longitudinally-mounted 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G DOHC, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder engine with Direct Injection that makes 155 ponies at 6,000 rpm, while developing 148 pound feet of torque at 4,600 rpm. Gearing the engine’s energy to the rear wheels, one may choose either a standard SKYACTIV six-speed manual short-throw gearbox or Mazda’s SKYACTIV Drive 6-speed automatic transmission.
A roadster is by definition a convertible or open top vehicle, traditionally with a soft cloth top. For the past few years, Mazda has offered a PRHT (Power Retractable Hard Top) for Club and Grand Touring models. The basic “Jinba Ittai” mission statement for the Miata, which translates as “the rider and horse as one” continues with this latest example. The MX-5 RF provides a fresh open air motoring experience, but in a Targa style.
The Miata’s overall design is now a breath of fresh air, featuring a long hood, abbreviated overhangs, a cropped cabin space that’s moved far back on the body and large wheels moved as far forward as is practical toward all four corners. The car is on a smaller scale than before with some styling cues that seem to display a European influence – the Jaguar F-Type comes to mind. The design team’s goal was to move forward, through modernization, but without sacrificing the car’s purity and heritage. The profile is lower and more fluid, with all of the exterior panels except the windshield frame and doors made of aluminum. Seats are more than 35-percent thinner than pre-2016 model’s, thanks to a net and urethane seat material that replace traditional springs.
The interior showcases a human-centric driving position, focused around the driver, with things like the pedal position optimized to fall in-line with the driver’s natural foot movement. The hood is now lower and the windshield A-pillars have been moved aft and made more upright for greater visibility. Exterior paint colors are now brought into the door panels – all combining to provide a greater sensation of the outside world. Passengers have also been positioned more inboard to feel in-line with the center of the vehicle, but passenger space can seem tight for those 6’4” or more.
My most recent test Mazda MX-5 Miata was a 2017 RF Grand Touring model with the six-speed automatic transmission. It wore an exterior coat of Machine Gray metallic and came with a Black and Gray interior with Red double stitching. The base price was set at $33,825. With the final sticker totaling $34,960. After adding the Delivery, Processing and Handling fee.
SUMMARY: The new 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Miata is a raging success as an affordable, fun-to-drive pure open air Grand Tourer thanks to its Kansei engineering, which concentrates on understanding how the car feels through the driver’s sense of touch, how it sounds at speed, and how it looks with the top stowed, rather than focusing on zero-to-60-mph acceleration figures.
The 2017 MX-5 Miata lineup has lost absolutely none of its appeal, regardless of the model chosen. The open-air sports car now ranks in a higher status across the board.
Acceleration may not seem blistering to some, but is certainly quick enough to provide a heightened level of driving fun. When prodded with gusto the engine’s growl is pleasing enough, and doesn’t register as offensive at all. but a heightened, throatier note from the exhaust would generate even wider smiles and perhaps even a little LOL. Handling is crisp and precise with pleasing throttle steer properties, and the car exhibits an excellent front to rear balance.
On the negative side, when riding as a passenger the co-pilot’s space is tight for my 6’4” frame. The driver’s side is somewhat tight as well, but posed no real problem. When driving. The sun visor is ineffective for tall individuals as it blocks one’s vision, and there is no way to block the sun from the side. Additionally, the wind noise around the driver’s outside mirror is excessive at speed, and trunk space is basically limited to one rollaboard.
The MX-5 remains a true sports car with heart, in keeping with Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom” spirit. In my mind, it will always be a Miata, (MX-5 or not). Kudos for the genuine sports car feel and looks as well as the easy to operate manual top. Essentially, the 2017 MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring sportster is ready to rumble off the showroom floor and onto the track once you add a roll bar and five-point harness to meet sanctioned racing requirements. Long live the Miata. Sorry, I mean MX-5.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Grand Touring
Base Price: $33,825.
Price as Tested: $34,960.
Engine Type and Size: 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G, DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder with electronically controlled fuel Injection.
Horsepower (bhp): 155 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 148 @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed SKYACTIV-Sport automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Drive Train: Longitudinally mounted front engine / Rear-Wheel Drive
Suspension: Front – Double wishbone with aluminum arms,
Gas-filled monotube dampers and stabilizer bar.
Rear – Multilink with aluminum bearing support,
Gas-filled monotube dampers and stabilizer bar.
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel, four channel discs (vented front), ABS, EBD and BA.
Tires: Bridgestone Potenza 205/45 R17- 84W Mounted on 8-spokeGraphite painted alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 90.9 inches
Length Overall: 154.1 inches – without license plate holder
Width: 68.3 inches
Height: 48.8 inches
Curb Weight: 2,485 lbs.
Turning Circle: 32.9 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 11.89 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 26 mpg city / 35 mpg highway MT / 27, 36 AT
Drag Coefficient: Not listed.
0 – 60 mph: Not tested.
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.