I’ll admit it – I’m one of THOSE guys. Shameful, I know. One look at any of the 90’s Miata’s that drove by and I instantly judged any “dude” who was driving that car. I’m embarrassed to say that I unequivocally (and ignorantly) judged the Miata as a “chick’s car” and never knew how wrong I was. Dearest Mazda, mea culpa.

My paradigm shift occurred during a Texas Auto Writers Association event – the Texas Auto Roundup – when I had the opportunity to throw a Miata around the infield track at Texas Motor Speedway. It was one of the purest automotive drives I had ever experienced. The car was made to deliver thrills and smiles, and at a very affordable price. Mazda had figured out a way to take the thrill of a classic roadster and combine it with the efficiency and engineering of a Japanese car. Win-Win.

Fast forward to the 2016 New York Auto Show when I was able to witness the world debut of the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. I was in awe and felt like a bit of a fanboy with my hoots and hollers for this all-new hardtop beauty. My how things have changed.

Exterior

In 2015 the fourth generation Mazda MX-5 Miata was introduced and brought about the most radical design change since its introduction in 1990. Ikuo Maeda – Mazda’s Executive Officer and General Manager of Design Division, is the driving force behind their award-winning designs and the man who created Mazda’s KODO: “Soul of Motion” design theme. Take a look at Mazda’s latest lineup and it’s clear that Maeda’s vision has been executed with near perfection and is turning heads everywhere.

The 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF brings a whole new element to the beloved car’s fan base but introducing the first-ever power retracting targa roof (hence the “RF: Retractable Fastback). The new RF gives the MX-5 a more “completed” look by visibly creating a more substantial overall feel of the car.

While the fastback design provides stunningly good looks, it also limits rear visibility which is a bit disconcerting during a drive. And to make matters worse, the fastback’s operation is slow as molasses. Don’t even think of lowering or raising the top during a traffic stop unless you want to rest looking like a doofus with a partially raised roof mid-drive. Don’t do it. You’ll lose. Trust me; I know.

Interior

And now comes the part where I have to beat up this beauty a little. Or maybe a lot. First, Mazda clearly left the infotainment system as a lower-priority item. And the stereo could use a significant boost, especially for fastback that inherently comes with a ton of outside noise. Kudos to Mazda for including speakers in the headrest but you’ll be cranking the volume way up to be able to enjoy the soundtrack to your undoubtedly blast of a drive.

Cupholders are more comic relief than anything. Seriously. One of them connects next to the passenger’s left leg which provides a nice leg-digging experience for your guest. They can also connect at the back of the center armrest but then you’ll find your elbow constantly banging into it during those spirited drives.

Performance & Driving

Where the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF shines is on the road. You’d be hard-pressed to find another car that delivers this much fun for the money. The Skyactiv-G 4-cylinder engine is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, delivering 155 hp and 148 lb. ft. of torque. Those numbers alone aren’t that impressive but when you combine them with a curb-weight of just under 2,500 lbs and a rear-wheel drive, you get an incredible power-to-weight ratio that delivers one of the most exhilarating driving experiences out there. It makes the average Joe-driver feel like a racing side-gig should be considered. An automatic is offered and doesn’t take away from the fun, but it’s my opinion that you’ll miss the tactile experience of the manual transmission. EPA estimated fuel economy comes in at 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined.

Pricing

Base pricing starts at $31,55 and our test model came in at $33,885.

The final verdict is simple – if you want the most bang-for-your-buck option in the market today, the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF deserves to be at the top of your consideration list. For all the areas the MX-5 falls short, it is made up in spades when you get behind the wheel and launch into a day of pure driving fun. Go test-drive one for yourself and you’ll see the light (as I finally did).

See you on the road,

Fabian