By on October 28, 2019

2.0-liter inline four, DOHC (181 hp @ 7000 rpm, 151 lb/ft. @ 4000 rpm)

Six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive

26 city / 34 highway / 29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

30.7 (observed mileage, MPG)

9.0 city / 7.0 highway / 8.1 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $33,265 US / $41,822 CAD

As Tested: $38,955 US/ $46,672 CAD

Prices include $920 destination charge in the United States and $1922 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

They’re coming for our cars, people. “Alternative mobility solutions” are all the rage at many big automakers attempting to virtue signal (and electric-scooter) their way into social acceptability. I’m pretty certain that I heard a sweaty politician say something like, “Hell yes, we are going to take your crossover!” Even some automotive journalists have called for outright bans of private cars.

I suppose this is where I photoshop a Momo Prototipo into the infamous “from my cold, dead hands” Charlton Heston photo.

Do me a favor, friends. Let’s stem the tide. Take these car-haters for a ride in a proper sports car, like this 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. Better yet, let them drive. All other worries of the world wipe away like raindrops on the windscreen as the right hand slots the shift lever into third, all while the corners of the mouth gently turn upward. The Miata is our last hope for motoring freedom.

I first drove both the soft top and retractable roof versions of the 2019 MX-5 Miata last summer, where I proclaimed both my undying love for the ragtop and a grudging acceptance of the fastback. Much of my dislike for the RF comes from relative discomfort, as I’m not a small person. For reference — and since it was asked in the comments last year — I’m six feet, four inches tall, with a short (for my height) 32-inch inseam. I’m all torso.

In this respect, the RF is less than ideal for me as my noggin tends to press against the hard top, rather than against a malleable canvas cover in the roadster. With a week to get more comfortable, however, I found that I could maneuver my rear forward a touch, bringing my head down into range. I’d still drive with the top retracted as often as possible, but rainstorms and worse can still be managed.

Again, this is simply a caveat for those toward the extremes of human body dimensions. Anyone even slightly shorter than me will have plenty of room to drive the Miata RF — especially as the 2019 model finally has a telescoping wheel, offering a touch more leg room.

The cupholders are just short of useless. They can be moved around throughout the cabin into 3 places — two slots between the inboard shoulders of the driver and passenger, and a slot where the passenger’s left knee should go. Don’t bother with a large Coke from McDonalds or anything beyond a “tall” at Starbucks, as driving with verve will topple your cups. Choose a resealable bottle for any liquid refreshment.

This isn’t a car in which to eat a meal, either. Ideally, the top is retracted as often as possible, so any attempts at tucking into a burger will be met with shrapnel of shredded lettuce.

No matter. You buy a Miata to drive a Miata. The retractable fastback on this RF model civilizes the car just enough to make it a reasonable year-round car north of the Mason-Dixon, or in urban areas where the car needs to be street parked. That’s why I think this is the best car to introduce someone to the joy of driving — because it addresses the typical objections toward a roadster without dumbing down the driving experience.

It even looks great. The confused cat look to the fascia is growing on me, and the fastback styling makes me wonder why Mazda didn’t offer something like this all along – it’s genuinely stunning. It’s hard to go wrong with the black BBS alloys fitted to this Club package car, as well.

The driving experience is sublime. The suspension is compliant, leaning into corners without giving up grip. It’s easy to slide if you’re trying to be an idiot, and even easier to catch that slide. But that supple suspension keeps the ride pleasurable on pockmarked roads or the ever-present interstate expansion joints. Driving in the city is simple, as visibility is quite good to all but the immediate over-shoulder view — the one drawback to the RF model are the sail panels for the C-pillar that do obstruct views a bit.

Spotify gave me a serendipitous tune one afternoon as I thumbed the starter, lowered the roof, and pulled away from another long day at the office. “Get in your car and cruise the land of the brave and free,” sang Ween. So I did. I picked my wife up, left the kids to their own digital devices, and we chased the sun for a couple of hours.

There’s a lot of this land to see. It’s best to get out and do it behind the wheel of a sports car like the Mazda Miata RF, so when that road turns a bit twisty, you can slot the lever into gear, put on a grin, and explore.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn]

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47 Comments on “2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club RF – The Last Hope...”

  • avatar

    That is one ugly car.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Mexico City had its Day of the dead parade today. TTAC celebrated with articles on Mitsubishi, Mini and Mazda vehicles.

  • avatar

    How hot do those painted upper parts of the door get? They look great but burning your arm on a nice day with the top down would not be fun.

    I’ve always thought a shooting brake style would be perfect for this car. Take this current profile and just slope the glass all the way back and turn it into a hatchback. Forget the power retracting deal and just make the targa pop off and store in the back.

    Not sure how people justify $40K for a toy like this but I am someone who only buys used vehicles so my value-per-dollar meter is jaded.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I’ve loved these since my first drive in a Nineties NA.

    • 0 avatar

      I drive a ‘94, and I bought it new. I’d love to have a new one but then I’d have to sell the old one and I don’t think I can. I bought it with the intention of having a car that was pure fun with not an ounce or compromising practicality. Never regretted that decision, still a blast to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        I appreciate your situation but I think we can all agree that a Miata does compromise more than a few ounces of practicality.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve owned a ’90, ’92 and ’97, and now the ’17 RF. Without a doubt it is gorgeous to look at, but the interior room seems to have decreased noticeably since the NA days. Still, it’s enough to get groceries on the way home from work, so it’s practical enough!

  • avatar

    Love the Miata driving dynamics and wholly agree on the cramped cockpit for taller folks. But I can’t see many dropping 40k on the RF. Its just not worth the added cost.

  • avatar


    Nice writeup.

    Coincidentally, Dan Gurney was 6’4″. Possible product recommendation:

    (Curb weight just under 2,400 lbs – take that, everyone but Mazda!)

    [“Compromised” cupholders are an intentional lifeline thrown to North American consumers. Fewer Cokes from McD’s, more driving/fresh air/sun.]

  • avatar

    Just say *no* to the RF. Too much weight, decreased driver vision, more wind buffeting, added expense.

    My daughter and SIL had an RF as a rental. They didn’t like the RF at all – they were really disappointed because they had a 2012 Miata with the Power Retractable Hard Top. When they bought a 2019 Miata, they bought one with the soft top.

  • avatar

    The Miata answer (unless you want to have it for daily use) is grab a garage queen early model. They’re always available. I got a first year model for 4 grand back in 2012, 80,000 miles, drove like new and needed no repairs at all. There are plenty of ratty ones out there with mods but also many that are close to stock. These cars are VERY reliable. Plus no significant insurance or license costs either.

  • avatar

    I would prefer a new-gen PRHT to this. As pretty as the RF is, the targa top is not the same experience as a true convertible. And the Miata is about the only car where the top is small enough that a power hardtop doesn’t add a whole bunch of weight.

    But if I had to buy a ND, it would be a RF. Soft tops are tough in a rainy, moldy city.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve had my RF for just shy of a year now. I don’t notice what’s left of the top until I turn my head when changing lanes. Not even in the rearview mirror.

  • avatar

    not convinced. Old tech is still old tech no matter how you dress it up. Did you ride Arabian horse lately?

    In any case wait until Tesla comes up with new roadster.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I mean a Saturn V is old tech too but nothing out there today is that capable. The Tesla roadster may well be more capable, know what? So is a Ferrari 458. There is that little cost thing though. Cars like this aren’t all about max capability…the Miata is a smiles per dollar thing. This example represents the most you can spend for one. I highly doubt the Tesla Roadster will be touchable at 40k. The 3 really isn’t. Let alone at what the lesser examples go for. Sort of an Apples to Donuts comparison here. But stay hard man, stay hard.

      Typed on a really old keyboard that is better than whatever you typed your troll on. Just saying.

      • 0 avatar

        Ever heard about Starship? Or if you want old tech – SLS? Saturn V problem is that it is hand made and very expensive. SLS too but because it is old tech Government project which means that it is waste of money and will spectacularly fail but still is more powerful than Saturn V.

    • 0 avatar

      Inside Looking Out,

      Analogy: I have straight razors and safety razors and electric razors and disposable razors and I use all of them at different times. It is not all-or-nothing or 100%-replacement.

  • avatar

    Wasn’t too fond of this MX-5 at first but one day I spotted one exactly like the RF shown here. At first I didn’t know what it was, thinking it was some kind of exotic.

    If I don’t buy a new 370Z before it disappears or Nissan screws it up then Mazda will probably get my money.

  • avatar

    I still want a coupe version. MX-5 GT.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    1- So sorry but why is difficulty of eating a McDonalds meal inside this vehicle relevant?

    2- The thing looks like wrapped tightly around small passenger module. Nice. That is what it is.

    3- The fixed head coupe would be preferable. Not sold apparently. Low numbers and so on. Again so sorry.

    4- The ragtop is the one to buy.

    5- Used one year old. For me on my budget. I hope that helps Mazda with used prices.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    I have to confess that I have never been in a Miata on the road. I played around inside of one in the showroom some years ago but that’s the totality of my experience with these cars.

    The problem for me is a price of entry. $33K base and almost $39K for one of these with all the cool doodads is just too damn much. There are a lot of other cool cars I could get well into for that sort of money. I’m just not sure how they can continue to sell at this sort of price point. Has the world gone crazy or have I?

    I like the idea of a used one, but think that if I was looking around in that market I’d probably wait for something else to catch my eye.

  • avatar

    I just replaced my 2005 RX-8 with a 2017 RF Launch Edition (22k miles) at the beginning of June.

    Absolutely no regrets.

    I got a deal on it because the previous owner installed a long-tube header and street-grade coilovers before trading it in to a Fiat/Alfa dealer on a 4C Spyder. It came with all of the stock parts, snow tires installed on the OE wheels and sticky summer rubber on a really nice set of aftermarket wheels.

    Since I was going to install coilovers and a header anyway (SCCA STR-class), it was an even better deal. Even prepped for STR and driven on Chicago’s wonderfully textured roads, it’s such a joy to drive.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’ve not been a huge fan of Miatas because of the styling until this gen,but currently , not really of 2 seaters in general.I wonder when the next ft86 will drop. I have to make the school run.

  • avatar

    I’m a long-torso’d 6’2″ with a 29″ inseam and I EXACTLY fit in my Fiata. That softtop isn’t actually all that soft… If my legs were any longer I would not be able to drive it, and if my torso was any longer I would not fit with the top up – not like I can tilt the seat back any farther – to do that I have to slide the seat base forward, and then my legs don’t fit. They REALLY should have figured out a way to have the cabin be a couple inches longer. But it is a heck of a car in relatively short doses. I did drive mine 6hrs to Key West though, and I survived.

    I test drove a 2019 Miata with the telescoping wheel and didn’t think it made much difference – it didn’t seem to go much of any closer to the dash, and I sure don’t need it any closer to ME! Ultimately, I liked the way the Fiat drove a little better – it’s slightly softer and less nervous, and I love the way the Fiat 1.4T sounds with an open exhaust – former very happy owner of a 500 Abarth. But you really can’t go wrong either way. I figure in FL I now hav e the perfect pair of cars for the practical car nut middle aged duffer – a Fiata and a GTI Sport.

  • avatar

    Is the Miata a lot more enjoyable to drive than a Mazda3 hatchback?
    Talking manual transmission only….
    And does the Miata have a spare tire?

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