2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club RF - The Last Hope
2.0-liter inline four, DOHC (181 hp @ 7000 rpm, 151 lb/ft. @ 4000 rpm)
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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- FreedMike This could be the most expensive cheap car in Colorado. Buy one of these instead. Used 2003 Buick LeSabre Limited For Sale $5,984 | Cars.comYou'll thank me.
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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.
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?