Design //

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF: Perfection Needs No Roof

The latest variation on the legendary roadster, the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF takes the 2016 World Car of the Year and turns it topless.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

How do you make the 2016 World Car of the Year better? You blow the top off of it. It’s that simple.

That’s what some of the best designers and engineers in the car business did with the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Convertible. Based on the massively popular and successful 2016 MX-5. The latest incarnation of the best selling and longest surviving roadster in automotive history takes a great car and manages to make it better.

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The complete MX-5 redesign that exploded onto the 2016 model year shocked the world when it won the 2016 World Car of the Year at that annum’s New York International Auto Show. Transforming it into a cabriolet, the RF Convertible version features a hard roof that folds down behind the driver. Considering the MX-5 is a true roadster with less than amble body length and trunk space behind the driver, folding its roof away is no minor feat of engineering.

Also: Jaguar Follows Up World Car of the Year Award with New E-Pace

With its efficient little power plant producing 155 horsepower, the minds at Mazda kept the weight down to enable ample acceleration and supreme balance. This reporter got hold of a Grand Touring trim with a manual transmission ($32,620). Mazda makes an automatic gearbox for the MX-5, but a driver demanding it is committing a war crime. This is a pure driver’s car, and the joyous soul behind the wheel should revel in reaching down and grabbing a gear to pass the clown in a sensible hatchback in the next lane.

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After 25 years fending off countless would-be challengers in the roadster marker, Mazda reshaped the MX-5’s aesthetics to better match the rest of the company’s evolving models. The Kodo design language matches the roadster’s lines particularly well, its sweeping, descending lines enhancing the look of a car that is predominantly front-loaded and aggressive by intent.

Depending on the trim level selected, the 2017 MX-5 RF offers all of the same technical attractions as its soft top convertible sister. There’s an in-dash infotainment screen and menus controlled by a conveniently placed dial positioned just south of the gear shift.

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The driving experience is glorious. The rear-wheel-drive roadster remains one of the last great driver’s cars and proves to be a treat in the city or on the highway. While not fast in pure numbers compared to bigger performance cars, this Mazda is wonderfully quick. The handling is tight and immediately responsive

The current incarnation of the MX-5 is the most fun who can have driving for the money (starting MSRP of about $32,000). The Mazda Miata is impractical and exists simply to entertain while in motion, and that’s a wonderful thing. Taking the top off only makes driving it all the more sensual.