2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Review

A folding hard roof section means the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is a different kind of convertible.
author
by Jason Kavanagh
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF ("Retractable Fastback") is the second member of the current generation of Miata roadster, which was redesigned just last year. Instead of the Miata RF's entire roof disappearing into the bodywork as you might expect, only its overhead roof panel and rear window retract. That is, the Miata RF's bodywork buttresses and horizontal bar behind the passengers remain in place at all times. Though this fixed bodywork means that the Miata RF doesn't deliver quite the same open-air experience as the regular Miata, in return you get a distinct new style for this diminutive two-seat sports car.

The Miata RF's roof stows at the touch of a button in about 14 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 6 mph. It takes up no more room when stowed than the base Miata's soft top does, so trunk space is not affected. With its electric motors, linkages and panels, however, the Miata RF weighs about 150 pounds more than the base Miata.



What's new for 2017

The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is the new power-retractable hardtop version of this beloved sports car. While the regular Miata has a manually foldable soft top, the Miata RF ("Retractable Fastback") has an electrically operated, stowable hard roof section. It occupies a similar place next to the base Miata that was previously taken by the last generation's MX-5 PRHT (power-retractable hardtop) model.

We recommend

Mazda's terrific manual gearbox is the easy choice over the optional automatic transmission. It's among the slickest-shifting manuals out there, and besides, this is a sports car. As a bonus, pairing a manual to the Club version — and only the Club version — bestows the car with a sport-oriented suspension, Bilstein dampers and a limited-slip differential, underscoring the car's sporting nature. The Miata RF comes pretty well equipped as standard, and options are few. Skip the pricey Brembo brakes, but spring for keyless entry as a very inexpensive way to gain convenience.





Trim levels & features

The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is available in two trim levels: Club and Grand Touring. We prefer the Club for its available sport-oriented hardware, although buyers seeking more comfort and amenities will gravitate toward the Grand Touring's longer list of convenience features. Both trim levels are equipped with the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (155 horsepower, 148 pound-feet of torque) and are available with a manual or automatic transmission.

Manual-equipped Club models are the sportiest, gaining a retuned suspension, Bilstein dampers, limited-slip differential and shock tower brace, making it our version of choice. Brembo front brakes and BBS wheels are optional on Club models only, though the bang-for-the-buck quotient on these bits is questionable.

Grand Touring models — equipped with heated leather seats, navigation, a cloth-lined top, automatic climate control, adaptive headlights and lane departure warning — skew toward the luxury end. These features are nice to have but strike us as being at odds with the Miata's elemental nature. Then again, a power-folding top isn't exactly simple either. Still, at least there's a choice between sport-oriented and comfort-tuned versions, rather than some middling compromise between the two.



Edmunds Scorecard

Overall

Comfort

4.0 / 5

Seat comfort4.0 / 5
Climate control4.5 / 5

Interior

3.5 / 5

Driving position4.0 / 5
Roominess3.0 / 5
Visibility3.0 / 5

Utility

2.5 / 5

Small-item storage3.0 / 5
Cargo space2.0 / 5

Driving

On the road, the Miata RF's expected increase in civility will make long drives more palatable. Its additional weight might be noticeable in extreme driving.

Acceleration

With the same 2.0-liter engine and more weight, the RF will be slightly less punchy than the base Miata.

Braking

Sharing its brake hardware with the base Miata, we expect the RF will perform and feel similar. In our last Miata test, we observed short stopping distances and consistent pedal firmness.

Steering

The Miata's pin-sharp steering hardware carries over but is uniquely tuned for the Miata RF.

Handling

Largely similar to the standout Miata, we expect little degradation in this car's ability to carve corners. We hope the increase in weight doesn't spoil the chassis the way the power-retractable hardtop did in the previous generation.

Drivability

With more comprehensive noise insulation, the Miata RF is said to cut down on road noise, making it a better long-distance driver than the base Miata. Its small size makes it great for tight city parking.

Comfort4.0

Thanks to suspension tuning that can deal with real-world bumpy roads, the Miata impresses. The Miata RF will likely take an edge off the base Miata's road and wind noise, too.

Seat comfort4.0

There's a good balance between support and comfort. The seat bolsters do not intrude, yet they hold you in place reasonably well.

Ride comfort

Though Mazda says it has retuned the suspension for the RF, we expect the RF will still be relatively softly sprung. The base Miata swallows bumps surprisingly well, given its sports-car cred and short wheelbase.

Noise & vibration

We expect that there will be less road and wind noise in the RF than in the base Miata. On long-distance drives, this will be a significant advantage.

Climate control4.5

The Miata's simple climate control interface, with its three large and knurled knobs, is easy to use. The system does a fine job of maintaining the proper temperature.

Interior3.5

No doubt, this is a small cabin, but Mazda's attention to detail inside has made the most of it. A lot of clever touches make it surprisingly livable. The sills are relatively unobtrusive, though we wish there was a telescoping steering wheel.

Utility2.5

A tiny trunk, no backseat and limited cabin space mean that this isn't the best if you need to haul larger items. Small items are more easily accommodated, however.

Small-item storage3.0

The tidy bin between the seats serves as a less convenient glovebox (because there isn't one). It's your primary place to store your items, and it holds an average amount of stuff. That's helpful because the removable cupholders are good for holding cups only.

Cargo space2.0

A 4.6-cubic-foot trunk? That's tiny, though longtime Miata owners should hardly be surprised. The trunklid lifts easily, and liftover height is OK. There's enough space for a couple of soft duffels and little else.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.