2017 Mazda MX-5 RF new car reviews

We're big fans of the Mazda MX-5. Now Mazda went and put a retractable fastback on their fourth-generation car. So, does it kill the roadster spirit or does it make the car that much better?

Our test car was a Grand Touring model, which meant it came standard niceties like leather heated seats, navigation, heated mirrors, automatic headlights and many other convenience features.

Other staff views

Tom Suddard Tom Suddard
Digital Experience Director

First off, the important part: I think the hardtop MX-5 is extraordinarily good looking. Sure, it’s got too much fender gap, but that’s nothing a set of lowering springs can’t fix in an afternoon.

Next, the sad part: Despite costing extra, weighing more, and having a solid roof, the RF seemed to have just as much wind and road noise as the normal MX-5. That was a huge disappointment, and it’s why I prefer the cheaper, lighter, less-complicated, fabric-roofed Miata. Aside from the different roof, the RF seemed exactly like the standard car—which is one of the best compliments I could give it.

Ed Higginbotham Ed Higginbotham
Associate Editor

I'm a huge fan of Mazda's latest Mx-5—aren't we all?

I also love that they added a retractable fastback to the line for the MX-5. It looks stunning. While driving it I was stopped by more than a couple people asking what the car was.

It may be a touch heavier on paper, but in real life it's just as fun to drive as its convertible counterpart. However, the Sport trim—the most affordable trim available in convertible form—is not available with this retractible fastback. That means prices start higher: $31,555 to be exact.

It may not cut down on wind noise as much as you might hope, but I'm okay with that. It's a Miata after all. Some wind or road noise doesn't bother me much in a basic roadster. It's all part of the experience.

My final impression on the MX-5 RF? Two thumbs way up. I would choose it over the convertible version.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I was so looking forward to driving this. In fact, I had it all lined up for Mazdapalooza.

So, what happened? I broke my arm. No driving, no nothing. I couldn’t even do the event as spectator. (Since they couldn’t put a cast on my arm, I could only stand very limited trips in a car.)

I did get to ride in the RF as a passenger, though. Even with my left arm in a sling, the MX-5 RF worked well. I could still get in, buckle my seatbelt and enjoy the ride. Yay, me.

I see Tom's comments regarding wind noise. Is that an isolated issue with our car or a larger issue? Honestly, I'd love some more seat time before I pass judgement--you know, in the name of science.

Is it the perfect MX-5? Man, it’s close. Yes, the Club is going to be the one that you want for autocross, but as a daily, the RF in Grand Touring trim is totally worth a look.

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Comments

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/24/17 11:10 a.m.

So, this or a BRZ/86/FR-S? Or is it a no-brainer?

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
5/24/17 12:29 p.m.

I haven't driven one yet, but I did sit in one. If you are of a somewhat larger size, you may want to look at a BRZ. It was cramped way more than I was expecting. It's the nicest Miata I've ever been in, and made my '93 pretty dated, but the '93 has more room. I was a bit disappointed in that regard. I'm sure it drives great however. This one was sold so they wouldn't let me find out.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
5/24/17 12:33 p.m.

I sat in one at the dealership. It fits and feels very much like my '96 with high-back race seats and big fat dual-diagonal rollbar, except much nicer inside. I could get pretty comfortable in one. I'm trying to get DW to consider one to replace her TSX next year, since we don't both need 4 doors on a daily basis any more.

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
5/24/17 1:30 p.m.

I would trade the FRS for that in a heartbeat. Bet it hits close to $50k all-in here in Canukland

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
5/24/17 1:36 p.m.

I love the RF. It's actually got me seriously considering selling my turbo 1990 and picking one up. It's not the car that's stopping me but the thought of a car payment :)

Interesting that Mazda sent you a GT. And also interesting that you didn't mention the massive improvement in the steering - much better self-centering at the straight-ahead and better calibrated assist. The RF is a better handling car than the soft top. And apparently all the time was spent on the Club, which is the weaker of the two soft top chassis in my opinion. C'mon guys, you did drive the car more than just up and down the highway, right?

I think they're sensitive to window adjustment, which can add some wuffling right beside your ears. And if you actually check the decibel level in the interior, I think it's quieter. Just like older Miatas with hardtops, the actual noise level is lower but you don't realize it until you notice that the stereo isn't turned up so loud. IIRC, I saw a drop when I measured ours at highway cruise.

Blaise
Blaise Reader
5/24/17 1:39 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: So, this or a BRZ/86/FR-S? Or is it a no-brainer?

Likely height dependent. At 6'2, I'm claustrophobic in the RF with the top up. In the 86 I fit great.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
5/24/17 1:50 p.m.

IIRC the RF loses 3/4" of headroom over the soft top - tops up, of course. And it's looking very much like a roll bar is not possible.

dculberson
dculberson PowerDork
5/24/17 3:14 p.m.

I was at the mazda dealer for the takata recall on my 6 and checked out the RF. It was beautiful. But all six Miatas at the dealer were automatics. That seemed so strange to me. Like finding a bunch of 2wd jeep wranglers in a row.

Lugnut
Lugnut Dork
5/24/17 4:22 p.m.

Is the RF considered a convertible for track purposes?

Is that a rollbar behind the seats like the convertible has?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
5/24/17 9:34 p.m.

I would consider it a convertible. That top is not structural. It has the same roll hoops as the convertible.

We're looking at doing an upgraded version of the stock hoops - a proper bar made of DOM steel and attaching at the (strong) stock locations. No rear braces, though. There's nowhere for them to go.

yupididit
yupididit Dork
5/25/17 1:47 a.m.

I want one in white.

rustybugkiller
rustybugkiller Reader
5/25/17 6:10 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner: Love the RF and would consider a used one in a couple years but if you can't track it, that would make me walk away.

Lugnut
Lugnut Dork
5/25/17 9:14 a.m.
rustybugkiller wrote: In reply to Keith Tanner: Love the RF and would consider a used one in a couple years but if you can't track it, that would make me walk away.

Ditto.

I would love a proper hard-top coupe. Or a non-power Targa-style RF with a fixed fastback (as long as the roof fits somewhere in the car when removed).

dculberson
dculberson PowerDork
5/25/17 9:22 a.m.

I bet you could get a custom rollbar installed if you were willing to forego the opening of the roof.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
5/25/17 10:28 a.m.

A lot of have people have claimed that's what they want. Which means that eventually someone will come out with the product, and I predict that about 2 people will want one enough to pay actual money for it. Lots of talk, but talk on the internet is worth absolutely nothing. By the time an RF is cheap enough that people will cut one up, it'll be in the "but I only paid $x for the car!" category.

If you want a track car, get the soft top. Easy solve.

captdownshift
captdownshift PowerDork
5/25/17 11:46 a.m.

And if you want a rallycross car, get the RF.

dculberson
dculberson PowerDork
5/25/17 12:55 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner:

I have no doubt there's not enough of a market for a manufactured roll bar. That's why I said "custom." What I was picturing was: take it to a roll cage shop, pay them $1500, and they'll put in a roll bar. Pull the fuse for the power top. Maybe I'm off on my cost estimate, though.

Kylini
Kylini Dork
5/25/17 1:50 p.m.
captdownshift wrote: And if you want a rallycross car, get the RF.

Did SCCA greenlight it as a roofed vehicle or is it still considered a convertible?

If it's good for RallyCross, it's also good for SCCA PDX (bolt in hardtop = not a convertible even though it too isn't structural).

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
5/25/17 4:05 p.m.
dculberson wrote: In reply to Keith Tanner: I have no doubt there's not enough of a market for a manufactured roll bar. That's why I said "custom." What I was picturing was: take it to a roll cage shop, pay them $1500, and they'll put in a roll bar. Pull the fuse for the power top. Maybe I'm off on my cost estimate, though.

What you're missing is that there's nowhere to put the rollbar. You'd have to gut the roof mechanisms and come up with a way to mount the panels and glass to a cage. You're off on your estimate by a factor of 2-3 at least.

Btw, Mazda looked into this for the GC cars.

dculberson
dculberson PowerDork
5/25/17 4:15 p.m.

Dang, seems I did miss that. For some reason I pictured the inside being relatively open but the difficulty in being allowing space for the roof folding mechanism to operate. Seems I was mistaken.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
5/25/17 4:18 p.m.

Could you do it by replacing the seat-hoops with real roll hoops, and then instead of a rear brace, putting it in through the passenger seat? Passengers are overrated anyways. (and I realize that this is silly and the answer is to just use the soft-top)

thatsnowinnebago
thatsnowinnebago SuperDork
5/25/17 5:43 p.m.
mtn wrote: Could you do it by replacing the seat-hoops with real roll hoops, and then instead of a rear brace, putting it in through the passenger seat? Passengers are overrated anyways. (and I realize that this is silly and the answer is to just use the soft-top)

Isn't that similar to the bar for the NC PRHT? Or am I misremembering how it works?

captdownshift
captdownshift PowerDork
5/25/17 9:09 p.m.

In reply to Kylini:

For rallycross anything with a factory hardtop is a go. That would count as a hardtop, not sure if PDX had cleared it.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
5/25/17 10:39 p.m.
thatsnowinnebago wrote:
mtn wrote: Could you do it by replacing the seat-hoops with real roll hoops, and then instead of a rear brace, putting it in through the passenger seat? Passengers are overrated anyways. (and I realize that this is silly and the answer is to just use the soft-top)

Isn't that similar to the bar for the NC PRHT? Or am I misremembering how it works?

The NC PRHT bar is too short to be effective, but a Petty might work in this case. The only real problem with that is that you can't take a passenger with tha Petty installed. I'll take a look at it - we have some ideas already.

chitownwrx
chitownwrx New Reader
6/9/17 11:25 p.m.

Not many others have mentioned the lack of self-centering in the steering, but it's noticeable. I own a Club and even after FCM coilovers and track oriented alignment, same problem.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/10/17 12:31 a.m.

It's not alignment or suspension, it's in the rack. They can't be reprogrammed, but we will be testing to see if an RF rack will go into a softtop. We'll have a spare RF rack when we do our next ND V8 conversion, we're just waiting for the car to arrive.

chandlerGTi
chandlerGTi PowerDork
6/10/17 7:22 p.m.

I finally stopped And checked them out, wow do they check my boxes. They had grey and red and the red really sets off the lines.

LuxInterior
LuxInterior HalfDork
6/10/17 9:12 p.m.

I finally saw an RF in person (out at the Glenwood Rallye) today. It's so much better looking in person than in photos.

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
6/10/17 9:21 p.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: It's not alignment or suspension, it's in the rack. They can't be reprogrammed, but we will be testing to see if an RF rack will go into a softtop. We'll have a spare RF rack when we do our next ND V8 conversion, we're just waiting for the car to arrive.

Would the Fiat rack be any good?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/11/17 11:55 a.m.

Hmm. Maybe. I don't think the Fiat got the improved on-center feel. I'll take ours out for a check ride tomorrow :)

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
6/11/17 7:22 p.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: Hmm. Maybe. I don't think the Fiat got the improved on-center feel. I'll take ours out for a check ride tomorrow for science! :)

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