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  • 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    Posted on June 16th, 2017 ninarussin

    Two-seat sports car gets dramatic new styling

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    No vehicle in Mazda’s line-up embodies the brand’s mission of affordable performance more than the MX-5 ‘Miata.’ Designed by car enthusiasts for their kindred spirits, the MX-5 delivers spirited performance both on and off the track at a price that won’t break the bank.

    This year Mazda ups the ante with the RF retractable hardtop, building on the MX-5’s current styling for more dramatic presence on the road, plus the convenience of a top that deploys in thirteen seconds.

    Pricing for the upscale Grand Touring grade starts at $32,620 excluding the $835 destination charge. Standard convenience features include 17-inch alloy wheels with R-rated performance tires, LED exterior lighting, remote keyless entry and start, heated side mirrors, Bluetooth interface, Bose audio system with HD and satellite radio, navigation, leather upholstery and heated front seats. The metal flake red exterior is an option. Final MSRP is $33,885.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    This week I had the opportunity to drive the MX-5 RF around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as the Bush Highway that runs north-to-south along the western edge of the Superstition Mountains. As lovely as the RF is to look at, the real treat is getting behind the wheel and experiencing the magic of its perfectly balanced chassis.

    Power comes from a two-liter engine rated at 155-horsepower and six-speed manual transmission. While the horsepower figure might seem low, remember that this is a very light car: curb weight for the manual gearbox version is 2445 pounds. That’s almost 800 pounds less than Nissan’s 370Z and 500 pounds less than the Porsche Boxster 718. The engine’s peak torque- 148 pound-feet- is close to its horsepower, giving the MX-5 robust acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging onto the highway.

    What makes the MX-5 addictive to drive isn’t its power, it’s the handling, delivered by double pinion gear power electric steering system, double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension. Engineers increased the amount of high strength steel in the current body to over 70 percent, and in the process reduced the car’s curb weight by 150 pounds: slightly less for the hardtop. Both front and rear suspension systems utilize aluminum components to minimize unspring weight for more nimble handling.

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    The Bush Highway, with its pitchy hills and off-camber corners was the perfect place to experience the MX-5 RF. The two-lane rural roads sees minimal traffic on mid-week summer days, so I was able to wind the engine up to its sweet spot and simply let it unwind in the corners. The sound was music to my ears: sweeter than anything the car’s Bose audio system could produce.

    With the top in place, there are some significant blind spots around the perimeter, especially towards the back of the car. The standard blind spot monitoring system that illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots is invaluable, especially in an area where high-profile vehicles outnumber passenger cars. I found myself having to be especially diligent in dense traffic.

    The test car did not come with a rearview camera, which would have been helpful in eliminating blind spots when backing out of a parking spot. Cross traffic alert does alert the driver if an oncoming car is crossing his path, eliminating some hazards in crowded parking lots.

    Driver-focused interior

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Interior

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Interior

    Those familiar with the Miata know that its interior does not have an abundance of room. There is a small storage shelf in-back-of the two seats, but if you want to put larger items inside the car, you’ll need to go solo and use the passenger seat.

    The seats themselves could use some improvement. Side bolsters work well to keep the driver and passenger in place while cornering, but the driver’s seat lacked adequate lower lumbar support, at least as far as this writer is concerned. By the end of the first hour I found myself shifting back and forth trying to find a comfortable seating position. A manually-adjustable lumbar would solve the problem.

    Temperature and infotainment controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate.

    The MX-5 trunk is small but fairly-deep, capable of holding a roller board suitcase and some groceries if the top is not deployed into it. It goes without saying that the MX-5 isn’t bicycle-friendly, but cyclists might find its performance so alluring that they will buy one car to hold the bike and a MX-5 to get jiggy on the highway.

    Standard safety

    The Mazda MX-5 comes with front and side airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, LED daytime running lamps, rain sensing windshield wipers and tire pressure monitoring. The factory warranty includes 24-hour roadside assistance.

    Mazda builds the MX-5 at its Hiroshima, Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A gorgeous, affordable two-seat sports car with exceptional ride and handling.

    Dislike: Rearview camera is not standard equipment.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Mazda
    Model: MX-5 RF Grand Touring
    Year: 2017
    Base price: $32,620
    As tested: $33,885
    Horsepower: 155 HP @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 148 lbs.-ft. @ 4600 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: N/A
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 23/33 MPG City/Highway

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