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  • Writer's pictureMarc Gonzalez

2021 Mazda MX-5 RF

Mazda MX-5 RF GT
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

If the name MX-5 doesn't ring a bell, the Miata name should do the trick! We had the chance to test a car that has always been remembered as one of the most affordable ways to combine fun driving with an open-top experience. With an MSRP of $44,150 as tested, it looks expensive on paper, but when you get behind the wheel, you will forget the price tag pretty quickly. Without further ado, let's jump into the zoom-zoom convertible from the smallest Japanese car manufacturer.

Ever since Mazda first introduced the Miata on the market in 1989, the point was always to have a compact car capable of procuring wonderful driving dynamics. In 2021, it is still easy to see the essence of the first generation, not only because of the vehicle's sheer size but also because the Mazda MX-5 is still very low to the ground for better handling.

The front end has kept its iconic smile from earlier generations, it has been modernized obviously, but it remains recognizable on the street. In the back, the design is more sober and practical. One important characteristic of the vehicle is the presence of a rooftop (RF) painted in the colour of the car, it makes the car look like a coupe, and when you retract the roof, you get the convertible feeling.

We think it is the best of both worlds! Looking at the vehicle from the outside, you would think that the interior would be so small it would be unbearable. Mazda made sure it wouldn't be; any driver under about 6'0 should be able to find a comfortable driving position. When we got in the vehicle, we were astonished by the white interior, but we got used to it; we would have preferred a darker interior, though.

Mazda MX-5 interior
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

That being said, the materials used are adapted to the kind of vehicle the MX-5 is. There isn't any cheap plastic, only quality materials on the dash and anywhere you lay your eyes on. We also liked that you can see the car's exterior colour inside the upper portion of the door panel. With the white interior, you had a nice combination of red, white and black that looked cool. We have to admit; there aren't too many storage spaces inside the car; even the trunk is pretty small.

Mazda MX-5 interior
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

One brilliant thought that the Japanese engineers at Mazda had was that the passenger cup holder is removable. When you remove it, the passenger has more space to stretch their legs.

Unfortunately, there are no signs of ISOFIX ports, but this was expected since it's better suited for adults, and it's nearly impossible to fit a stroller in the back.

Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Moving on to the technology segment, starting with the gauge cluster, it's a pretty good one. Analog speedometer and tachometer, a small screen on the left side showing you the basics, don't need much else in the MX-5; the focus here is on the driving experience. Our test model was equipped with the latest safety technology, such as Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Departure Warning, to name a few, these features come standard on the basic GS variant of the RF.

Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Sadly, the small subcompact sports car is equipped with the older infotainment from Mazda, truly one of the worst by modern standards. Slow, difficult to maneuver in, terrible backup camera quality, all the things you don't want to experience are present here and make it by far the low point of the car. We expect the Japanese automaker to ditch this infotainment system completely sooner than later. Fortunately, the sound system is decent all around. There was wireless Apple Carplay, but a center screen this bad in 2021 is unacceptable. Fortunately, the climate controls are big knobs, they are within reach of both the driver and the passenger, and they are very user-friendly. The same goes for the rooftop; it can be opened or closed on the street at city speeds if you are caught in the rain by surprise, or it becomes too windy.

Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Moving on to the number one reason why anyone would buy the Mazda MX-5: the driving experience. With great pleasure, we announce that the small roadster is still a ton of fun to drive! Weighing in at only 1066kg (2350 lbs), the 4 cylinder Skyactiv-G 2,0L engine is more than enough to power this small vehicle. The numbers aren't earth-shattering, but still, 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque are nearly perfect for the size of the car. The engine is coupled with a 6-speed manual transmission. The 6-speed automatic is also available at no extra cost. Both elements combined are balanced almost perfectly; the second gear is a bit too long for our liking. The clutch isn't too stiff either, the car runs smoothly when driving slow, and in sport mode, the throttle response is excellent too. Handling is also enjoyable; the steering wheel isn't too light.

Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

The low center of gravity mixed with great handling; provides such a rewarding experience to the driver. And, this without the need to drive above the speed limit. The suspension is stiff but to the point to make the ride uncomfortable in the present moment. With the top down, there isn't too much wind going into the cabin; with the top up, the cabin is pretty quiet; this is the particular reason why people will choose the RF over the standard soft-top MX-5. Overall, this hardtop variant we tested will cost a little over 44 grand and is smaller than a Corolla. The driving experience is so far ahead of any compact sedan that any enthusiast will gladly pay a premium to experience the Mazda way.

Photo by Serge Beaumarige

Yes, the Mazda MX-5 RF GT isn't necessarily affordable. Paying almost $45k for a summer car may seem crazy at first glance. Still, there are two strong selling points: the driving experience is unbelievable for such a small vehicle, and the resale value is through the roof with the high demand of this vehicle on the used market. At some point in time, the MX-5, formerly Miata, was in a crowded segment with rivals such as the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Toyota MR2 and Celica, Honda S2000… Mazda has outlived them all, this just shows how strong the brand image of this vehicle is still today. Special thanks to Serge Beaumarige for the photos below.

Mazda has lent us this vehicle one week as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with Mazda Canada. The above is a recollection of our personal opinion of the car referred above. #mazda #mazdacanada #mazdamx5 #miata #mx-5rf #mx5rf #mazdamx5rf

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