Mazda’s new MX-5 RF turns heads.
In fact, upon launching the car earlier this year, Mazda ran a unique digital billboard ad campaign in a Toronto mall that featured an image of the MX-5 RF. Utilizing a camera and facial recognition software, the billboard actually counted how many shoppers turned to look at the MX-5.
The number of stares was prominently displayed in an odometer-style device at the upper left of the billboard followed by the tag line “… Heads Turned So Far.”
Had Calgarian Pat English walked past the ad, she’d have turned to stare, too. But better than simply staring, English spent a week behind the wheel of the new-for-2017 MX-5 RF, for Retractable Fastback.
Long an admirer of the original Mazda two-seat sports car, English was more than happy to test the MX-5. She was even more delighted, upon first seeing the car, to find it was painted Mazda’s Soul Red Metallic, an optional $300.
“Where the old Miata might have been cute, this was a lot more aggressive, faster, or sportier looking,” she says. “The headlights were like cats-eyes, but it was more the overall look of the car that I appreciated than just one single design element.”RELATED >Car Comparison: 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF vs. 2017 Subaru BRZ >We didn't break our curse at the 2017 Mazda Adventure Rally
According to Mazda, development of the MX-5 RF “is an undertaking that broadens the appeal of the fourth-generation soft-top model. It is a car that further hones the pure driving fun that has defined the model since going on sale in 1989.”
In 2017 Mazda continues to offer a convertible version of their popular MX-5, but the RF features fastback styling with a smooth roofline, and the power hardtop roof can be opened or closed at speeds of up to 10 km/h. Despite the car’s fastback styling and hardtop roof, the MX-5 RF has the same amount of trunk space as the soft-top version. Power in the RF is provided by Mazda’s 155 horsepower Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre gasoline engine paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
English’s MX-5 topped out at $45,295, including destination charge and the $4,400 Sport Package and $300 optional paint. After three years of driving an automatic, she was pleased to return to rowing through a manual transmission.
“The 2.0L four-cylinder engine had plenty of power and pep, and it went well with the six-speed gearbox,” she explains. “It had a sweet rumble with a real sporty sound at speed.”
English learned to drive in Ottawa in her dad’s 1967 Chevy Impala. The first car she bought for herself was a Dodge Colt, followed by a 1986 Honda CRX that she kept for several years. She’s owned a Ford F-150 pickup truck and kept her standard-transmission Jeep Cherokee for 15 years before moving into a 2010 Jeep Patriot with an automatic.
“But I’ve always kept my eyes peeled for a used Mazda Miata. A car like that would be an ideal summer driver for me,” English says, as she commutes to Black Diamond from southeast Calgary on a daily basis, a journey of 110-kilometres return.
English found getting into the MX-5 RF required a technique she never quite mastered. Once inside, however, she felt very much a part of the car.
“It felt really good, even if everything was that much tighter,” she says of how she fit in the car. “All of the interior materials were really good quality, with the exception of the cheap plastic sun visors.”
Recaro seats are part of the Sport Package, and English says they were well bolstered and offered a reassuring hug. Overall the instrument cluster was easy to see and all controls were conveniently within reach.
Twice English drove the MX-5 to Black Diamond and once north to Airdrie and finally to Cochrane and Ghost Lake. On the highway, she says the car was fairly quiet, roof open or closed. She found the right shoulder check when changing lanes wasn’t a convenient operation, and did appreciate the blind-spot monitoring system.
“You have to drive a bit differently, and be much more aware of surrounding traffic,” she explains.
The car felt well connected during all manner of driving, both on the highway and in the city. Noted was the Mazda’s tight turning radius, as the vehicle was easy to manoeuvre in parking lot situations.
“The ride wasn’t jarring, the car is nicely suspended, and grocery store parking lot speed bumps didn’t upset it at all,” English says. “Utility? It’ll handle a few bags of groceries or some travel supplies, but it’s really a summer car driven for fun.
“The Mazda was simply a sheer pleasure to drive on some of the back roads with the manual transmission. And it turns heads. Lots of people stopped to talk to me, and they loved the new curves while comparing it to higher end sports cars.”
Day One: Well, I can’t stop smiling. The shape is new to me, it has curves, beautiful curves, and very different from their introduction in 1989.
I’m looking at a six-speed transmission with the reverse in the opposite corner of what I’m used to after three years with an automatic. I don’t stall or squeal out of the driveway. The acceleration is great. At 5-foot-5, I fit comfortably, but anyone six feet tall or on the strapping or heaving side, said politely, are going to find it a tight squeeze.
Day Two: At 6 a.m. it was fun to climb into this car and hit the road. Put the tall mug in the coffee holder and hope it won’t fall out in the corners. Deerfoot is virtually empty and most traffic is coming into Calgary, not out. Quickly run her up to speed and stretch her out a bit more. She feels good and solid. Returning in the afternoon the weather is nice and I put the roof down and it’s easy to do with a continuous hold down/up button that beeps when you’re done. At Carburn Park there was a bunch of kids just heading out for a canoe ride on the lake and they were all over this car like butter on bread. I think my neighbours think I’ve won the lotto.
Day Three: Steering wheel design is well thought out offering a clear view to the three round gauges behind it. Left LCD gauge for temp and fuel, middle dedicated to trip info (A & B), gas averages, consumption, etc. The middle bigger analogue gauge is a tach with a small triangle bottom right that shows what gear you’re in and may hyphenate, suggesting you should be one higher. 4-5, 5-6. To the right is your analogue speedometer.
Day Four: Drive from Calgary to the Leighton Gallery, cross-country to Black Diamond and home. I haven’t had this much fun with a car since I had my old Honda CRX. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to have a standard and run through the gears and tackle the corners and hills. I love how this car pulls out of the corners, it just hugs and goes. My 5-foot-10 friend found the passenger area comfortable and with enough headroom. Understanding the electronics/technology systems will come but a lot of bells and whistles that I would never probably use or worry about.
Day Five: It was off to Airdrie today to show this off to my sister Jayne and we headed a bit north and west for a loop around. Again the car handled great, saw some deer on the side of the road but don’t want to think about that and this car. The Brembo brakes work well and with the red calipers, look good, too.
Day Six: Spent a half hour playing with the audio system going through the applications, entertainment, communication, navigation and found some fun stuff. Where I was latitude and longitude, nearest fire, police medical etc., stuff I’m sure the techies know about. It wasn’t too hard to scroll through stuff when I kinda figured out where things were. A lot of things can be customized to your personal likes. My average (premium) gas consumption has been 6.3L/100km.
Day Seven: A drive out to Cochrane and Ghost Dam. A guy driving an RX-8 pulled into the dam parking lot when he saw the MX-5 and was impressed, talked a lot about stuff I didn’t totally understand but I nodded along. You can fit a purse behind the seats, and there is a hidey-hole behind the passenger seat. I’m just enjoying the car one on one before I return it. Thanks to my brother Bob I have an appreciation for cars that goes way back; I may not know a lot about the finer workings of cars but I’ve learned to enjoy a good vehicle and this is one.
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