RF Owners Review

Here is a review from an owner on Miata.net. I couldn’t have written my experience with the car any better than what he has done. Every owner/driver will have their own feel for the RF of course but I can tell you in the short week that I’ve been driving one, it is a great little car and the Zoom Zoom feeling is alive and well in the new RF. Hope you enjoy the review. –Mark

I wanted to take the time and write a detailed comparison of the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF to the 2016 MX-5 Convertible. First and foremost, we know that the two cars are two very different things when it comes to a convertible compared to a Targa folding top fastback body style. I don’t want us to get to hung up on that difference. We all know that it actually creates two separate classes for the cars in general. Both from the same bloodline, siblings if you will, but each with its very own personality and qualities. I have owned them both. I have spent time in each car and can tell you key elements from each that I think will assist in those who are purchasing an RF or a convertible version or who is thinking about one or the other.

For the convertible, I had the 2016 Club. I went with the Club because the price was less (I knew I would get more of a return when it was trade time for an RF, if I decided to trade it when the RF came in) I also really liked the aero package that comes on the Club with its lower front air dam and the back spoiler. (A sidenote would be if you like the aero package that comes on the club you can have it added for a small amount extra to the GT version) When I bought the Club I did get the navigation chip so that I could use the built in infotainment system for trips. I got an automatic transmission because I liked that I could drive the car in heavy traffic and answer calls, drink my coffee, whatever and not have to shift gears all at the same time. So auto or manual will be your personal preference. The idea of the automatic sports transmission mode and shift paddles was fun and something that could be enjoyed no matter how I was using the car day to day.

Now, for the RF. I originally had a Launch Edition on order, but after 3 weeks in port and not shipping to the dealer, I happened to come cross a GT RF in Ceramic at a local dealer and I bought it. I quickly received my $500 deposit back from Mazda and I received a great deal at the dealer on the new RF. The RF is also an automatic, so the only difference is that with the GT model you get the leather heated seats, the blind spot monitoring (this comes standard with all RF models) and the other small upgrades like the lane sensing. For the sake of this write up I really don’t want to focus to much on the comparison between the Club and the GT but really the handling differences.

So, I drove the two cars back to back. I actually had the Club convertible with me the day I went to the dealership to test drive the RF. For those of you who drive the convertible you will notice on the RF a little tighter steering when the convertible feels really light and loose (in a good way) in your hands. The RF has a more rigid “held in place” feel to the steering mechanism. This is all by design. Mazda wanted the RF to have a little more control to compensate for the weight and body differences. To be honest with you I like the feel of the RF steering better for my tastes in driving. So it was nice to be surprised and say “wow, that’s a different feel…” its not going to be so different that you will be turned off by it if you were used to driving the convertible. I would have to say that unless you drove the cars back to back you would not really feel anything because you adjust to the car you are driving at the time. But, back to back, yes you will notice and you will be pleased. It was the first place that I noticed that these were two very different cars and not just a re-purposing of the convertible with a folding hard top portion added.

I read a lot of reviews and articles talking about the added weight and the effect it had on performance and speed. It seemed that people talked about this in a negative way, that the added weight of the top would give handling differences and slower speeds because of it. I was concerned at first, thinking that I was going to lose that zoom zoom zip of the light weight convertible that we love. I was shocked to find the opposite. I have been racking my brain on how to explain the responsive performance feeling. It feels like you have MORE power in the RF compared to the convertible. The word I’m looking for is more of a “pep” or “snap” kind of like a “revving up” or a slingshot feeling when you put your foot down in acceleration. We know that the automatic drive train and the engine are the same as the convertible but I think the “feel” of a difference comes from the drivers push on the vehicle. When driving you will find your input has to be more aggressive. The driver has to put more attack into the drive and has more control of the power. In the convertible I felt that I eased into the performance when with the RF I put my foot down and the car rockets forward. So its a combination of rpm torque and performance combined. As a driver of an RF, I feel more engaged, more in control. As for the convertible with the automatic transmission it felt more sterile and disengaged in my drive, and I think because of that I was concerned about pushing the car harder. The RF with its more aggressive, interactive, drive experience coupled with a much more quiet cockpit feels more like a race car to me than the convertible ever did. I can hear the engine, I can feel the power and I have much more available power to my disposal when I want it. Let me remind you the engine and drive train from the convertible to the RF are the exact same, but for myself I felt less comfortable and less in control in the soft top. Because of this I was less aggressive in my drive experience when driving the convertible. I find I can push the RF harder, I let it take control of the road. I never feel concerned that it might get away from me. It feels like it was really tweaked and built for speed. The convertible was fun to push, but you could feel the body roll, here there’s a difference here in the RF. Not only did Mazda tweak the steering but they also stiffened up the suspension on the RF not to mention made the body more rigid. A driver will truly enjoy the experience.

How about open air noise differences? The great debate. We know there is going to be a little more noise with the Targa top open compared to the convertible. This is purely based on aerodynamics. But it’s an enjoyable experience nonetheless. I heard a few people talking about a whistling near their head, they called it almost unbearable. I hear the wind rushing myself but it’s nothing to complain about. The convertible had its own wind rushing nuances that left my ears humming after an 80 mile an hour run down the highway. The RF does too, just different. Any vehicle where you have air in and out of the cabin will give you some affect like this. Years ago I drove a 1975 Corvette, with its removable T tops. It to had its own unique experience with wind aerodynamics, but that’s what made it so memorable. So, please don’t let this be a hangup for those looking to purchase an RF.

Sorry that this got a little long but all in all I hope it puts a buyers mind at ease if you are thinking of adding an RF to your driving arsenal, I am VERY glad I did. Head down and test drive for yourself, I know you will be pleasantly surprised with this new breed of MX-5 Miata!