The size, depth and lack of cargo space in Mazda’s Miata MX-5 RF makes it the most impractical 2019 vehicle I have driven so far.
Dear God, would I love to have one in my garage.
For one thing, not only does the sports car fit with the garage door closed, it is so small I can walk around the front or back of the hard-top convertible with a normal pace.
Other smaller have fit in my garage, but most nearly kissed a row of boxes on the floor in front of them. Walking around the backs of those also-rans with the garage door closed ranged from normal strides to smashing myself into the garage door and inching side-to-side like a cat burglar.
I adore the MX-5 even though every time I go to sit in one, when I reach the point where I believe my butt is going to hit the seat, I discover there is another foot lower to go. It is so close to the ground that getting out of one is an immediate reminder to do something about your lack of core strength. How about a side of sit-ups with that Double-Double?
The inconveniences of size are minor annoyances compared with the kick in the pants while driving the MX-5. The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder SKYACTIV-G engine pushes out 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 151 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.
That’s a power increase in the 2019s of 26 hp and three lb-ft of torque, while the redline has increased to 7,500 rpm from 6,800 rpm on the 2018 models.
I would definitely opt for the six-speed manual transmission over the six-speed automatic, something I never would have imagined back in the days when I was routinely replacing clutches. However, the MX-5 was made for driving a stick, and among the performance highlights Mazda promotes for 2019 is a limited-slip differential.
That said, it did take me some getting used to my test RF’s stick shift at first because it was so much tighter than the previous two manuals I’d recently driven for Ride Me.
What I discovered while putting the MX-5 through the paces was the tighter shifting made it easier to put it in the intended gear, whether up shifting or downshifting. And I was able to confirm I was in those intended gears by a numbers display built into the tachometer.
Being so low to the ground, I found the tires gripping the road through windy curves. Other performance highlights Mazda touts with the RF are the sport-tuned exhaust system and, with the manuals, suspension with Bilstein dampers.
There was no noticeable performance differences with the roof up or down. (My hair? Totally different story.) The power folding hardtop opens or closes in just 13 seconds, with a buzzer and video display indicating when it is OK to take your finger off the open/close switch.
Unlike soft-top models, the RF features a 4.6-inch, full-color TFT (thin-film-transistor) display, and they come in Club or Grand Touring trims. The latter now has Smart City Brake and Traffic Sign Recognition available.
New on the 2019 RF model are a rearview camera and tilt/telescoping steering column, which are both standard, and Metallic Black wheels.
Technological features include Mazda’s Advanced Keyless Entry, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming and a Bose nine-speaker audio system with headrest speakers. The Grand Touring trims also have an adaptive front lighting system.
For 2019, Mazda offers on the new Club i-ACTIVSENSE Package that includes Smart City Brake Support and Lane Departure Warning.
The new GT-S Package on the manual transmission Grand Touring trims has the limited-slip rear differential, Bilstein dampers, shock tower brace and a black roof.
There was no sticker available yet for my particular test MX-5, but Mazda says the starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price on the RFs is $32,345, which does not include an $895 destination and delivery fee nor taxes and additional fees.
The six-speed automatic RFs, which at 2,499 pounds slightly outweigh the 2,453-pound manual versions, get one mile per gallon better highway mileage. The estimated rates for the manual are 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined while the automatic is at 26/35/29.
There are larger cars that get better gas mileage, but I don’t think you buy the MX-5 to avoid the pump. You purchase it for the joy of burning that fuel.
Not that you would want to drive it extremely far. Last year I took one from Orange County to San Simeon and back and while it was a blast, it would have become unpleasant had I ventured much farther. Five hours or so is about the limit, unless you enjoy going to the chiropractor.
The 2019 Mazda Miata MX-5 RF would be a great car to keep in your garage until the weekend, special occasions or any time you are staying relatively close and have no need for a third seat, let alone a Costco run.
Going up and down PCH in this ride: Now you’re cooking commuting with gas.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.