The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Test Drive and Review

If you are looking for a seriously zippy sports car that’s really fun to drive, the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata may be the one for you. For an enjoyable week, I drove the MX-5 Miata RF – retractable hardtop model.

The vast majority of goodies in this model – such as leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and Bose 9-speaker audio system ­– come standard, for an MSRP of $34,410. With ‘Soul Red Crystal’ paint that is stunningly gorgeous, alloy pedals, stainless doorsill trim plates and red engine oil cap, the total MSRP came in at $36,325.

Thirty years ago I drove the Miata’s original ancestor, and decided then to instead buy an RX-7 that I drove for years and deeply loved. As the marketing geniuses of Madison Avenue said many moons ago on another lofty advertising campaign, “You’ve come a long way baby.” That is certainly true with Miata’s progeny.

Without a doubt, the heated, leather trimmed sport seats are very comfortable. That was true on both long commutes stuck in traffic or barreling down the freeway after hours. A 2.0-liter SKYACTIVE-G four-cylinder engine produces 181 horsepower and 151 pounds feet of torque. Though admittedly it doesn’t sound like much, it is plenty given the Miata’s super svelte 2,400-pound body.

The front and rear stabilizer bars and front double wishbone suspension ensure a smooth ride. It handled very well on curves, bumps and dips. While I learned to drive on a manual transmission back when dinosaurs roamed the planet, and it seems antithetical to drive a sports car with automatic transmission, even a six speed one, I couldn’t bear the idea of driving in LA traffic with a stick shift. Happily, it really didn’t matter. The automatic transmission handled beautifully and accelerated like a sporty dream. Great steering and very receptive brakes added to my driving pleasure despite that it is a bit noisy inside.

The touchscreen infotainment system is very easy-to-use, intuitive and well placed. I felt completely comfortable using it in a matter of minutes. That is saying something given that a certain bit of anxiety arises for me every time I need to address new technology involving my phone or a navigation system. Sadly however, there is no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Given the Miata’s diminutive size, fuel economy is quite good with 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Mazda’s limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain is covered for five years or 60,000 miles.

The Miata has not been crash tested by the National Traffic Safety Administration. While the Miata has optional blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning, this is a truly small car and I certainly would not want to do a dance with an SUV, much less a long haul truck.

Speaking of size, I am somewhat vertically challenged at 5’5.” While I was comfortable entering and exiting the car, it was a bit of a challenge for my 6.0-foot tall husband. The Miata is reminiscent of the proverbial “little black dress” or the tightest of designer blue jeans – they look great on the hangers and once you are in them, but putting them on and taking them off is best left unseen.

On the size matters spectrum, Mazda engineers pretty much ignored the need to actually transport anything other than one companion. There is no glove compartment, and the minuscule center ‘console’ could carry only one granola bar and a pack of chewing gum. The console cubby could only hold a Tic-Tac sized garage door opener and a pair of sunglasses – without its case. The biggest and most annoying design faux pas however is the location of the cup holders, located impossibly behind the driver’s right shoulder near the headrest, necessitating an intense left arm triceps yoga stretch to grab one’s coffee cup or bottled water.

The Miata is technically a two-seater, however if you are actually going to use it as a daily drive, and you carry a purse, briefcase or gym bag, those items will have to go in the dwarf-sized trunk unless you’re riding solo. And the trunk is a Lilliputian 4.59 cubic feet, perhaps the smallest trunk on the market. While I was able to fit my tennis bag containing two rackets and two cans of balls, there was room left over only for one small bag of groceries and a six-pack. Don’t even think about carting around a bag of golf clubs.

If you are looking for a dashingly beautiful and sporty Sunday drive to swiftly pick up a dozen bagels, or head to the gym afterwards to work them off, this car is aesthetically marvelous and most definitely a pleasure to drive.

Happy driving!

Julie L. Kessler is MoneyInc’s Travel & Luxury Editor and writes travel for several major media outlets. She is also an attorney, legal columnist and the author of the award-winning book: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com.

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