Stick Shift: 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF

In 1989, there was a big hole in the market for an affordable, rear drive sports car. Something fun, easy to throw around and not too overpowered. For a while, and in very small numbers, the Alfa Romeo Veloce was the only true 4-cylinder roadster being sold in the U.S. Collectively, the country clamored for something mored. It’s no surprise that, with everything the rotary powered RX-7 taught Mazda about engineering a balanced two seater, the MX-5 was born.

Here we are, over a quarter of a century later, and the Miata is still around. Not only has it held on in an ever changing market, it’s thrived! It’s design, then and now has always been clean and tidy, with an unwavering focus on delivering an exhilarating driving experience. It has just enough power to put a smile on your face, but its true strength is in its near perfect balance, light touch and outstanding handling characteristics. 

The world welcomed the Miata with open arms. Driving clubs dedicated to the little roadster sprang up around the globe. Even appearing in places like England, where the roadster was practically invented. Its feathery weight, responsive steering, inspiring transmission and meticulously tuned suspension combine to create a vehicle that behaves more like a super go-kart than a car. The interior feels tailor fit. The retractable roof can be operated comfortably from the drivers seat with a toggle switch. Who can forget the Special Edition MX-5 with tan leather interior and British Racing Green paint!

Following the philosophy of ‘not fixing what isn’t broken,’ Mazda has changed the MX-5 Miata very little over the decades. It has always been about simplicity in design and operation. The moment you start adding too many heavy ‘extras,’ you’ve missed the whole point. 

Visually, the newest generation Mazda Miata has adopted the sharp, aggressive lines that run through the rest of the Mazda line-up. Gone are the bubbly proportions and cute flip-up headlights of the 90’s. The cosmetic enhancements look wonderful and have helped usher the Miata into a modern era without alienating its core charm. The power retractable hardtop roof is quick and quite. Nicely proportioned 17” wheels, sharp LED headlights and a rear deck with upward sweeping lines that almost calls to mind the Lotus Evora. It all combines to produce a Miata that’s never looked as sharp and sleek.

Photo by: Brandon Randall

Nestled in behind the wheel, you’ll find the fit to be as tight as expected. You’ll also find that a few creature comforts have made their way in. Heated front seats and side mirrors, a leather wrapped steering wheel, back-up camera, infotainment display and bluetooth, just to mention a few. Several helpful driving aides also appear, like cross traffic alerts, lane departure warning, traction control and blind spot monitoring.

While these additions are nice, they’re also heavy. To counter the weight gain, Mazda uses an aluminum hood and trunk lid to help maintain an ideal power to weight ratio. Speaking of power, this little Mazda churns out 181hp. Enough to get you up to speed after exiting those tight hairpin turns at your local track. What hasn’t changed is the plain, pure, utterly enjoyable driving experience that the MX-5 offered then, and continues to offer now. It would be a true loss to the automotive community if this iconic roadster ever succumbed to a market full of once exciting and engaging cars, now just former shells of themselves. Increasingly watered down and mainstreamed. Refreshingly enough, new additions have only made the Mazda MX-5 better, all while staying true to what made it so great in the first place. 

Price as tested: $35,730.00

By: Brandon Randall

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