REVIEW: 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF- The Best In a Long Line Of Amazing Miatas

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The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF brings amazing looks and a retractable hardtop to an already fantastic roadster.

What is it? 

The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF is the pinnacle of the Miata line in America. The Miata is now in its fourth generation, and the RF stands for retractable fastback roof.

Pricing and trims

Soft Top Miata Sports start at just under $25K and rise to about $31K. The RF-equipped Miatas come in two versions. The Club is priced at $31,555 and the Grand Touring is priced at $32,620 before the few inexpensive options are added. It costs less to own a Miata than a 2-pack a day cigarette habit, and it is much better for your lungs.

Our tester was the top of the line Grand Touring version of the RF Miata. With a sticker price of $33,925, we can tell you without checking it is the least expensive hard-top roadster in America. The Grand Touring gets heated leather seats, the full Nav package, and everything except the sports tuned suspension. Out car also had keyless entry.

The Roof

The retractable hardtop roof lowers in just 13 seconds in the Miata Grand Touring RF. Lowering or raising it is as simple as touching and holding a switch (see video). It works elegantly and can easily be raised or lowered while at a stoplight. Once up, the hard-top provides a measure of security against vandalism and theft. It also is quieter inside than the soft top to our ears. The easier to use power roof is great for road trips where one needs a break from the sun or elements and works great on the highway, where the Miata can be a bit fatiguing with the top down.

Performance

With the fourth generation, Mazda finally made the Miata officially quick. It is now a sub-6-second car from 0-60 MPH according to testing by Car and Driver and others. Speed is relative, so of course, there are faster cars than the Miata. But can you name a 2017 model year convertible that starts under $25K that is faster? Just for some perspective, here are a few cars you may have heard of that this Miata would pull in a 0-60 MPH sprint: A 1976 Lamborghini Countach (v12 engine). A 1961 Ferrari California Spider (remember Ferris Bueller?) Oh, and it is quicker than that new Fiat 124 Spider Abarth you may have heard about, despite the Abarth having a more powerful turbocharged engine. Car and Driver tested the Abarth Spider and found it needed 6.7 seconds to run to 60 MPH. So much for the “more power is better” argument.

So let’s end all this automotive journalism nonsense that the Miata needs more power. On public roads with corners, the new Miata is plenty fast to get you into trouble if you wish. The great thing is trouble is a heck of a lot less likely in a Miata since it feels like you are flying even at legal speeds. That is the genius of the Miata.

The Miata’s 155 hp engine remains – thankfully – non-turbo. It is a gem. The engine feels and sounds great, and even looks great under the hood.  The power is immediate, perfectly linear through the rev band, and perfectly matched to the Miata’s mission.

A six-speed manual is the transmission you want in any Miata, RF Grand Touring or otherwise, and it is standard. If you need an automatic due to a physical limitation there is one available. Short of that, please, for the love of all that is holy, do not buy an automatic Miata. The entire soul of this machine is centered around the six-speed manual. Mazda has done humankind a great service by making this car available with a stick. Yes, a dual-clutch transmission may have been a bit quicker, but who cares? The stick shift in this car is perfect. Ideal. Spot-on. The pedals are perfect for rev-matching downshifts. If there is a better car in which to drive a manual, we have never found it. Much of the joy of owning a Miata is the pleasure one derives from the involvement of the stick shift. If you are still unsure, read our 10 Reasons To Buy a Stick Shift.

RELATED: Shopping for a convertible? See our buyer’s guide.

Ride and handling

The Miata Grand Touring RF is the best-handling passenger car in the world for use on public roads. Nothing is “better” at any price. Cornering is fantastic. Unlike many overly-stiff sports cars, Mazda boldly left a little jounce in the Miata’s setup and it is the better for it. It does not handle perfectly flat like some affordable European sporty cars do and we love that about the Miata. There is a bit of a roll to the car as one turns from center or even better, from one side to the other. There is also a fantastic sensation of the springs compressing and the car settling down when one crests a rise.

Over rough roads the Miata RF Grand Touring is a bit stiff, so be prepared for that. This car is not built to be a commuter car. The steering is so sharp the trade is well worth it. The brakes are also amazing and unlike those in most other cars. They feel and act like race-car brakes. The Club with the sport-tuned suspension may have a slightly sharper steering feel and may be a bit quicker than this RF Grand Touring in the turns, but it is a slight difference, not a night and day effect. Try both if you are shopping before you commit.

Start Your Search for a Convertible Here at BestRide!

Seating

The heated leather seats of the Miata Grand Touring RF are very comfortable and supportive. They also helped to solve the single worst issue with the prior, NC generation, Miatas. The sound system. Mazda has returned to using the headrest as a place to locate speakers and the new audio system is excellent. Adjustment is manual, and it feels as if the seat could be lower by a couple of inches. A six-foot driver of the Miata will find the best position is forward a few clicks from all the way back. Yes, there are folks too big for this car, but not many.

Cargo

Ask any owner of a grand touring car if cargo is important and they will tell you “Yes!” The Miata RF shares its interior with the soft-top and there are a few things to know. First, the cargo areas of the car include the trunk obviously, but also compartments behind the passenger seat and in the upright section of the center console. There is no glove box. There is a small cubby in front of the stick shift, but it won’t hold a phone. There is another cubby beside the driver’s seat on the console which my Samsung S4 barely fit into.

The trunk is large and there is no spare (and no run flats by the way). The Miata RF does not seem to lose any luggage area compared to the Miata soft-top. Two weekend-size duffel bags plus a cooler and some small items can easily be stowed in back. The bag you see in the image is hiding two tennis rackets and a change of clothes. The Miata Grand Touring RF is plenty roomy for actual grand touring.

Infotainment and controls

The Miata RF Grand Touring comes with Nav and a 7-inch color touch screen. Bose Audio with nine speakers is included and is excellent for an open car.

The cool thing about the Mazda infotainment system in the Miata is that it is the same as that in all Mazdas. If you can work one, you can work them all.

The screen can be touched when the vehicle is not moving, or when in motion, it can be controlled by the easy to use rotary knob and volume knob in the console. The Miata is a very compact car, so one may find the controls a bit farther back than would be ideal. Keep in mind the interior was built around the shifter and that will seem like a small compromise.

Safety

If safety is your primary concern this is not your car. Any owner will tell you that other drivers don’t see you in a Miata, and if they do see you, they ignore you. Taken in the context of a compact car with a roof that retracts, this car is as safe as it can be. Mazda adds fixed roll hoops behind the seats, traction and stability control (that you can turn off) and this car brakes as well as any on the planet. Our tester also had blind spot monitoring. Normally, we poo-poo this technology since almost no mainstream passenger vehicle in America actually has a blind spot. The Mita RF does, and it is caused by the fixed in place roof section behind the driver’s left shoulder. Kudos to Mazda for adding this technology on one of the only cars that really needs it. Our tester also had lane departure alert which we turned off since it goes off constantly during country back-road touring. Unfortunately, it then illuminates a yellow light on the dash. Our test vehicle had no back-up camera and we wished it did.

Overall

Everyone who has tried one loves all Miatas. This hard-top, fast-back is the top of the line and an excellent Grand Touring car.

The Miata Grand Touring RF can act as a sports car, convertible cruiser, daily runabout, but where it truly excels is on road trips and during real-world Grand Touring.

If you want 90% of the fun this car offers get a base soft-top and save about eight grand. However, if you value a hard-top convertible roof, like the improved looks of the RF, and plan to use your Miata on long road trips through the countryside, this is the one to get.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF

Base price: $25K (Soft-Top Miata)

Price as tested, $33,925 Including the $875 destination charge:  

Options:

Gray Paint: $300
Keyless Entry System $130

Likes:

  • Hard Top Retractable Roof
  • Perfect Handling
  • Excellent Amenities For Touring

Dislikes:

  • No Spare, No Run Flats
  • Lane Departure Warning Light Stays On When Disabled

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham