Mazda’s MX-5 Miata holds the Guinness World Record for the best-selling two-seat sports car in the World for over 30 years.
This iconic roadster has gotten better over those years and the 2021 version is, without a doubt, the best ever.
Offered in Sport, Club, Grand Touring with a soft convertible top, or RF Club and Grand Touring (that we tested) with a convertible hardtop. Both tops fold into Miata’s tiny (4.5 cubic feet) trunk. The powered hardtop takes a mere 12 seconds to lower and 15 seconds to power up and lock. The latter makes the Miata a year-round driver – except when roads are snow covered or iced-up. There’s also a 100th Anniversary Special Edition that is offered, but production is limited.
The rear-drive Miata has two famed traits. It has always been a hoot to drive and is surprisingly affordable. Plus, it has little competition.
Miata’s cockpit is particularly tight. Especially the heated suede/leather combo seats that are very supportive and similar to sporty Recaro bucket seats. Ingress/egress is a squeeze as well.
The dash houses a 7-inch touchscreen that is used in other Mazda vehicles and offers rearview camera, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Sirius Travel Link featuring weather/radar and local gasoline prices apps, but no navigation that can be dealer installed or merely use your cell phone. There’s also a rotary controller for inputs on screen selections and for safety sake, the tablet style touchscreen becomes inoperative while the roadster is moving. Sporty faux carbon fiber trim adorns the door handles. Music lovers can also enjoy a premium Bose audio system.
HVAC controls are large and easy to use and the gauge cluster includes a driver information display for alerts, functions and features.
The console houses the 6-speed manual transmission shifter along with a small console box. Protruding from the passenger side of the console is a cup holder that annoyingly bumps a passengers’ leg and narrows passenger leg room. There’s also a cup holder on the vertical glove box that’s situated behind and between the seatbacks. An unusual placement, but space is at a premium in a Miata.
The 2021 MX-5 RF came with Mazda’s I-ACTIVESENSE safety systems that includes blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking along with lane departure warning and tire pressure monitoring.
The RF comes standard with a 2.0-liter, inline 4-cylinder that produces 181-hp and 151 lb/ft of torque. It couples to an optional 6-speed automatic transmission or standard 6-speed manual that was in the test car. As such, RF’s Clutch pressure was light while the shifter pattern was on the notchy side. The combination received EPA mileage estimates of 26 city, 34=highway mpg
So powered, MX-5 had impressive linear acceleration up to the engine’s 7,500 rpm redline and there’s certainly no want for power.
Braking is also impressive as the RF was shod with racy red Brembo brakes on all fours. Plus, it came with a limited-slip rear differential and sport-tuned suspension.
Handling wise, the MX-5 can be tossed in the turns with no body lean, it’s that tight and controlled. Turn the steering wheel an inch either way and the nose points 10 degrees either way. With the manual transmission, the RF is a driver’s car that loves to be driven hard.
As for ride, well that’s a story in itself. Capped with Potenza 17-inch tires, its inherent short wheelbase and low seating position, every road pimple, pock mark, tar strip and ripple can be felt. RF is not for a person with a bad back. It’s so taut and firm that it takes me back to my go-cart driving days.
But really impressive is Miata’s build in that the convertible hardtop did not shimmy or shake when encountering all the above road imperfections and unseen potholes. It was that steady, sturdy and secure.
With a long list of safety features, functions and amenities, MX-5 had an especially reasonable base price of $31,770. Tack on the delivery charge of $945 and the RF carried a bottom-line of $32,715. You’d be hard-pressed to find so much sporty driving experience at this price?
Miata comes with a 60 month/60K mile powertrain warranty; 36/36K mile bumper-bumper and 24-hour roadside assistance coverage.