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2019 Mazda 1203 MX-5 Miata RF 31800 402867
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Introduction

The Mazda MX-5 Miata needs no introduction. From the moment it emerged in 1990, it has been a success. Every redesign has made the two-seat sports car better. Last redesigned in 2016, the Miata added an RF (Retractable Fastback) edition last year.

For 2019 the MX-5 hits a high note with new engine that makes a statement, as it screams to 7,200 rpm. It’s a normally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-4 making 181 horsepower, compared to 155 hp for the engine it replaces. Fuel economy remains the same at 29 mpg combined. A paddle-shifting 6-speed automatic is available, but the 6-speed manual is sublime. Drivers will find that the ride is comfortable without being soft.

The MX-5 hasn’t been crash-tested, and likely won’t be because it’s a niche car.

Model Lineup

The MX-5 is available in Sport (more than $26,500), Club (about $30,500) and Grand Touring (well past $30,000). The RF hardtop is available with the Club and Grand Touring packages, for $2,700.

The Sport convertible comes with cloth interior, a 7.0-inch infotainment display, 16-inch wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, and two USB ports. For 2019 it gets a standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel.

An active safety package with low-speed automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warnings is available for $850.

The Club adds significant performance, with a limited-slip differential, stiffer springs, stiffer front shock tower brace (with the manual gearbox), 17-inch wheels with wider tires, upgraded audio, and upgraded cloth seats. Options are quite expensive: upgraded brakes, wheels and seats costs either $4,400 or $3,700, depending on your choice between heated Recaro seats or leather.

Grand Touring models take out the limited-slip differential and stiffer springs, while adding heated leather seats, navigation, and the adaptive headlights.

Walkaround

Expressive features fall on the recognizable Miata silhouette in this generation. Its long hood has sharp creases, it’s blessed with a short rear end, and rakish headlamps dimple the nose. At the rear, the flat trunk lid gracefully drops toward the rear wheels and the big round taillights.

The Retractable Fastback is a work of art. It transforms the MX-5 and adds twenty thousand dollars to its look. When it’s retracted it makes the MX-5 more of a Targa than convertible.

Interior

The Miata cabin is spartan but not sparse, with pleasing body-colored door sills. After you climb in, it’s cozy and has good forward vision, but it is a low sports car after all, so creaky knees and backs won’t like climbing in and out. That may be a reason the tilt/telescoping steering wheel was made standard this year, to make entry and exit easier.

Ergonomic curiosities abound. The infotainment controller is awkwardly located near the driver’s forearm; we often bumped it while shifting. The cupholders are ridiculously out of reach.

The cloth upholstery is a durable light fabric with enough padding for weekend road trips. The leather seats are great, but the trunk will be the same small 4.6 cubic feet. The Recaros are great for track days, but impractical for daily driving.

The MX-5’s infotainment system has a 7.0-inch screen that’s sharp and bright, but without touch operation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available.

Driving Impressions

Because the MX-5 is a very light 2,400 pounds, that extra 26 horsepower for 2019 completely changes the character of the car. It’s really quick now; for the first time, the MX-5 can be called powerful. If you want to get the most visceral sensation out of your sports-car moment by revving to its 7,200-rpm redline, that extra 400 rpm over last year adds more seconds of thrill at the top.

The precise 6-speed gearbox riffs through the gears, while the clutch is firm with a comfortable and easy take-up. The paddle-shifting 6-speed automatic isn’t the quickest out there.

With a front suspension of double wishbones and rear multi-links, the handling is fabulous as it’s always been. The steering rack isn’t really quick, with a calm 15.5:1 ratio, but its delivery is sharp and progressive. The Club model is best for track days, with bigger wheels and tires, stiffer springs, a slightly lower ride height, and a rear limited-slip differential. The same setup is available for the Grand Touring with the 6-speed gearbox.

Summary

If you’ve been thinking about buying an MX-5, you’ve just been rewarded for waiting; with the RF fastback last year and now this engine, your time has come. It’s a Miata like no other.

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2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF
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