2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

2017MX-1Pound-for-pound, and with the top down, this is probably the most delightful and fun automobile within reach of a majority of buyers. It is an indulgence, certainly, but the Mazda MX-5 offers a sprightly and nimble two-seater that lowers a power hardtop and lets loose with some responsive and sporty performance.

At the entry-end of the lineup, there is a case to be made for bang-for-bucks value, but that is thrown off a bit by my test version – the 2017 MX-5 RF GS – which pushes the price to over 40K, but we’ll come back to that later.2017mx5-1

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The retractable top in mid-fold.

RF stands for ‘retractable fastback’, a convertible hardtop that deploys with what Mazda claims is segment-leading quickness (and it does, in fact, open and close with impressive alacrity) and is frankly a lot of fun to watch, as the roof panels fold over one another and settle at the press of the dash-mounted button.

This right here is the most attractive of the MX-5 models, and looks good whether the top is up or down; the car is a stylish piece of art that attracts comments. My test vehicle was further enhanced by an attention-grabbing paint job (“Soul Red Metallic”) that prompted a couple of random drivers to roll down their windows at stoplights to ask about the car.

My tester’s top was color-matched to the body, but there is an option to get it in a contrasting, ‘piano black’ finish. I’m not sure I’d want that, though; it looks just fine as is.

So the styling and overall design of the RF is a ‘10’, no question; and during a couple of very nice days out here on the Prairies it delivered everything it oughta – fun in the sun with the fresh air blowing through the cockpit.2017mx5-8

On that note, Mazda has done a good job of keeping wind in the cabin under control (mostly anyway, but we all know there’s going to be noise in a car like this). Informal testing with a couple of passengers confirmed that you can converse at normal volume up until about 80 kilometers and hour.

Powered by a 2.0 litre inline-four that pumps out a potential 155 horsepower (which, while not a big number by today’s standards, is way more than enough to haul a small car like this one up to speed in a hurry) and paired with a six-speed, short-throw manual transmission that just feels good to operate; the MX-5 brings the fun factor.

A rear wheel drive platform, tight-cornering with a responsive steering feel and low-to-the-ground weight distribution that loves twisty roads and sudden bursts of acceleration. A suspension that, while certainly tuned on the ‘sporty’ side of firmness, still manages not to punish the occupants when driven over bumps and imperfect road surfaces.

My GS RF tester yielded up some pretty decent full economy as well, sticking very close to the NRCan stated numbers (8.9L/100km in the city, 7.1 highway) and a very similar RF did quite well in the recent EcoRun event, with a combined mileage of 6.1.

What’s not to love?

The shortcomings are self-evident: the overall size and limited capacity of the car make it a tight fit in the passenger compartment, and if you are a taller person like myself, it feels claustrophobic with the top up (and with the roof in place, visibility is compromised from within the car).

Filled to capacity (which is two people), driver will find themselves rubbing elbows with passenger, and both will find themselves rubbing elbows with the oddly placed cupholders that jut from between the seats. The cup-traptions are removable, and you should remove them if you buy an MX-5, because why the heck would you want cups held at elbow height in a tight cabin like this?

Nor does the vehicle offer a lot of cargo capacity – although the wee trunk isn’t actually that bad, considering the overall size of the car; but this one is mostly suitable as a day-tripper that will be home by nightfall.2017mx5-2

The RF is at the top of the price chain among MX-5 models, which may choke back the value factor, but consider that the lineup starts at a 33,817, for which you get the same SkyActiv powertrain (and also manual transmission).

This one, though, a GS trim, retractable fastback with a four thousand dollar option package (the Sport package, which adds red-caliper’d Brembo brakes, 17” BBS wheels and Alcantara-trimmed Recaro sport seats) came to $43,500 before destination fees and taxes.

At the Mountains of Mazness

Fun With Hollywood – November, 2011

“This is, like, the third time we’ve seen that overpass. Something is horribly wrong here”, those are the noises I make as we watch the freeway some distance away from the secondary road we have been making circles around.

There is no quicker way to get off course than to let me drive, my friends, and that is what has happened here, north of Los Angeles. Maps mean nothing to me, and I’ll miss a turn any chance I get; the fact that the prototype Mazda CX-5 we’re exploring the terrain in has a navigation module doesn’t seem to have helped at all.

There is little concern displayed from the passenger seat, however. My driving partner, the dread Mexican wrestler known only as El Wimbu, knows the score: if the fit really hits the shan out here in the shadow of the San Gabriels, she’ll starve last.

* * *

The smell of urine permeates the air up and down the Walk of Fame, I’m not the first person to observe that.

Carmen Miranda has a star right outside the ‘W’ hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, and so does Adam Fucking Sandler for some reason, and so do a thousand others of varying levels of fame and accomplishment; and they are all trodden on and spat upon and laid upon by tourists who pose for photos and the homeless who camp just outside the bright lights of the tourist zone.

I spent five days on the boulevard, first for the Los Angeles auto show, then catching the last wave of Mazda’s multinational launch of their CX-5. With a lot of downtime (because its really only the first press day of any auto show that matters) I got to visit a lot of the surrounding area.

Saw a Kings/Sharks game at Staples Center, and for some reason got to take a ride on the ice on a Zamboni before the start. Can’t remember why, I was pretty drunk. Went to the Griffith Observatory the next day, and saw the La Brea Tar Pits (which are actually in LA, not far from Beverly Hills), and attended a Cirque du Soleil performance at the Kodak Theatre.

My favorite memory of the second day of the Los Angeles auto show is of eating Hollywood street-vendor hotdogs with my friend Rotten Robinson, of the Metroland newspaper group, what does that say about me?