The Mazda Miata RF is Awesome Fun but a Terrible Car
There’s a HUGE difference between fun and practicalby Mark McNabb, on
This week finds a 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF in my driveway. I’ve looked forward to this week for a while, knowing the gold standard of two-seat roadsters was on my schedule for evaluation. I’ve driven plenty of two-seat coupes in my day, even a few Miatas. Cramped quarters comes with the territory – a fair tradeoff for better handling, light weight, and a tossable nature. But the Miata takes this to an entirely new level.
The Miata is cramped. Not cramped like a rented compact sedan filled with four full-grown adults on business traveling from the airport to a hotel. Not cramped like a two-door Jeep Wrangler with a weekend’s worth of camping gear loaded in the back. The Miata is outright tight. I’m only five foot, seven inches and I feel like a giant once I’ve fallen into the manually adjustable driver’s seat. There’s almost no room for everyday things like sunglasses or a pack of gum. This is fine on a short drive (like I’ve done with plenty of Miatas before), but living with the Miata for a week is a different story.
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Adding to the struggle are the laughable cup holders. They are removable, fitting into slots between the seats at the back of the center console. There’s another slot at the passenger’s left knee. But with that cup holder in place, the passenger’s space becomes even more invaded. Plus the risk of spillage becomes at least 3.4 times greater. It’s science.
And being a jaded journalist accustomed to all the modern gadgets found in modern vehicles. I found myself wishing for dual-zone air conditioning and vented seats. Sure, the Miata’s cabin is tiny, but my temperature of choice is always 20 degrees colder than my wife can stand. She’s the type who runs seat heaters in the dead of summer. As for me, I found the leather seat scorchingly toasty even without the heater on. A sweaty back isn’t conducive to looking cool.
Then there’s the trunk. Oh boy… It only offers 4.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s roughly three times less than the average sedan. Heck, even the Tesla Model S’ trunk offers 5.3 cubic feet of space. A week’s worth of groceries will fit, so long as you’re not buying toilet paper or anything in bulk. The small opening doesn’t help either. I could barely fit a folding camping chair past the trunk lip.
But none of that matters…
Yeah, the Miata MX-5 is tiny and would be highly impractical as an only car, but dadgummit, the little roadster is about driving and the pure pleasure that comes from rowing gears with the top down around a twisty road on a beautiful day. It’s about the freedom that comes from ditching passengers and extra junk, just for a relaxing yet exhilarating drive. At only 2,400 pounds, the Miata’s 155 horsepower feels more than adequate, while its steering reads the road like Braille. Every ripple in the pavement is translated into the seat for that driver-and-car-connected-as-one feeling.
Long story short: the Miata is a perfect toy that’s an absolute blast to drive, fast or slow. Just have something else in the garage when it comes to hauling anything more than yourself.