Thursday, August 3, 2017

No matter what you call it, Mazda's MX-5 still pleases

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews of the latest motor vehicle models also can be seen on The Sacramento Bee’s website at

This review first appeared in the July 2017 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California When the Mazda MX-5 Miata two-seater made its debut on that cold morning at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the auto world was grabbed by the collar and temporarily rendered speechless.

Maybe that’s why it was hard to put a label on it from the beginning.  It was a two-seater.  It was a roadster. It was a Miata.  Later, Mazda said to just call it an MX-5.

What people did figure out right away was that it was brilliantly styled and capable of turning heads from a mile away.  Was it the ultimate fun car?  Given the reactions – Americans bought it like crazy and some collectors were so convinced of its enduring greatness that they bought new ones and immediately locked them up in garages for the long-term – it was a resounding success.

All these years later, Mazda is not taking any chances.  My recent tester featured a sticker that read “2017 Mazda MX-5 RF,” and just in case that wasn’t enough, the full-on name listed below that was the “2017 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF.”

Here’s the best news: The reworked-for-2017 version is still a winner.  Leave your practicality at the dealership door when you go shopping for this car.  This is the fun driver you’ve likely wanted all your life. Can a car be playful?  This one is.

What’s the RF stand for, you ask?  It stands for Retractable Fastback, and yes, that means you get the child-like joy of watching the hardtop roof electronically retreat into the trunk area at the push of a button.  You absolutely want to make sure the neighbors are watching when you do this; small pleasures like this don’t come along all the time in life.

The tester was a comparatively upscale version of the MX-5 two-seater (no, there’s absolutely no room for anything else, if you’re thinking that).  My ride had goodies that included a Bose audio system (nine speakers), rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated front seats, leather upholstery and auto on/off LED headlights.

That put the bottom line at $34,960, certainly pricier than Miatas past but worth the check today given all the appointments, in my view.

Even with all the perks, the tester remains equipped with the standard 2-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 155 horsepower and 148 foot-pounds of torque.  For all the MX-5’s enduring popularity, Mazda has resisted the temptation of, say, stuffing a 350-horsepower V-6 under the hood.  Smart move.  The basic power plant provides more than enough oomph and enjoyment for the pleasure-seeking motorist.

Along that same line, Mazda has not messed with the classic MX-5 design.  The car is instantly recognizable as one containing the DNA of the two-seater that took America by storm long before anyone knew what texting was.

My tester handled twisty roads with a familiar, agile grace, and it charged up hills like a champ.  Safety features on the current generation are more numerous and far better than anything being built in 1989, so the feeling of security behind the wheel was comforting.  The 360-degree view from the driver’s seat is not great, but then again, the same can be said of the first MX-5 Miatas.

Fuel mileage remains a plus at an advertised 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

I did have one gripe that had nothing to do with the MX-5 and everything to do with me.  My aging, 6-4 frame was challenged climbing out of the low-slung tester.  I discovered that the best way to exit the vehicle was to swivel my frame counterclockwise, plant both feet on the pavement and then use both legs to drive upward, as if I was vying for a rebound in some basketball game among oldsters.

Well, we all get older.  The same can be said of the MX-5, yet it still looks and acts young and exciting.

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