by: Mike Ginsca,
The formula for the Mazda MX-5 (or Miata as it was once known) is simple and has not changed since its inception in 1989. Light weight, front engine, rear wheel drive, with a manual transmission in the middle. Over it’s 4 generations, the MX-5 has stayed true to this formula but there have been tweaks with the biggest coming for this 2019 model year.
Engine – The biggest tweak is what’s under the hood. The engine still displaces 2.0L but for the 2019 model year, but it produces 181hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. It’s an upgrade of 26hp and 3 lb-ft of torque over the previous year’s 2.0L engine. In addition to the power, the redline has been raised from around 6,500 rpms to 7,500 rpms. The increase in power makes the 2019 MX-5 RF even more peppy than before and much faster than its closest rival, the Toyota GT86 (formerly Scion FRS / Subaru BRZ). But you may think “how is the MX-5 faster than the GT86 with its 205hp?”. Well the MX-5 tips the scales at just 1,118 kg whereas the GT86 is closer to 1,250 kg. The lighter chassis not only improves acceleration and handling but also fuel economy.
While the engine is more powerful, it’s still frugal with fuel consumption. During my week with the 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF, I managed a combined average of 8.2 L/100km which is on par with what Mazda claims. It is very easy to get lower than that but I had this car in the middle of winter so I did let it warm up for a few minutes every morning.
Transmission – A 6-speed automatic is available but the 6-speed manual is the better bet in a car like this. It has a nice mechanical feeling when swapping between gears and the clutch is light for everyday use with a distinct engagement point.
Braking – This particular demo vehicle is the GT trim with the Grand Sport package which adds these Brembo 4 piston front calipers. Because of the MX-5’s light weight, they provide an enormous amount of stopping force when you stomp hard on the brake pedal. Crashing would be the only way to stop more quickly in the MX-5.
Handling – If you want to know how a sports car should feel like, drive the Mazda MX-5. Its lightweight and precise steering make it the best handling and most enjoyable sports cars on the market right now. The body does roll a bit more than one would expect through corners from a sports car but it doesn’t feel like it’s unsettling the car. If the back end starts to slide, it’s very easy to catch and control it into a drift or just back into a proper line for fast cornering. It is an absolute blast to drive around a track or twisty mountain roads.
Ride Comfort – The suspension does a good job absorbing most of the bumps from the road and these GT seats provide good enough support that long distance trips don’t feel like a form of torture. However taller people like myself will have a difficult time finding a comfortable seating position because it’s nearly impossible. For 2019, the steering wheel is telescopic, in addition to tilting, but even so there is not enough leg room and head room is just enough even with the hardtop.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Compared to its soft top brother, the MX-5 RF is quieter. Having a hardtop isolates the cabin more than a soft top ever could. However there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, this demo vehicle had winter tires fitted to it. They are great for icy and snowy conditions but they make a lot of noise on a highway. Secondly, during my week with this MX-5, the temperatures were around -5℃ in the mornings which meant a lot of ice in the mornings. This led to a lot of squeaks and rattles from the hardtop until the cabin warmed up and melted some of the ice.
Interior Design – The interior remains unchanged from last year’s model but one change are the redesigned cup holders. You can still move them around from the passenger side of the center console to behind the center armrest. But now they hold cups, or Tim Horton’s coffee here in Canada, better than last year’s model.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The “base” GS-P trim already comes very well equipped with everything one would need. Navigation, blind spot sensors, backup camera, Bose stereo, Lane departure warning, and so on. This GT trim adds these great Napa leather seats, automatic climate control, Homelink, and dimming rearview mirror to name a few. Unfortunately you cannot get the Recaro seats in this trim with the Grand Sport package but that just means that the GS-P package is cheaper at $3,600 CAD compared to $4,400 CAD. The hardtop roof is a $3,000 upgrade over the normal soft top but I think that it is worth it. In the winter the cabin warms up faster and stays warmer for longer and is quieter than the soft top which makes commutes that much more relaxing.
Exterior Design – The exterior sees very few changes over the previous year. The biggest noticeable change is the backup camera in the back bumper that Mazda did nothing to try to hide in any way. But overall it’s still and aggressive and handsome looking little car.
The bump in power is definitely a big plus for the 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF. Sure the hardtop adds a bit of weight over the soft top but it’s still a fun little car to drive no matter what the weather outside is like. Now if only I wasn’t so tall and I could actually fit in it comfortably…
Thank you to Mazda Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mazda.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.